Good Attention vs. Bad Attention

The confluence of January’s Super Bowl and its focus on immense ad spend, coupled with my speaking at the NetPromoter conference triggered a thought: Are there two kinds of attention (let’s call them “Good Attention” and “Bad Attention”), in the same way that there are two kinds of profits?

We know that there are two kinds of profits.

Good profits are profits that fuel growth, and come from serving customers in such a way that they are willing to recommend your organization to others. Bad profits, conversely, are the types of profits where the customer feels extorted. Bad profits help make the quarterly number in the short run, but are unsustainable. Bad profits eventually eat away at the fabric of the company, by alienating its customers and demotivating its employees. An income statement can’t tell the difference between these two types of profits. But customers can.

Therefore, are there also two kinds of attention as well?

It seems to me there are. “Bad attention” is interruptive. It’s the type of attention that is so costly, because it is so bad and inefficient. Think about popover ads, think about the Flash ads you block with AdBlocker, think about the “attention” you pay to the ad that starts blasting a tune as soon as you land on a page. Those are all ways of getting attention, but it’s bad attention.

Good attention is its opposite. Good attention is the attention you garner by virtue of going above and beyond. It’s the attention you earn by delighting someone, surprising them, amusing them, or triggering an empathetic emotion.

The ROI of good attention is orders of magnitude better than the ROI of bad attention. (In fact, it approaches infinity, if you really think about it.) Good attention is the attention that results in positive word of mouth, advocates, and the creation of promoters and defenders of your brand.

Good attention and bad attention are not functions of the communication channels being used between an organization and its customers. There are huge Super Bowl ads that attract good attention (think about last year’s Darth Vader commercial from VW – that was great). Similarly, there are 1:1 conversations that attract bad attention (and there is now an increasing amount of research on how to identify fake word of mouth).

Maybe we can classify some of these things. Are there examples of “good attention” and “bad attention” that you’ve seen recently?

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About Chris Carfi

Christopher Carfi is the VP, Social Business Strategy at Ant's Eye View. His blog, The Social Customer Manifesto is a "Top 25" marketing blog and has won numerous other awards including "Top CRM Blog" in 2005, 2007, and 2008. He is an active contributor to ProjectVRM, based at the Berkman Center at Harvard University. His experience also includes executive roles at Edelman Digital, Accenture, Extricity, and Cerado.

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