Content Marketers’ Dilemma: Prioritizing Attention vs. Trust


In the realm of marketing, the debate often revolves around the impact a piece of content can have on potential customers. If faced with a choice between two scenarios, each with its own set of outcomes, which one would you prioritize?

Scenario one offers deeper trust but quickly fading attention and recall. On the other hand, scenario two promises fixed attention and great recall but minimal, if any, trust. It’s a tough decision, and while ideally, one would strive for both outcomes, this exercise forces a choice between the two.

At first glance, it might seem impossible to separate trust from attention and recall. After all, don’t we need trust to capture someone’s attention and ensure they remember our message? Surprisingly, the data suggests otherwise. Edelman’s research reveals that only one in three consumers trust most of the brands they buy or use. This finding is intriguing because trust plays a vital role in modern purchasing decisions.

Consider a scenario where you receive an email from a credit card company. You read the email, but the attempt to upsell you a new card falls flat because you neither trust nor care about the offer. Yet, you continue using the credit card despite this lack of trust in the brand.

In contrast, let’s look at a brand like USAA, where trust runs deep among its customers. Despite receiving frequent marketing emails from the company, you might not recall the content of these messages. However, your trust in the brand remains steadfast, influencing your decision-making in the long run.

This distinction between trust and attention is crucial for marketers to understand. While capturing someone’s attention might seem like a win, it does not necessarily translate to trust. In fact, research suggests that as trust increases, attention decreases proportionally. This phenomenon, known as “The Speed of Trust,” highlights the inverse relationship between attention and trust.

Building trust requires a nuanced approach. It involves delivering consistently valuable experiences over time, creating familiarity, and minimizing perceived risks for the audience. For instance, gating content like white papers may capture attention, but it can erode trust if visitors feel uncertain about sharing their information.

Moreover, trust is cumulative and cannot be built overnight. It requires continuous effort to be trustworthy at every touchpoint along the customer journey. Each interaction, whether it garners attention or not, contributes to deepening trust over time.

In the end, the goal of content marketing should be to prioritize trust over fleeting attention. While attention-grabbing tactics may yield immediate results, they pale in comparison to the long-term impact of building trust with your audience. Trust is the foundation upon which lasting relationships are built, and it’s worth investing in, even if its effects may not be immediately quantifiable. So, tell your story well, prioritize trust, and watch as it pays dividends in the form of loyal customers and brand advocates.