Imagine someone dropping 174 newspapers on your doorstep daily; it would seem impossible to take in that much information. Yet that amount, more than quadrupled since 1986, is how much information we are exposed to in a single day.

With so much data being forced upon our brains, it takes immense focus to get anything done. Ben Parr, a colleague here on Inc.com and author of Captivology: The Science of Capturing People's Attention, says that today, not only is attention more scarce, but our habits are also making us less efficient at focusing on any one thing.

So how is a brand expected to capture and retain its audience's undivided attention? Backed by fascinating research, Parr's book defines what he calls seven "captivation triggers" based on psychological and scientific phenomena that trigger responses in the mind.

1. Automaticity Trigger

This is the jolt that forces people to turn their attention toward you because you stand out from the crowd. As a brand, you must capture your audience's immediate attention and elicit a reaction. You must also get them to focus on you and your idea or message. Parr's book describes specific sensory cues like colors, symbols, and sounds that will capture attention based on people's automatic reaction to certain stimuli. To create effective packaging for your product, for instance, select colors that pop against the colors of the product it contains. If you want attention at a conference, avoid the dull powder blue shirt and wear something that stands out.

2. Framing Trigger

By adapting to or changing people's expectation, you can change what they pay attention to. Repetition and the act of creating scarcity (think Hostess Twinkies) are two tactics to get on people's radar so they adapt or change their frame of reference and become more receptive to your message.

3. Disruption Trigger

Capture and captivate your audience with the three S's of disruption: surprise, simplicity, and significance. Parr cites the popular HBO show Game of Thrones for its masterful use of this trigger in its disruptive moments, as when the show kills off main characters.

4. Reward Trigger

Maintain and increase your crowd's attention over the long haul-- just like Apple and others have done with the smartphone. With the features offered on these devices, the average person checks in 110 times a day! Our body releases dopamine whenever it thinks there's a reward ahead--in this case, new information. The key with these intrinsic and extrinsic rewards is to help solve people's short-term problems while giving them the opportunity to better themselves in the long-term.

5. Reputation Trigger

The goal here is to piggyback on the reputation of others to instill trust and captivate your audience. Media coverage, endorsements from authority figures, and the buzz of a crowd are powerful means to build a reputation that commands attention.

6. Mystery Trigger

The successful use of this trigger lies in four components: suspense, emotional buy-in, plot twist, and cliffhanger. "Create a little mystery, suspense, and uncertainty and you will activate your audience's compulsion for completion and get them to pay attention to you and your ideas right to the very end," says Parr. Steve Jobs was a master of the mystery trigger.

7. Acknowledgment Trigger

According to Parr, your customer wants validation, empathy, and understanding. Facebook is the most popular social network in the world because it's the place where friends pay attention to us. "We all want to be acknowledged," says Parr. Help your audience feel like they've found a brand that recognizes, validates, or understands them.

Based in psychology and neuroscience, these techniques can help you make your mark in the world when you master their nuances to captivate your crowd. What methods have you found most successful? Share them with us here!

Published on: Mar 16, 2015