Imagining Mus: An Attention-Action Currency

Published June 17-26, 2021


Ads and Attention

Brands will spend $650 billion in 2021 (source: Statista) across all media channels vying for our attention. That comes to just under $100 for every one of the 7 billion people in the world. India’s advertising industry is about Rs 62,500 crore in 2021 (source: Dentsu Digital Report), or about $8.2 billion. This comes to almost Rs 500 for every Indian.

None of that money comes to us as consumers. It goes to intermediaries – publishers, media platforms, search engines, agencies, and the like. The result is an explosion of ads that we see everywhere – everywhere our attention is, the ads are there. Ad spends can grow, but our attention is finite – we cannot create more time in a day. And in a world with increasing wealth and new brands rising to challenge the old, our attention becomes even more valuable. The result: more ads, more spends. This flywheel accounts for the huge valuations of digital intermediaries and destinations like Google and Facebook – every action of ours is tracked, packaged and sold. Profiles, preferences and privacy are juxtaposed in the search for that perfect ad which will grab our attention and make us act. Just as we are buyers, we are also being sold – our attention auctioned to the highest bidder every digital moment.

Ads envelope us wherever we go. Outdoor hoardings, ad breaks on TV, wrappers on newspapers that take up the first few pages, ads on search engines (nicely disguised to look like content), pop-ups on free content portals, ads in our online feeds and streams – they stalk us everywhere. The more free content we desire, the more we pay – every action (or inaction) being recorded for eternity, and then shared and matched to create a digital twin in the quest of the right message at the right moment on the right channel. We are the products in the Attention Economy and there is no shortage of buyers willing to pay for fragments of our time.

As I have been writing about microns, loyalty and the inbox, I also began to think about attention. Is there a way to monetise our attention? What if brands could reward us for our time and actions? In the non-digital world, this was impossible to do because brands could not identify each of us uniquely. But in a digital world where every click and tap of ours can be tracked, can we become recipients of the huge monies being spent by brands in reaching us?


Attention Economy – 1

We are living in what is called the Attention Economy.

Wikipedia: “Attention economics is an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity and applies economic theory to solve various information management problems. According to Matthew Crawford, “Attention is a resource—a person has only so much of it.” In this perspective Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck define the concept of attention as: “Attention is focused mental engagement on a particular item of information. Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item, and then we decide whether to act.” As content has grown increasingly abundant and immediately available, attention becomes the limiting factor in the consumption of information.”

Berkeley Economic Review: The term “attention economy” was coined by psychologist, economist, and Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon, who posited that attention was the “bottleneck of human thought” that limits both what we can perceive in stimulating environments and what we can do. He also noted that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”…Our attention has always been limited, valuable, and scarce. But what distinguishes the present day is that technological advances have made an overwhelming amount of information available, strategically aimed at capturing our attention. As for the general public, it has never been easier to garner such personal levels of attention though means like social media.”

Michael Goldhaber in 1997: “If the Web and the Net can be viewed as spaces in which we will increasingly live our lives, the economic laws we will live under have to be natural to this new space. These laws turn out to be quite different from what the old economics teaches, or what rubrics such as “the information age” suggest. What counts most is what is most scarce now, namely attention. The attention economy brings with it its own kind of wealth, its own class divisions – stars vs. fans – and its own forms of property, all of which make it incompatible with the industrial-money-market based economy it bids fair to replace. Success will come to those who best accommodate to this new reality.”

Nielson Norman Group: “Many services online are offered for free. In the attention economy, attention is not only a resource but a currency: users pay for a service with their attention. Today, the dynamics of the attention economy incentivize companies to draw users in to spend more and more time on apps and sites. Designers who create sites and apps understand that their products vie for the limited resource of users’ attention in a highly competitive market.”

Asher Joy in Business Today Online Journal: “In the past, we were the customers, now, our attention has become the product. In the so-called “attention economy”, our attention is constantly bombarded with information, from social media, television, or news sources, such that it is difficult for one particular information source to truly captivate our attention and influence us. An easily distracted audience means that marketers must devise new strategies, whether that be through addictive/engaging UI or through social media “influencers”, to endorse their products in order to stand a chance in this new economy. As a result, human attention has become commodified, and harvesting this attention is now an integral part of the revenue generation strategy implemented in numerous business models. Essentially, the attention economy is fed by a vicious cycle in which we are the product of the attention economy yet also the customer who is unknowingly manipulated into reinforcing it.”


