You’re at a cocktail party, engaged in a conversation. Suddenly, you get interrupted by someone. He’s making an effort to take your attention away from your conversation. Since you’re polite person, you pay attention for a period of time, mildly annoyed and always the thought in mind: How can I get back to that initial conversation and make the intruder go away?

20 minutes later, you wander around, looking for new people to engage with. Interesting pieces of a conversation get your attention, an interesting social object people gather around, something worthwhile to give attention to. Slowly, you get drawn into the conversation, to be fully engaged within a few minutes.

There is a huge difference between taking away attention and giving attention. When we take away attention, it really doesn’t belong to us. We didn’t earn the attention, we just grabbed it. But when you give attention to something, it becomes part of our being. The attention was earned, thereby freely given, and this creates a feeling of belonging and ownership.

Bad marketing takes away attention. It uses every trick in the book to get my attention: Headlines, hidden ‘Close’ buttons, pop-ups increased volume when the show switches to advertising. Bad marketing knows it has to revert to these tricks to get any attention. It’s the kind of angry attention an annoying intruder deserves. Bad marketers have no other choice. That’s the only way to get in front of people. Bad marketing is based in fear. And everyone knows it. Bad marketers get really defensive when they are challenged.

Good marketing earns attention. It draws you in, it makes people give away their precious time to engage with the marketing product. It’s a story well told. It’s an insight revealed. Good marketing is based in confidence. Confidence that we don’t need cheap tricks to get your attention. Confidence that we will deliver a marketing product that adds value.

Bad or good marketing: Both get the attention they deserve.