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From Bacon to Marketing Messaging: The Importance of the 5-Second Rule

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This is what your marketing messaging has in common with fallen floor bacon. (Yeah, you read that right). 

Ever drop a piece of tasty bacon on the floor, then stealthily snatch it back up before anyone around you notices? 

Yeah… us too. We’d insert a shameful look here, but really, there’s no shame in the 5-second rule. 

You can apply it to marketing messaging, too. Just like a dropped piece of food can either be contaminated or saved, a marketer’s initial message can make or break their marketing campaign.  

"In a fast-paced world of constant distractions, marketers have a mere five seconds to grab their target audience's attention and make a lasting impression."

Audiences are constantly digitally connected these days and they basically never stop scrolling. By the time someone’s brain registers that they saw an ad, they’re already onto the next newsfeed post or search result. You shouldn’t assume that your audiences are spending time reading your message, because they’re most likely not, no matter how good it is. 

Just like we ponder the cleanliness of a fallen piece of bacon, consumers judge the value of a marketing message within five seconds. 

That’s not a reflection on your marketing message – it’s a sign of the times. 

What that means for marketers is that you have to get your marketing messaging across in five seconds or less. "If you can’t get the whole message out in five seconds, then you must at least hook the audience" so they keep reading. 


The incredible shrinking attention span

Ever wonder why TikTok is taking over the world? Or why Twitter cuts you off before you’ve barely uttered a sentence? 

Human attention spans are shrinking. Almost half of adults surveyed by King’s College London feel that their attention spans are worse than they used to be, or that technology is ruining their attention spans. 

The result is that people don’t actually notice the ads they see. They scan for a headline and an image, then move on. During an IPG Media Lab study,"only 17% of people who looked at a given ad actually remembered it later".  

"To achieve a measly 25% recall rate, consumers have to spend more than four seconds viewing an ad" before moving on. If it’s a large format ad, then they have to view it for seven whole seconds to get that 25% recall rate. 

The problem is, people don’t generally spend that much time looking at ads. We’re bombarded by them from every angle, and it makes us blind to them. 

That’s bad news for marketers who have a limited amount of time to connect with potential customers. 


You need five seconds of fame

Now that never-ending scrolling exists, you must be really on the ball about getting your ad seen (and more importantly, remembered). 

Your ad should sit in front of each viewer for a minimum of five seconds to have a rudimentary chance of being remembered later. That’s not easy to accomplish when it’s so simple for viewers to simply scroll on by. 

To get your five seconds of fame, you have to get into the viewer’s head and know what piques their attention. In other words, heuristics. 


How we respond to marketing messaging

Humans are predictable creatures, so social science has nailed down a few ways that we respond to ads. Marketers can use these heuristics to tailor their messages to speak to us from a primal place. 

For instance: 

  • We want to relate: Humans respond to common experiences, so your messaging should make it clear that there’s common ground between the viewer and the people who already use your product or service. 
  • We respond to color: There’s a really rich body of science behind color psychology. We feel calm when we see blue; we feel at one with nature when we see green. Use these color generalizations to inform your messaging. 
  • We want relationships: Relationships are the single most formative part of the human experience so it’s natural to respond to ads that imply relationship-building as part of the brand experience. 
  • We want instant gratification: Here’s the most important one – you have to make it stupidly easy for viewers to get the point. If they have to think about it for more than a few seconds, you’re gone from their view. 


Keep it simple, stupid

"Striking the balance between info overload and info underload is a delicate dance" in the world of marketing messaging. To keep your audience dancing the tango, give 'em the gist of what you offer and why it's worth their time without burying them in sales lingo, pushiness, or personal opinions. To do that: 

  • Keep the important stuff in sight and leave a little to the imagination, but not too much.
  • Let your happy customers do the talking by showcasing glowing reviews and social proof of engagement.
  • Stimulate the senses with tailored visuals like photos, videos, and infographics – but make sure they follow the heuristics of how we respond to ads. 

Tada! The perfect balance is yours.

At the same time, pay attention to any formatting options that play to the viewer’s sense of instant gratification: 

  • Put your brand’s logo at the top of the ad
  • Place ads where longer viewing is more likely (e.g., the sidebar instead of the page body)
  • Leave audio on by default for video ads
  • Choose ad placement with less competition


Just knowing the five-second rule isn’t enough

You’re not done here just because you know about the five-second rule now. You have to make the most of those five seconds by trimming the hell out of the fat. Every single word and element has to serve a really specific purpose, or viewers will continue to scroll right by your ads without taking action. 

That’s where ContentBacon comes in. We know marketing messaging like the back of our hand and our team of expert ad copywriters, editors, and strategists know exactly how to craft a message that will get you some real action. 

We’ll make you a trade – 1 hour of your time for 30 days of content. Just click that Content Easy Button to get the ball rolling!

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