Attention Economy – 2

Sandeep Goyal in Business Standard: “Advertising, as a business, has always been about attention. The value of our collective attention, in fact, has helped fund all types of media — be it print, television, radio or outdoor. Six to eight minutes of paid advertising funds the actual “content” that fills every half-hour on television. Every quarter page of advertising pays for the balance page of news or editorial content in the newspaper. Without an active advertising subsidy, the internet also as it currently exists would be completely unsustainable. However, there is a fundamental problem with this “attention economy”. While the number of advertising messages that can vie for the customer’s attention is practically limitless, the attention they’re vying for is fundamentally limited. And that has been advertising’s eternal challenge. Every single day, there are more companies, with more brands and more products to advertise, which means there’s more demand for consumer attention than ever before.”

Mint (AFP report): “In today’s digital world, attention time is a most valuable resource. “The digital economy is based upon competition to consume humans’ attention. This competition has existed for a long time, but the current generation of tools for consuming attention is far more effective than previous generations,” said David S.H. Rosenthal in a Pew Research Center study in April 2018. “Economies of scale and network effects have placed control of these tools in a very small number of exceptionally powerful companies. These companies are driven by the need to consume more and more of the available attention to maximize profit.””

Mark Manson: “…The new scarcity in the internet age is attention. Since there is a surplus of information, more information flowing through our society than any of us could ever hope to process or understand, the new bottleneck on our economy is attention. We now live in an attention-based economy. This is why today we are each bombarded with over 3,000 advertising messages per day. This is why these advertisements get zanier and more nonsensical…because the goal of advertisements is no longer information but simply attention.”

Sophie Perryer in The New Economy: “Brands don’t want your dollars anymore – they want your eyeballs. The ominously named concept of ‘eyeball marketing’, where a business’ value is derived from the amount of attention it garners, rather than its revenue, has become the modus operandi for today’s digitally focused brands. These companies are eschewing the notion that paying customers are loyal customers, and are instead looking to less tangible metrics… Loyalty is the ultimate attention filter as it prevents consumers from even looking for other information, products or services.”

Albert Wenger: “Our limited attention can readily be absorbed by ever refreshing content. Humans are maladapted to the information environment we now live in. Our brain evolved in a world where when you saw a cat, there was an actual cat. Now we live in a world of infinite cat pictures. This is analogous to our maladaptation to sugar for an environment that is now sugar rich (largely artificially so). Checking email, Twitter, Instagram, watching yet another YouTube clip or Snapchat story, or episode of one’s favorite show on a streaming service—these all provide quick “information hits” that trigger parts of our brain that evolved to be stimulated by novelty. The limited availability of attention has become the key new source of economic rents. Companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are valued in no small part based on the amount of attention they have been able to aggregate, some of which they then resell in the form of advertising. As a result they invest heavily in algorithms designed to present ever more captivating content to their end users in order to monopolize their attention.”

Will Oremus: “Algorithmic feeds are highly efficient at amplifying posts that stand out from the feed enough to pause people’s scrolling fingers. Each social app can choose — and tweak — which types of engagement it wants to optimize for, but they’re all optimizing for engagement because that’s what they can measure. The result, regardless of platform, is a feed full of attention-grabbing content. Feeds full of attention-grabbing content are great at keeping us hooked, keeping us scrolling, and keeping us coming back. But while these feeds may be addictive, they’re also exhausting and numbing. When every post in your feed has been selected from a huge pool of possible posts for its attention-grabbing qualities, you can start to feel shouted at, manipulated, pandered to, and overwhelmed… New digital media products [like Clubhouse and Twitter’s “Super Followers”] are focusing on low-volume, high-attention relationships rather than high-volume, low-attention feeds.”


Attention Economy – 3

Alexian Chiavegato in Forbes: “Online, all news content is atomized. Every URL is in competition with another. Algorithms prioritize content on popularity, forcing stories twisted for an emotional response to the top of news feeds. Audiences are exposed to more and more stories that aim to trigger larger and larger emotional responses. The crucial flaw in this exchange is that we’re just not built to process this level of emotion so frequently. Our emotional capacity has a ceiling. You might think it takes a trauma or a global catastrophe to reach it, but a constant low-level assault on our emotions from the news can amount to the same effect.”

