The Unscalable, Unbeatable Power Of Personal Attention

Earlier this week, the inimitable David Pogue (of New York Times fame) announced what I believe were the first-ever winners of the Pogue Perfect Pitch award. These pitches, he said, were "so clever, so persuasive, I'm going to wind up reviewing both of the products they're pitching."

Pitch One: a personalized video, addressed directly to David, with cutouts of people in the background that all have Pogue's face.

Pitch Two: a "love letter" written to David from a Nikon D80. Cute in and of itself, but made all the more special by the fact that it was actually a reply to a love letter written by David himself, to rival camera Canon S95.

Yes, they are clever. Yes, they are persuasive. But what makes them clever and persuasive is something utterly simple, often ignored, and beyond powerful: personal attention.

In a world of robots, spambots, autoreplies, emails with magically pre-populated first-name fields, there is almost nothing more insulting than to say, "I care about you so little that I've delegated management of our relationship to a computer program." Our defenses are up, and what they are up against is automation.



What melts these defenses is attention. We are powerless against someone coming at us with open eyes and open heart, someone saying to us through their words and their actions and their choice of medium: "I see you, I know you exist, I know you are a unique human being who deserves to be heard and acknowledged and attended to, and you are valuable and worthy enough for me to invest my time in this relationship, this personal relationship, that is just between you and me, no matter how much it may play out in the public arena."

Personal attention is so powerful it works even when it's not being used on us. Consider Old Spice Guy's customized video responses. Tweets good enough to merit a personal moment with Isaiah Mustafa? 183. Video views generated by those personal moments? 183... million. We love that he's taking the time to actually listen and craft a heartfelt answer, even if it's someone else he's listening to.

The same phenomena can be seen at rock concerts: the power of attention and the disconnect of automation. At Metallica last year, every time James Hetfield said, "Metallica loves you, Auckland," I heard "Metallica loves you, Insert City Name Here." At the other end of the spectrum was U2: arriving in New Zealand just after a tragedy killed 29 miners, the band paid moving tribute with some heartfelt comments, a dedicated song, and a customized graphics display that included the names of the fallen men. It might not sound like much, but the consensus among those I spoke to was universal: they were genuine. They were present to our national grieving. They had turned their attention to what the nation was feeling and they really cared.

And back to our online arena, one needs to look no further than the king of personal attention, Gary Vaynerchuk. Check out his tweetstream: out of his past 20 tweets, all but three were @ replies. I had the privilege of hearing him speak last year, and he made his point emphatically: "I love people more than anybody else in this room. And, because of that, I will always win."

And what about you, the one sitting at your computer wondering whether to leave a comment or touch base on Twitter? Don't be shy. I am an actual person, sitting at a computer just like yours, and I can't wait to hear from you -- personally.

5 comments about "The Unscalable, Unbeatable Power Of Personal Attention".
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  1. Rita from FreshAddress, Inc., January 28, 2011 at 10:54 a.m.

    Let's get personal...instead of automated...what a terrific tried and true concept. Who doesn't like to be recognized as more than a marketing contact?! I'm recalling the original "You've got mail" invitation from aol and how that invitation was more than a beep on my mobile smart phone...Reconnecting is also a personal tool . Check out

  2. Mike Patterson from WIP, Inc., January 28, 2011 at 12:12 p.m.

    Really thoughtful, great post, thanks for the sentiment...reaching out and saying hi! Personally...
    Mike Patterson @mpattyfly

  3. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., January 28, 2011 at 7:08 p.m.

    Or as a sales trainer told me, "Sincerity is what this job is all about. Once you can fake that, you've got it made!" I was watching one of those "American Greed" programs the other night. The guy they described was a master at making people feel he truly cared about them. Of course, he was a con artist, but still. "Con" is short for "Confidence." So I agree with your paean to authenticity. I just wish some people would stop faking it. The ones who misspell my name -- or address me as "Timothy" -- are easy to spot.

    Tim Orr

  4. Kaila Colbin from Boma Global, January 29, 2011 at 12:11 a.m.

    Thanks, Rita, Mike and Tim (not 'Timothy'!) :-)

    Tim, call me a wide-eyed idealist, but I firmly believe the fakers get outed, sooner or later. So I just don't worry about them. And, funnily enough, to my mind the name thing is one of the first places to start with truly paying attention. My husband is Michael, not Mike, and I'm always amazed by how many people insist on Mike. Your name, your preference!

    Have a great day,

  5. Hugh d. Snow from New Jersey City University, February 3, 2011 at 8:06 a.m.

    As a long time marketing person I really enjoyed Kaila Colbin article for several reasons: If the business world can ever get it right in terms of giving its customers the attention they deserve a great deal of our economic downtime would not exist. Secondly,we all at times need some personal attention if its available all within the range and scope of it are bountifully blessed;conversely, when it is not given just the opposite.

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