You’re cruising through your to-do list for the day.
Next up is to hop over to LinkedIn to follow-up with a contact about a new project.
Your productivity is through the roof today, and you’re excited to check this off your to-do list.
You open up LinkedIn, take a minute to mindlessly scroll your feed, and then an ad catches your attention.
It’s from a brand you’ve been meaning to check out.
You read the ad, and then before you know it you’re on the company’s LinkedIn page scrolling through their previous posts and watching webinar clips of their CEO.
You’re 5 minutes into binging their content when you suddenly remember: “Wait, what am I doing? I’ve got work to do.”
You pull yourself out the trance and head over to your inbox to follow-up as planned.
What made you notice their ad in the first place?
In today’s edition of Why We Buy, we’re taking a look at Attention – how attention works and how you can create scroll-stopping content using the 9 Fs of attention.
Let’s get into it…
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The Psychology of Attention 🧠
Humans evolved to have “attention” for one simple reason: there is far more happening in our environment than our brain could possibly process.
Humans aim to survive and thrive. Attention helps us filter out unhelpful information and zero-in on stuff that could benefit us or, more importantly according to our brains, the stuff that could help us avoid threats.
What we pay attention to on any given day depends on many different factors.
Our emotional state, environment, and current goals all play a role in what captures our attention.
Take billboards for example…
You may drive by the same McDonalds billboard every day on your way to work and never consciously notice it. Then one day you skip breakfast, notice the billboard, and 15 minutes later you’re eating a Sausage & Egg McGrittle. We’ve all been there, right?
Knowing that human attention is an evolutionary trait, it goes to reason that we are biologically wired to pay attention to certain things.
Understanding what people pay attention to—and why—is powerful for marketers.
Enter: the 9 Fs of Attention.
The 9 Fs of Attention 🧐
If you’re already creating content, you’ve likely heard that you need to craft a compelling “hook”—something that stops people dead in their tracks and makes them perk up and pay attention.
Creating thumb-stopping content is tricky. (And wasting time and money on ads, tweets, videos, and blog posts that get ignored feels like a punch to the gut).
I bundled up some of the most helpful science-backed tips into 9 simple and (hopefully) easy to remember categories.
I call them the 9 Fs of attention.
The first one?
Humans need to eat to survive. So, it’s no surprise that we tend to notice posts or ads featuring food. When do we pay the most attention to food? You guessed it. When we’re hungry.
Even if your brand doesn’t sell food products, you can use taste as an extension of your branding (e.g., show images of caviar and people associate your brand with luxury).
Our brains are constantly scanning our environment for threats. Identifying threats early is key to survival. When we spot something fear-inducing—like a bear approaching—we pay attention.
Modern marketers can capture attention by highlighting *potential* threats.
You don’t need to be a jerk and resort to fear-mongering marketing tactics.
This famous ad campaign from Snickers was not just memorable—it also drove 16% growth in market share. Why? It triggers our fear of losing social status and cleverly positions Snickers in our minds, but it’s also really funny.
We’re social creatures and we’re instinctively drawn to faces. That’s why brands are more memorable when they put their people front and centre (think of Drift, Honest Co., NastyGal, Refine Labs, and Steve Jobs).
Faces depicting specific emotions communicate so much more than words alone. It works best when the person in the photo is:
- Looking at you
- Gazing at your value prop, CTA, or product
- Depicting a specific emotion
Sex-fueled imagery definitely grabs our attention. But this is an old marketing trick. Cigarette companies loved to use sex in their advertising back in the day.
Sex can certainly get attention and drive sales at times… but does sex *always* sell? Nope.
Done the wrong way, sex can lead to a decrease in sales. Victoria’s Secret learned this the hard way. While other lingerie brands listened to buyers and adapted to feature real women, VS refused and lost 96% of its market value.
We have an insatiable love for stories. As you hear a story unfold, your brain waves actually start to synchronize with those of the storyteller.
Good storytellers grab and hold our attention.
Great storytellers, like Steve Jobs, illicit desire and inspire action. Expert storytellers, like the team from Pixar, use proven storytelling techniques to capture and keep their audience’s attention.
#6: Foreign (aka Von Restorff Effect)
When presented with heaps of content that looks similar, we notice and remember the stuff that stands out—that which feels foreign. Brands that are brave enough to buck the trends and dare to be different are rewarded (remember the Coinbase Superbowl ad?).
Even using unexpected colors can help you stand out. For example, when Adam Grant shares a screenshot of his popular tweets on LinkedIn—a common practice—he uses a filter to subtly change the tone of the image. The result? Thumb-stopping distinctiveness.
We pay attention to—and buy—from people and brands that are familiar. Attention is like a flywheel. If you can capture someone’s attention and deliver value once, they’re more likely to stop scrolling when they see your post the next time. They’ll keep you top-of-mind without even realizing it through the Availability Heuristic.
Coca-Cola gets it. That’s why despite being one of the most recognized brands on the planet, Coke *still* spends $4B a year on advertising. How do you build a familiar brand? By continually showing up and appearing to “be everywhere” using the Mere Exposure Effect.
For the human brain, curiosity is like a drug. When you explore and satisfy your curiosity, your brain releases dopamine (often referred to as the happiness hormone).
Content that’s surprising, stokes our curiosity, shares unknown facts and figures, or is funny draws our attention like a magnet.
This is the reason for the rise in “edu-tainment” (eg. educational content that makes you LOL)
Leila Hormozi’s content team could just post the raw videos of her sharing business tips. But they don’t. They purposely make her videos entertaining with graphics, emojis, and edits.
#9: Future me
I saved this one for last because it’s arguably the most important.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a marketer is this:
People don’t buy things because of who they are—they buy because of who they want to become. We may not realize it, but we’re always scanning our environment and searching for new solutions to help us level up.
This is why we can’t stop ourselves from reading articles with click-baity headlines like, “How a college dropout makes $15,000 a month with vending machines” .
And it’s why amateur basketball players will splurge on a $500 pair of Air Jordans.
What is your buyer’s dream outcome? Sell that transformation.
Nike gets it. See how they speak directly to future me?
Your Homework 🤓
Learning the science behind attention-grabbing posts is great, but let’s not stop there. I challenge you to take it a step further.
Scroll through social and save the first 3 ads or posts that make you stop scrolling. Analyze them and determine:
- What’s going on in your world that triggered you to pay attention?
- What Fs of Attention are used? (aka. What’s the “hook”?)
- Who’s the intended audience?
- What’s the offer?
- How do they handle objections?
Analyzing what grabs your attention is a great way to internalize these lessons so you can start applying them to your own work.
And feel free to share your homework with me—I’d love to see what you find. You can hit me up on Twitter.
The Short of It 💥
The next time one of your ads or posts flop, rework it by adding in one of the 9 Fs of Attention:
- Future Me
Use these techniques individually or combine them to create thumb-stopping content.
And if you run an e-commerce company and wanna ensure you’re targeting the right prospects with your ads—ones that may actually pay attention and buy from you—check out Black Crow AI.
Until next time, happy selling.
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