Charis Apelgren-Coleman in The Media Online: “When we think of attention economics, brands must entice users to volunteer their attention and spend money. It is also one of the most valuable resources of the digital age.  Publishers use eye-catching animations that call attention to the content. Sites send out frequent notifications with the goal of boosting engagement. Social networking sites are fueling the attention economy with the number of users using those sites every day. The dynamics of the attention economy incentivise companies to draw users in to spend more and more time on apps and sites. Of course, there is a negative side to this. There is an abundance of information out there and because of that, businesses are fighting for our attention. Netflix said last year that they had two big competitors – YouTube and sleep.”

Tim Wu in Wired: “By now, it is pretty well understood that we regularly pay for things in ways other than using money. Sometimes we pay still with cash. But we also pay for things with data, and more often, with our time and attention. We effectively hand over access to our minds in exchange for something “free,” like email, Facebook, or football games on TV. As opposed to “paying” attention, we actually “spend attention,” agreeing to the view ads in exchange for something we really want. The centrality of that deal in our lives makes it outrageous that there are companies who seize our time and attention for absolutely nothing in exchange, and indeed, without consent at all—otherwise known as “attention theft.””

Tristan Harris in Technology Review: “Right now, it is possible for large technology companies to make money by selling thinner and thinner “fake” slices of attention—selling fake clicks from fake sources of news to fake advertisers. These companies make money even if what the link or article leads to is egregiously wrong and propagates misinformation. This opportunism debases the information ecology by destroying our capacity to trust sources of knowledge or share beliefs about what is true, which in turn destroys our capacity for good decision making. The result is polarization, misinformation, and the breakdown of democratic citizenship. We need to create mechanisms that incentivize participants in the digital world to consider longer time frames and the broader impact their actions are having on society.”

Clara Lindh Bergendorff in Forbes: “We are at the beginning of the end of an era. The Attention Economy—the ad-based revenue model that has dominated the creative industries in the 21st century and made the incumbent social platforms some of the most valuable tech companies in the world—has paved the way for its own demise. The Creator Economy—made up of the platforms, marketplaces and tools democratizing creative expression and entrepreneurship; empowering an independent creative class to make a living on their passions—represents a paradigm shift… If we reclaimed our Attention (ciao Attention Economy!) and interact directly with the Creators behind the media and the products we love (hello Creator Economy!) we return to a world in which makers and consumers are more connected… The Creator Economy is a digital and global version of a world we used to know—one where we support and celebrate digital artisans directly.”

There are many views on the past, present and future of the Attention Economy. The one thing that stood out for me is that we cannot fight the Attention Economy. The question I started to ponder was: can we, the actual payers of attention, profit from it?


AIDA: Attention to Action

In the world of marketing, the AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) formula is still at work. It dates back to almost 125 years ago. From Wikipedia: “The term, AIDA and the overall approach are commonly attributed to American advertising and sales pioneer, E. St. Elmo Lewis. In one of his publications on advertising, Lewis postulated at least three principles to which an advertisement should conform: The mission of an advertisement is to attract a reader, so that he will look at the advertisement and start to read it; then to interest him, so that he will continue to read it; then to convince him, so that when he has read it he will believe it. If an advertisement contains these three qualities of success, it is a successful advertisement.”

An explaination from Vizion:

AIDA is a hierarchy of effects model of the marketing funnel. Each consumer must pass through one stage to proceed to the next. For example, if you don’t first attract consumer attention, you have no hope of inspiring interest in your product or service, and certainly can’t expect them to take action and purchase an item that hasn’t inspired interest.

In this way, the hierarchy of effects mirrors the crucial marketing funnel – with each step, fewer consumers proceed toward final action for your product. Let’s say you capture the attention of 80% of your total audience with your initial advertisement, to the point where they desire to learn more about your offerings or your company as a whole. Then, only a portion of those with the desire will actually reach the tipping point and make the commitment to make a purchase. In this way, the AIDA formula narrows the number of consumers involved with your campaign until the final few convert into customers.

More from Ryte:

The AIDA model is based on four individual stages that attract interested parties who are deciding on a product or service.

  1. Attract attention: The product must attract the consumer’s attention. This is done via the advertising materials. It is a type of “eyecatcher.”

Examples: a window designed in a striking way, a sensational YouTube clip, or a themed newsletter, or a graphic on a landing page.

