Did You Know GOLDFISH Have Longer Attention Spans than We Do?

Book Cover for "Got Your Attention?"
Book Cover for “Got Your Attention?”

“A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”  pioneer Steve Jobs

I agree with Steve Jobs.

That’s why, as soon as I discovered a startling statistic from Harvard Business School researcher Nancy F. Koehn, that goldfish, YES GOLDFISH, have longer attention spans that we do (9 seconds to our 8), I knew it was, somehow, going to be featured on the cover my new book.

Why?  Because it illustrates the idea of the book.

Here’s what I mean.

Do you know the intriguing back-story behind the iconic cover of the book Jaws?

Bantam Books President Oscar Dystel rejected the original cover which simply had the word Jaws – in white text – on a black background.

Dystel was afraid readers would think it was about a dentist.

He ordered his design team back to the drawing board with the admonition, “I want to see that fish.”

The designer came back with the famous image of a woman swimming in an ocean, unaware that a huge shark is lurking underneath her.

That image proved to be so popular, the film studio used it for the movie poster. It may have been years since you’ve seen that poster or book cover,  but I bet you can still picture it in your mind.

That’s the power of illustrating your idea with an image that tells its story.

Not only is it more likely to POP! off the page and capture people’s attention, it turns your concept into something concrete that people can SEE, relate to and remember.

If you’ve read my POP! book, you may remember that I described how AFLAC and GEICO doubled their market-share in one year because they turned their nonsensical names into lovable visual icons and logos

That’s why I couldn’t get that goldfish statistic out of my mind.  I knew it would “show” the premise of the book which is, “How can we capture and keep people’s interest when they have the attention span of a goldfish?”

I couldn’t stop thinking about this.

And in 17 years of emceeing the Maui Writers Conference, the ONLY thing our dozens of best-selling authors agreed upon was to “INK IT WHEN YOU THINK IT.”

So, I got up in the middle of the night, went downstairs and sketched a goldfish with a thought bubble coming out of his mouth that said,  “Got Your Attention?”


I sent it to my COO who fine-tuned my draft and added the sub-title and Dan Pink’s cover endorsement. He forwarded it to our publisher Berrett-Koehler who took it from there.

After months of trying to come up with a Goldilocks “just right” title and cover … it all came together in 48 hours.

We’re thrilled with it, and we were even more thrilled when the CBS TV show Madame Secretary featured this dialogue, “It’s not her fault the public has the long-term memory of a goldfish.”

Much to our delight, the goldfish is becoming the (ahem) gold standard – the poster fish – of people’s shrinking attention span. It is becoming part of POP! culture, part of our Zeitgeist.

Are you trying to come up with a Goldilocks title, cover, logo or graphic design that illustrates your idea?

What’s an image that gets across the essence of your idea so people see what you’re saying?  

How can you support your verbals with visuals so people picture your point?

How can you show people the fish so they get what you mean and are more likely to relate to it and remember it?

Remember, this is not petty.  This could be the difference because confusion (and remember, CONFUSED PEOPLE DON’T SAY YES) and crystal clear comprehension.

Want more ways to get across what you care about – so other people care about it too?

Check out my books POP! and Got Your Attention?  They both have dozens of innovative ways to be concise, compelling and convincingly.

Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and your local independent bookstore. For information on bulk orders, please contact scott@intrigueagency.com.

  • Want to Share Your Story/Suggestion With Sam Horn?

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