In this issue, we are leaning over the balcony of the penthouse with a big glass bowl and a fish, our partner in crime this issue is Robert Rose. So, why are we standing here with a fish?


This trip to the balcony is inspired by Robert Rose, who asked his chums on LinkedIn what were their biggest marketing cliches, his, it seems is a goldfish.

It may seem odd to throw a goldfish into a swimming pool. But, this isn’t just any goldfish. This is the bloody goldfish that appears in every presentation about marketing that refers to the attention span of humans “being less than a goldfish”.

It seems this all started in 2015 with a study by Microsoft in Canada that reported that digital was reducing our attention span. The headlines many credible news outlets gave it (like this from Time Magazine) used this goldfish comparison.

The problem, as many subsequent researchers have written – (including this from the BBC), there is no evidence to suggest that fish have a particularly low attention span. Or, even that the attention of span of humans is declining.

What IS happening is that we have more stuff to focus our attention on, we have the same attention span, it’s just as marketers we have WAY more competition for that attention. And, (as LinkedIn’s Jason Miller points out in this post) to market on this declining attention span myth is flawed.

You only need to see the stats on good quality long-form content (like this from the Content Marketing Institute) to see that if you give people the good stuff they’ll hang around and engage with it.

As you will notice and if you choose to do any of this research yourself, we haven’t struck anything original here, people like Jason Miller, the BBC and Entrepreneur magazine to name just three, have been debunking this for years – so why does my friend Robert Rose still see it pop-up in presentations?

Who knows. But maybe, just maybe, a quick trip through our portal to marketing hell into the darkness beyond will see this tired trope finally end.

Say bye-bye to the goldfish.

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