How to Catch the Attention of a Goldfish

By: Ilan Mann

April 7, 2020


If commonly cited statistics are to be believed, it’s a miracle that you clicked on this article.

If it took you more than 4 or 5 seconds to read that first sentence, I can’t be expected to hold your attention to the end of this one.

If you’ve made it to this – the third sentence – it was nothing short of a herculean effort that got you here, because according to conventional wisdom, average human attention spans are down to 8 seconds, (from 12 seconds in 2000).

Time Magazine thinks that I have a better chance of holding the attention of a goldfish than of holding your attention, and based on the media that most marketers are putting out, those marketers seem to agree.

The thing about conventional wisdom is that it is often another word for bullshit. Do I have your attention now?

According to British psychology professor Dr. Gemma Briggs, measuring “attention span” is a meaningless pursuit: “How much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is.”

In other words, treat your prospects and clients like goldfish, and you’ll get the attention of a goldfish.

Forget about the egregious crimes against attention committed by email and digital marketers, who give us our daily thumb workout as we furiously scroll past their videos and swipe their unopened emails into the trash bin of our inboxes.

Let’s turn our attention to physical marketing for a moment. You’re familiar with the scene:


You open your mailbox, and it’s filled with admail – some addressed, some unaddressed; you quickly shuffle through the pile, dealing piece after piece straight into the recycling bin.

The pieces don’t demand your attention, so you don’t give it.

Marketers continue to spend the money printing high definition photos on sturdy card-stock thousands of times over, because even conversion rates of 0.05% (that’s one in every 2,000!) enable them to turn a profit. And the lifetime value of the two or three customers that they win (out of every few thousand to whom that they market) is enough for them to make money.

But it shouldn’t be enough for them to be satisfied. Forget about all of the brands and companies for whom this strategy doesn’t work – innovative brands getting new solutions to market, small companies with great products who don’t have a million dollar marketing budget to waste, etc… – anyone who uses this kind of brute force approach to marketing is leaving a ton of money on the table.

That’s because not all attention is created equally – or more accurately, not all attention is demanded equally.

If you’re like me, you are thrilled to be competing in a market full of people who take this kind of approach to marketing. The more that their media all blends in together to create this ubiquitous white-noise of printed and digital materials, the more that truly unique, attention-grabbing marketing stands out in the mailbox.

That’s why we founded Postalgia, and that’s why our clients, from huge multinationals to independent professionals, from century-old nonprofits to scrappy startups, see massive spikes in conversion rates, retention, customer engagement, and above all else – attention.

The less people send handwritten mail, the more it stands out amidst the clutter of coupons and bills.

Since you made it this far, enjoy one of the most attention-grabbing scenes in movie history – but make sure your kids are out of the room.

Thank you for your attention!


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