Joint attention is the process whereby a person alerts another person to the presence of a stimulus using non-verbal means such as gazing or pointing.
That sounds a lot like marketing to me…
Let’s face it, definitions of marketing are two a penny (AMA, CIM, Wikipedia etc). I’ve even proposed a few of my own here and there (like this one, for instance). But there’s something about this joint attention thing that really rings true.
Using Dr Good’s definition (but manipulating it into the marketing sphere), the stimulus is our product/service, the alerter is the brand and the alertee is the customer.
(I think it’s also helpful to consider what we’re trying to get the customer to do (buy, sign up to talk about, play with) as a stimulus – this implies action and outcome. A ‘stimulus’ that doesn’t encourage interaction probably won’t get bought, signed up to, played with that often…)
As marketers, we need to work out how to get the customer to pay consistent attention to our product/service – after all, we can’t be pointing and gazing 24/7. We need to ensure that our work is so compelling, so affecting, that it does the pointing/gazing job for us even hours or days after the customers have come into contact with it.
Our attention needs to be on them for their attention to be on us.
We need to know our customer better than they know themselves. We need to know their habits, proclivities, tendencies and what makes them tick. We need data, lots of lovely structured data, as well as an idea of how the mind works in order to get the best possible idea of who we’re talking to and how to talk to them at all.
Plus we need to know that our product, or stimulus, is actually going to integrate with our customer in the first place (hooray for R&D).
We need to concentrate very, very hard before our customer will even notice.
But if we get this right, we can create joint attention where, for a moment, our brand and our customer are aligned towards the same stimulus.
Which, if it does its job, stimulates an outcome, a defined and definable action that has some kind of value to either the brand, the customer or (if everything’s been developed correctly) both.
Joint attention as ‘shared attention’
Perhaps joint attention could also be thought of as ‘shared attention’, in which the brand and the customer remain aligned to a particular stimulus. This implies that the brand is interested in more than just the accumulation of profit, and leads into the shared value concepts I explored recently.
This also suggests that the brand has to work to open – and maintain – a relationship with the customer (over and avoid the opening of their wallet) in a genuine two-way dialogue, along with the tools to facilitate sharing of information and effective communication.
So shared attention isn’t something that can just happen. It needs to be facilitated, built and structured in such a way that both the brand and the customer benefits. It needs to be integrated into the existence of each party along with a tightly defined stimulus (outcome) to keep it on track. It needs to be planned for and nurtured.
But if shared attention is developed, the joint power of the brand and the customer could be incredible, and each will reinforce the other in what could become a virtuous circle.
Sound exciting anyone?