Sep 17, 2014

The Attention Economy and Education

The traditional axiom in marketing has been a simple recipe.  Good products sell well, and great products promoted heavily sell really well.  Developing quality products as the top priority, in front of the promotional sizzle, led to stronger brands and greater followership.  And, in a crowded market where financial resources are scarce, the ability to create a high quality product and a valuable experience for the consumer has reigned supreme.

Then came the appeal to the attention economy.  This principle developed during the past decade is based upon a simple axiom, as well.  The attention economy is predicated on the belief that attention is the most scarce resource in the economy and, if a brand can command attention it has a leg up on the competition.  Nike and the University of Oregon know a little bit about this.  They turned the age old recipe of winning on it’s side with their flash and speed.  The old equation was “if you win, people will follow you and your brand will grow more valuable.”  The new Nike and Oregon equation really turned that on it’s end over the past decade with a new paradigm: “if you can get attention, you will win, and your brand will grow more valuable.” And, it has worked, as the Ducks are a perennial national contender in most collegiate sports today and sit #2 the AP Football rankings currently.

What does the attention economy mean to education?  We have all seen schools or colleges that over-deliver on the marketing front in relationship to the quality of campus experience, facilities, or program.  Is it true that if a school can grab attention first, regardless of quality or value, that it can develop a strong following or a deeper brand, and “win” as a result?  We know that the consumer is growing more savvy and connected to information about quality and education.  Butdoes the consumer have the ability to discern quality and understand the difference between flash and substance?  Education is a mature industry, and most consumers expect both sturdiness and innovation from our leading schools and colleges today.  As we see more schools and colleges leaning into the attention economy, we also know that the quality of experience has to be there in order for the brand to be sustainable.  

What are your thoughts on the attention economy?  Does it play a role in your school or college marketing approach?  And, how about your competitors?  We would love your thoughts.

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