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How to Design for the Attention Economy with Michael Solomon

It’s no secret that attention spans are contracting and money is no longer the most important currency being exchanged.

Nowadays, in our so-called “eyeball economy,” everyone, especially marketers, are fighting for their share of eyeballs, because we are all bombarded by thousands of messages – approximately 3500 in fact — vying for our attention every day.

That data comes from my recent guest on the HOW Design Live podcast, Michael Solomon, Marketing Professor and speaker at this year’s new HOW Marketing Live, whose session is called, “Walk a Mile in Your Customer’s Shoes: Designing for The Attention Economy.”

Solomon literally wrote the book on consumer behavior, so he knows what he’s talking about when he says, “The biggest challenge is not creating some fabulous, sophisticated, sexy ad campaign, but actually just getting noticed. Most of the   commercial messages the average person is exposed to in a day never make it to the level of conscious awareness.”

That means designers carry much more of the responsibility for capturing the consumer’s attention.

So how do you design for the attention economy?

That’s what Solomon will be sharing in his HOW Marketing Live session, of course. But he did give me a little preview in our podcast interview.

First, designers have to embrace marketing principles and go beyond making things pretty. (That’s the point behind HOW Marketing Live, by the way, to teach designers about marketing principles and marketers about design!)

According to Solomon, the attitude for some time has been, “If I make a good enough product, I shouldn’t have to market it. People will just come and it will be obvious how good it is.”

But these days, if no one knows about your exquisitely designed product or they misunderstand what you’re doing with the product, the product won’t be here for long. Says Solomon, “The marketing graveyard is littered with products that were really well designed but consumers didn’t get it or didn’t think they needed it.”

Many companies have a manufacturing or design focus so they create something first, then try to find the market for it. Solomon says that’s exactly the opposite of what you want to do.

He suggests that designers take a step back and ask first, “What do people need? How can I improve upon something that exists?” That’s what marketing is –starting with the needs rather than the products.

How can organizations truly understand the lived experiences of their customers so they can design new products and services that will resonate with them?  

In his session, Solomon will focus on the importance of brand engagement and explore the paths to create what he calls, “resonance” — The Holy Grail of Marketing. Attendees will see how major brands resonate with their customers and explore the “Magic Triangles” of consumer behavior that move customers from inertia to devotion. 

Because consumers do tune in to products and services that tune in to them. That’s why a revolution in design thinking is afoot. Come hear all about it at HOW Marketing Live, April 30-May 1 in Boston. Get your tickets here: and listen to the entire interview here.

By Ilise Benun, Founder of and HOW Design Live Programming Partner