  1. Maintain interest: In the first phase, the attention of the potential customer is piqued; their interest in the product or service should be aroused.

Example: detailed information on the product is presented, for example, the product description on a website, a product brochure or flyer, photos, or video clip of the product.

  1. Create desire: If interest in the product is aroused, it is the seller’s task to persuade the customer that they want to own this product. In the best-case scenario, the advertisement or the product itself creates the desire to purchase.

Example: the seller provides clear examples of the advantages of the product or service, taking into account the daily lives of the target group. In the online shop, a bullet point list can generate the desire to buy. This desire to buy can also be awakened by an advertising medium that specifically addresses the emotions of the customer.

  1. Take action: As soon as the desire to buy is aroused, this must be transferred into an action, that is, the purchase.

Example: In the case of online shops, this would ultimately be the shopping cart process, in which a customer is lead to a conversion. The customer can be encouraged to buy the product with a call-to-action.

AIDA starts with attention and ends with action. Once brands initiate a relationship with us as consumers, then starts the process of engagement via email, SMS, WhatsApp or push notifications. And yet we choose to ignore the majority of such messages – even from the brands we like. 85% of promotional emails aren’t even opened. A majority of push notifications cannot be delivered because app users have blocked them. So, how does a brand get through? The buzzword now is experience: brands have to create or offer awesome experiences for us to pay attention. This “pay attention” triggered a thought: while brands have loyalty programs that reward transactions, what if brands could actually move up the funnel and pay for attention and action? Today’s digital world can easily enable such microtransactions. Yet, it hasn’t happened. Will it work? How can it be done?


Pay (for) Attention

On the issue of paying for attention, Michael H. Goldhaber had this to say in his 1997 talk:

Contrary to what you are sometimes urged to believe, money cannot reliably buy attention. Suppose it did work that way. Then you could have been paid to sit here and listen closely even if I were to read you something as boring as the phone book or an unabridged dictionary. Presumably it wouldn’t even matter if I kept repeating the same few syllables over and over. If money could reliably buy attention, all I would have to do is pay you the required amount and you would keep listening carefully through all that, not falling asleep en masse, nor allowing your minds to wander. In truth, even if you had been paid a huge sum, this would be most difficult, and if you did it, it would be a testament more to your own deep sense of principle than to a general condition in which another roomful of similar people could be expected to do equally well.

Someone who wants your attention just can’t rely on paying you money to get it, but has to do more, has to be interesting, that is must offer you illusory attention, in just about the same amounts as they would if you had instead been paying money to listen to them — which by the way is closer to the case here. Money flows to attention, and much less well does attention flow to money.

And here is Brice Berdah in UX Collective: “Attention is a resource that can lead us to action. Once we have it, we can also pass it to someone else, and put her/him under the spotlight. To understand how attention works in our modern world, considering its relationship with money is vital. We tend to think that money can buy attention yet we fail to recognize that this feat cannot be achieved consistently. Money cannot reliably buy attention…Different forms of incentives are tested to have highly engaged users that frequent check back their feeds, the biggest one being gamification. It is the import of gaming reward mechanisms on non-game mediums, such as apps…By adding points, achievements, unique rewards, power-ups and random reward schedule, apps and websites developers can ease the adoption of their service and increase engagement.”

It was in this context that I had discussed the idea of microns and loyalty. Here is what I had written previously: “Adding elements of loyalty and gamification can make microns much more rewarding. Our attention has a lot of competition; if someone is willing to pay us for it, they have the potential to stand out. By disintermediating the media and ad platforms, brands can build a direct hotline to their customers, with the rewards working as magnets for visibility, engagement, actions and eventually, transactions.”

As I thought about the problem, I decided to narrow it down. Rather than target the entire universe of consumers, what if brands could just focus on their existing customers and reward the less active ones for their attention? The prize for entrepreneurs to get it right is a large chunk of the global advertising pie. For brands, it is an optimisation of their huge marketing budgets. And for consumers, their ‘delete’ mindset could be converted to a ‘delight’ mindset when it comes to dealing with the inflow of messages they get. How can a win-win platform be created for all? It was time to bring multiple strands – microns, loyalty, micronbox – together into a larger idea of “Mus” (pronounced as ‘mews’; and derived from the µ symbol that I have previously suggested as an identifier for microns). Mus can become the currency for attention and action.


Seconds to Sell

Attention is a hard problem to crack.

