The 4 Key Strategies Top Brands Use to Capture Your Attention. Every Time.

The world's most successful brands mastered the attention economy — and you can too.

Attention Economy Article website

Today, you’ll consume 74GB of information. That’s the equivalent of watching 16 movies. In one day. 

Our inboxes are overflowing. Our social streams are noisy. We doom scroll short form content on apps purpose-built to hijack our attention, designed by the world’s smartest minds. But as the volume of information we consume grows each day, our capacity as humans to focus and make sense of the world remains basically unchanged. 

This is the essence of the attention economy — where information is no longer the scarce commodity. Instead, our attention is the prize to be won.

How have the world's most successful brands mastered the attention economy to gain an unfair advantage?

We’ll dig into that below, along with how you can use these same strategies in your social enterprise, nonprofit, or foundation

But first, a little context.

Winning Brands Stand for Something

Your brand is so much more than your logo, color palette, and messaging. When we use the word brand, that’s often what comes to mind for people. 

But when you think about the brands and organizations that have created the strongest impression with you, you’re probably thinking about so much more than that. 

These brands have built a reputation. They stand for something. They mean something — to you

How do they do this? Is it their marketing and advertising? Their social content? Their influencer campaigns? Yes and no. 

Just like a concert is so much more than individual musicians playing different instruments at the same time, effective brand building is much more than just a collection of marketing tactics and content.

Let’s break down four key strategy pillars top brands use to win in the attention economy and how you can apply them to your social impact strategy.

Key Strategy 1: Focus on Brand Building Instead of Transactional Marketing

Brand building is about having a clear promise, a focus on creating lasting impact, and developing a unique point of view or approach to your work that sets you apart from other organizations in your cause area. It prioritizes long-term reputation over short-term tactics or conversions or campaigns. 

Brand building is about building trust and forging deeper relationships with your audience and supporters. 

The attention economy has led many social impact brands to skip the brand building approach and go straight to transactional marketing. If you’re focusing on near-term results, A/B testing and analytics, attribution reporting, and other data-driven approaches to marketing, but losing sight of the long-term credibility and reputation of your brand, you’re practicing transactional marketing. 

To be clear, all of these tools should be in your marketing toolbox. But let’s make sure you have a holistic view around what you’re building before you start to pull out a hammer or screwdriver.

You have a super power as a social impact leader. Your brand, built on an authentic mission to move humanity forward, is poised to create fierce support and loyalty from your audience. But only if you take a brand-building approach and not a transactional marketing approach.

To put it simply, brand building is a strategy based on playing the long game. Today, too many organizations are playing the short game, and that’s partly why they are losing.  

Key Strategy 2: Learn to Craft Scroll-stopping Content

Do you ever stop to think why some content instantly hooks you, and some feels like a noisy distraction?

Today, we’ve all become brutally protective of our time and attention, often making decisions about what to engage with in a matter of seconds. The human brain is amazingly efficient at analyzing and prioritizing the constant flood of inputs vying for our present focus. 

But how do we make these decisions? 

Top brands know how to use psychological shortcuts that tap into our deepest programming to cut through this noise — for better or for worse.

As a social impact leader, you have to learn how to leverage these same strategies to ensure that your social cause isn’t drowned out by cleverly-crafted content or messages built to drive a profit by the top for-profit brands.

You need external support and momentum to power your work and your mission. And this is true whether you are a social enterprise trying to reach the general public, or if you are targeting policy-makers or elected officials, or those in positions of influence who are integral to making change happen. 

Today, boring, run of the mill content just doesn’t  break through.

But by exploring creative formats and ideas, and embracing human-centered storytelling that resonates at an emotional level, your content can transform from forgettable noise into a distinct brand message that generates awareness, loyalty, and action. 

The big idea here is to get truly creative with your approach to content strategy and creation.

How can you craft content that doesn't just inform, but moves your supporters? Can you bring in some personality, story, or even a sense of humor? Here’s some quick strategies:

  • Turn your annual report into a digital, interactive experience.
  • Instead of another blog post, create a few bigger features per year that are more memorable and shareable.
  • Ditch the stale monthly newsletter for a more personalized, conversational format.
  • Leverage rich media like video, audio, and interactive microsites.
  • Look to the content created by your favorite (in an out of the social impact space) as inspiration for what you might create.

And then you have to publish, promote, experiment, listen, and iterate — consistently. 

