May I have your attention please

or perhaps


Of course, I can’t have your attention. I could borrow it or earn it or if I use all caps, offend you and demand it.

The most precious commodity on a momentary basis is attention. Each moment occurs only once, and if a marketer just takes it, we’re understandably annoyed. There is no refund window for misused attention…

Which leads to the idea of free. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Chris Anderson has just unveiled the outline of the key arguments in his brilliant new book about FREE.

This is well worth a read. I’ve written about free on this blog about 600 times, so I think it’s a pretty important topic.

One reason is the cost side, which Chris writes about so eloquently, but another reason has to do with attention. If you want someone’s attention, I’m afraid you’re going to have to earn it. To pay for it. To do something that makes the person who just gave you this attention feel like a fair bargain was struck.

You can do that by creating a remarkable service or product. You can do it by paying them with cash. Or you can do it with free. Free undermines the typical human’s proclivity to ignore every offer. Even if it’s a penny, we’ll ignore it. Free changes that. In other words, buying attention is a marketing expense, and one way to budget for that is to deduct it from the cost of your product. As Tim O’Reilly says, piracy is not the enemy, obscurity is.

The interesting thing about most products and services is that we won’t buy them until we know what they are and what they do. And often the best and only way to do that is to use them. For some products (like music) using them once and owning them are very close to the same thing. Hence, free. You can view that as a problem or you can see it as an opportunity. Up to you.

Marketing is not advertising, not any more. It is often found in the way you make something, talk about it and yes, price it.