A constant feed of information means it’s difficult for consumers to filter through the noise and stay focused. Some attribute this to the popular theory that our attention spans are getting shorter. However, they’re actually not decreasing but evolving to become more selective with information. As a result, it’s becoming more difficult for us to find content that engages our viewers.

This presents us with a complex question as marketers: how do we get the attention of consumers as they continue to develop this modern information filter? The 2018 ‘State of Attention’ report by presentation platform, Prezi, highlighted that 49% of internet users are now more selective with the content they consume. This behavioural shift has turned up the heat for brand creativity, encouraging new approaches to catching a customer’s eye. With this in mind, new approaches and inventive thinking can set brands apart from their competitors in the constant battle for consumer attention. 

Unfortunately, you can’t take an online course for innovation, but you can learn more about thinking for the future, a valuable mindset that can give you a competitive edge. Jeff Bezoz, CEO of Amazon, insists on a weekly brainstorming session, to continuously unload new ideas and drive inspiration. When it comes to creative thinking , we often push aside books as a learning resource. But, exposing yourself to the thought process of a variety of authors can help you to find the most effective style of idea generation for you and your brand. Gain valuable lessons on thinking for the future in this increasingly frenetic attention economy. 

In order to empower yourself to innovate and think outside of the box, you can gain valuable insight from authors like Jennifer James, Steven Covey and Simon Sinek.

1. Thinking in the Future Tense – Jennifer James.

James explores how our mindset can often be conditioned to thinking in the now. Are we going to meet target this quarter? Is our recent campaign generating enough traffic? Should we have added more to our social pages last month? This book discusses how to broaden your thought process, avoid fearing the future and how to embracing it instead. The key lessons?

  • Recognising the future: Time doesn’t wait! In this section, James covers topics such as predicting change, characteristics of entrepreneurial minds and pattern skills – helping you as a reader, exploring ways you train your mind to think for the future.
  • Speeding up response time: A key learning point in this chapter is ’Surprise Changes’. How do we deal with the unexpected? How can you prepare a fully versatile action plan if circumstances were to change? This is a key tool that can help redirect your strategy when necessary.

Thinking in the Future Tense emphasises the importance of working with a view towards the next step. It provides insight into an extra layer of thinking many of us, as marketers, have neglected. Instead of being bogged down in having to reach new heights and completely wowing the consumer, think strategically for the next month or quarter. Being able to think in this way is incredibly useful, enabling you to effectively brainstorm and deliver killer campaigns that stand out.

2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven. R. Covey.

This book isn’t an instruction manual on how to be successful, but it is a valuable guide to building a productive everyday routine. Before reading, it’s important to consider your current working style. For example, as someone in marketing/communications, being able to form habits that will tailor to a fast paced and constantly evolving role will be beneficial. For example:

  • Habit 1 – Be proactive: The world of marketing is extremely fast paced – so monitoring upcoming trends, in-depth consumer insights and industry developments will give you the competitive edge. This section also talks about thinking proactively when a project doesn’t quite go as planned. Instead of getting stuck in a rut, thinking proactively will prompt you to consider ‘what can we learn from this?’ and ‘how can we move forward?’
  • Habit 2 – Begin with the end in mind: It can be difficult to picture the end goal, but having a clear objective, whether this is personal or business orientated, will make you more driven to succeed. Attitude is everything.
  • Habit 5 – Seek to understand before being understood: This section touches on the ethos, pathos, logos approach. This refers to the credibility, emotions and logic behind a presentation/campaign, and is a technique to engage different audiences. It will enable you to consider all the potential creative routes.

These habits are also valuable to share within a team. You’re instantly setting the bar high – helping team members to find their most productive way of working. In doing so, it forms a working environment where employees are encouraged to work to their individual strengths, in turn, boosting a collective drive to succeed.  

3. Start With Why – Simon Sinek. 

Simon Sinek has opened our eyes to the dopamine effect and defined the millennial style of working. But, his book Start With Why has given business owners a reality check on the way they communicate their brand image with consumers. 

“People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.”
 – Simon Sinek, Start With Why. 

In many cases, campaigns are centred around what the product is and what it does. Where some brands lack foresight is in including the ‘why’. Why are we a brand? Why are we selling this product? Why will consumers benefit from having this product? These are the questions that could lift a campaign from standard to epic. By understanding why you exist as a brand, you can be confident in what you are offering and the value it has. Sinek provides a simple framework called ‘The Golden Circle’ for brands to work from. 

He suggests brands start with why they are a company, to explore how they are different from competitors and define what their product or service is. This is especially important for brands aiming to appeal to a younger consumer. Upcoming generations are searching for brands with purpose, who’s branding is transparent to their core values. Because of this, it is more crucial now than ever for brands to have a clear purpose. 

Key Takeaways 

These 3 books have very different approaches to staying ahead of competitors. The first, ‘Thinking in the Future Tense’, stimulates a fast-paced mindset. ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ encourages changes to your daily routine that will boost productivity. Finally, Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ offers guidance on how working back from your core values will future-proof projects and appeal to a modern consumer. 

Stay One Step Ahead 

Learning new techniques, such as those found in these books, will help match your consumer insights with innovative sparks. For brands, moving into 2020 will demand a mixture of both purpose and personality. Staying a step ahead of your competitors will require a strong brand story that is translated through campaigns that are committed to a cause or image. Don’t hold back! Push boundaries, commit to your purpose and engage with your consumer. Like Steve Jobs once said, “Let’s go invent tomorrow rather than worrying about what happened yesterday”.