In the attention economy, brands with scroll-stopping content are winning, and brands with boring content are lost in the digital fray.

Key Strategy 3: Invest in Best-in-Class Digital Experiences

Imagine this: you’re scrolling through your social feed and see a piece of scroll-stopping content from a brand you’ve never heard of before called FutureGreen. The message is compelling, speaks to a cause close to your heart, and you’re eager to learn more, possibly even considering making a contribution. 

So you click through to the website, only to be met with a slow, dated page, full of inconsistent messaging, confusing navigation, and a clunky layout. You start to wonder…is this even the same organization? 

Your initial enthusiasm is quickly replaced by confusion, frustration, and doubt. In a matter of seconds, what could have been the beginning of a new relationship turns into a lost opportunity. You’ve just rubbed up against digital friction.

Digital friction creates bad user experiences.

Unfortunately, this scenario is far from rare in today's social impact digital landscape.

Now, let’s imagine the same scenario clicking through to the FutureGreen website. But instead of a slow, clunky, confusing experience, you're greeted with a smooth, fast-loading page that radiates the same passion and clarity of their mission that initially hooked you from the social post.

The messaging is clear and consistent, echoing their commitment to environmental advocacy and painting a vivid picture of their vision for a better future. The site navigation is intuitive, leading you effortlessly through their stories of impact, ways to get involved, and dynamic content that educates and inspires you to take action.

Your initial enthusiasm not only remains intact — it grows. The experience builds a sense of trust and credibility that this is an organization that has it together. That is already creating material impact, and has the potential to scale that impact with your support. 

You’re not just browsing a website. You’re being welcomed into a movement.

Good user experience builds trust and credibility.

Best-in-class digital experiences form the digital backbone of your social impact engagement strategy. And they're not just about looking professional and working well; they're about capturing the spirit of your mission and welcoming each visitor into your community. 

In the attention economy, your digital platform is the central hub that activates and organizes your community. 

The best social impact brands have built their digital hub and digital experiences into well-oiled machines that are an integral part of their broader activation strategy. 

Key Strategy 4: Commit to Community-Building

In a culture where our digital communications outnumber face-to-face interactions, our craving for real, human connection is unmet for many of us. 

The power of social missions and movements to connect us with others who share our values, dreams, and aspirations has a rich and proven history. 

But in the recent era of digital acceleration, the essence of these connections has often become diluted into transactional and impersonal exchanges. And this is a massive, missed opportunity.

Let’s continue the example of the theoretical organization FutureGreen from our previous strategy.  

FutureGreen doesn't just broadcast their message across digital channels. They actively cultivate a vibrant community. They embrace a culture of listening and learning, ensuring every supporter feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. 

Embrace a culture of listening and learning.

This culture of community building guides the approach to all of FutureGreen’s work. Their virtual events prioritize listening as much as informing, creating a platform where supporters can share their stories and voice their questions and concerns. These digital spaces become hubs of social connection, turning supporters from just audience members into active participants.

Embracing digital toolsFutureGreen breaks down geographical barriers to engage a global audience. They don't just think of their membership model, live discussions, and interactive content as strategies. They power a global community, scaling their ability to create a meaningful impact. 

FutureGreen evolves beyond an impact brand and into a tight-knit community creating collective action, leading the conversation in their social impact niche

Imagine the transformation across the globe if every social impact organization harnessed the power of authentic community building. By prioritizing genuine connections over impersonal transactions, we can ignite a global movement of passionate supporters, ready to stand up for what they believe in.

Think of your audience as active participants and prioritize genuine connection over transactions.

In the end, the brands and organizations that create lasting, meaningful relationships with their supporters are those that foster strong, authentic communities. It's not just about spreading a message. It's about sparking conversations, nurturing relationships, and building a community where everyone feels connected, valued, and empowered to make a difference. 

This is the future of social impact — a future rooted in the extraordinary human capacity for connection and community, an evolutionary hallmark of our species.

Get Started. Today.

Each strategy above is more than just a concept. Top brands in both the for-profit and social impact realms use them every day to win in the attention economy.

As a social impact leader, you can use these strategies today to shape your decision-making and make real, tangible progress. You can build a lasting and inspiring social impact brand, turn passive scrolling into active engagement, transform digital spaces into communities of action, and elevate your mission to create positive social change.

Let’s go.

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