  • Morgan Housel: “You have five seconds to get people’s attention. Books, blogs, emails, reports, it doesn’t matter – if you don’t sell them in five seconds you’ve exhausted most of their patience.”
  • Exchange4Media (quoting research): “Human attention dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2018, beating out the ever-distracted goldfish, which clocks in at 9 seconds. This could mean that as a result, advertisers and publishers are struggling to hook consumers and keep them engaged.”
  • Wyzowl has some infographics on attention span.
  • Digital Doughnut: If you are an email marketer, you have only 3 seconds to capture the attention of your audience.

An alternate view from The Mobile Presenter: “If the human attention span was really that short, we would never have made it down from the trees. You have to be aware that there are two types of attention span: Focused attention is the amount of time that a human can focus his or her undivided attention on something. This, according to several sources, is indeed at around 8 seconds for the average human these days. For the context of presentations, however, the other type of attention span, called sustained attention, is more important. The average value for that attention span is somewhere close to 20 minutes.”

Adds Faris Yakob: “I recently saw a speaker from one of the world’s largest digital media companies claim, without substantiation, that on mobile our attention spans have decreased once again. We can now only muster two seconds for an ad, they maintained, which borders on the subliminal. It turns out that’s because that’s how much they get on average in the stream – it has nothing to do with the audience or effective brand communication.”

More from Andrew Littlefield: “Marketing departments have built entire strategies on top of this unproven assumption [of the Goldfish Myth]. They’ve pushed down the quality of their work, made it shorter and “snackable,” desperate to appeal to an audience of fish. Yet that same audience will watch a 4-hour football game or binge-watch an entire season of House of Cards in a single weekend. The result has been a wave of low-effort marketing content that floods your audiences timeline. It adds no value to your customer’s life, but we sit and wonder why our content strategies aren’t working.”

Put it all together and here is my take my how to grab attention (especially in the email inbox):

  • Communication must be based on an opt-in (subscription) and not spam
  • The Subject line is obviously important: this is where “Mus” can play a role by paying recipients for their attention (and action)
  • The content must not be purely unpersonalised infinitely long promotional broadcast – this is where microns matter
  • Ideally, there should be a dedicated inbox for brand marketing communication – here is where the micronbox comes in

The combination of subscription, an incentive (Mus) wrapped in a micron and delivered to a special inbox can transform brand-to-consumer communications. Just as loyalty programs reward the Best customers, Mus in microns are the key to unlocking attention of the Rest customers – moving them from inactive or semi-active to expectantly engaged.


Microns and Mus

Microns are short, informational content delivered in a sequence to the email inbox. They can be consumed in 15-30 seconds. They are uniquely identified with the µ in the Subject. They are thus a new category of emails – neither transactional nor promotional. They offer something useful and interesting to the recipient. By using email as the transport mechanism, microns can be subscribed to and delivered to almost every Internet user. (An estimated 4 billion people have email addresses.) Email is not controlled or monopolised by any corporate entity thus making it an open communications platform. It has been around for 50 years and will probably be around for many more.

Mus are points that are earned by consumers for actions done in their engagement with brands. Initially, Mus are earned within microns: opening a micron, clicking a link, filling a survey, referrals to family and friends. Later, they could be extended beyond microns – clicking on SMSes or push notifications, downloading an app, completing a profile to share personal information with a brand, and so on. Mus are a transfer from a brand to consumers. Mus are this earned by consumers. They can be spent on rewards or gifted to others. As the use of Mus expand, they can become currency – a medium of exchange.

Mus reward attention and action. They can work across brands because they are linked to the email identity of a person. They can be thought of as a cross-brand (or coalition) loyalty program, or even like airline miles. The innovation is that for the first time, non-transaction behaviour in the form of attention and actions are being rewarded. Typically, loyalty programs are linked directly to purchase – get a certain number of points for spending money on goods and services. Mus reward brand engagement. [As far as I know, there has never been a loyalty or rewards program for multi-brand engagement.]

Each micron would show in its Subject line the total number of Mus the recipient has at any point of time along with the number of Mus to be earned for opening the specific micron. The aggregate is also updated in real-time in the body of the micron. By showing the total microns in the consumer’s wallet, spoofing is avoided since only the microns platform (MyToday) and the consumer would know the total at any point of time.

Emails are paid for by brands based on volume. So, each email has a finite non-zero cost for a brand. