Attention Economy 101: Users Want a Journey, Not Just a Destination

Many businesses that have turned to things like contests or giveaways to reward consumer-attention have found an eerie silence in place of participants. The question hangs heavily in the air for them, are people even interested in participating with brands?

Thankfully, I've found they are. The problem isn't that people aren't willing to engage directly with marketers. Consumers are really quite okay with that; the problem is that many engagements provide a reward without providing a rewarding experience. They're all destination and no journey.

An example of doing it right, the video below summarizes a recently executed effort by the entertainment company Ubisoft. In preparation for the launch of the next game in their Xbox series Splinter Cell, Ubisoft launched an epic treasure hunt of a campaign, sprinkling rewards along the way. The campaign was quite successful, attracting 106,000 site visitors and generating 3,554 forum posts in roughly a month's time. You can read a more thorough analysis of the campaign at this blog.

Besides the epic scale of implementation (the campaign had users viewing source code behind web pages, watching videos, calling telephone numbers, and cracking codes in sign language and binary patterns), what I love most about this campaign is how well the team behind it understands the desires of their customers.

What keeps most people from getting involved in branded contests or activities isn't the quality of the prize. In fact, most companies go above and beyond on the final prize, but fall short all along the way.

What consumers are really looking for is an experience that is rewarding in and of itself. The prize, whether it be money, products or something else, is only a logical justification for the time spent.

The good news is that you don't have to fork over cash prizes or product grab bags every time you want to reward users for giving you their valuable time and attention. Often, the most valuable rewards you can create are psychological in design -- things like a sense of accomplishment, a status symbol, or a good laugh. These are the types of things that make a journey worth while.

Whether it's a Ford Fiesta movement, a Whopper Sacrifice, or something as simple as a photo contest, remember that when you're relying on users to power a campaign, the journey matters as much, if not more, than the destination. By embedding motivators throughout the process, rather than just at the end, you'll draw a much higher rate of participation.

Written by Chris Allison on March 29, 2010


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Chris Allison