Inattentional Consumer: Part 1

Unveiling the Secrets

Catching the fleeting attention of consumers has emerged as a formidable challenge for brands worldwide. The crux of this challenge lies not just in the sheer volume of content vying for attention but in understanding the intricates of consumer interest and motivation.

So, what determines what’s personally relevant and interesting to you? The answer lies in the intricate web of unconscious mental processes that govern your preferences and motivations. These processes operate beneath the surface of conscious awareness, shaping your perception and influencing your decisions.

The Evolution of Consumer Attention Research

The study of consumer attention is a relatively recent development in the field of marketing and psychology. Only in the past few decades have researchers started to unravel the intricate mechanisms that govern our attention. Prior to this, marketing strategies often relied on intuition and assumptions, but now, science is shedding light on the unconscious motivations that influence our choices.

Yellow background with a paper cut out of two heads. String is made up to look like their brains and is connecting in the middle

The Narrow Bottleneck of Attention

Central to this discussion is the concept of the “attentional bottleneck”, a metaphorical narrow passageway through which all external stimuli must pass to gain cognitive recognition. This bottleneck serves as a filter, prioritising information that aligns with the individual’s personal interests and relegating the rest to the background.


Recent research in consumer psychology has revealed that the human attention bottleneck is far narrower than we might have imagined. It’s like a selective filter that sifts through a vast sea of information, pinpointing only the most personally relevant and interesting elements. This means that in the blink of an eye, your brain decides what’s worth your time and what isn’t.

The Role of Unconscious Mental Processes

Your unconscious mind plays a significant role in determining what captures your attention. It processes a wealth of information, including your past experiences, emotions, and personal preferences, to decide what is worthy of your focus. It’s as if your brain has a built-in radar for detecting elements that align with your interests and motivations.


Crafting compelling brand messages requires tapping into the core interests and motivations of consumers. To connect effectively, brands need to communicate on a subconscious level, using psychological insights to build meaningful and memorable relationships. This involves a mix of creativity and analytical precision, employing techniques like emotional engagement, storytelling, and values-based messaging that align with individual internal motivations.

An older caucasian man who works in a shop is handing bottles of soup to a customer.

These strategies go beyond traditional marketing and should permeate the entire consumer experience. From product design to digital interfaces and customer service, each touchpoint in an omnichannel journey is an opportunity to engage consumers in ways that resonate with their underlying interests and motivations.


By Duncan Smith

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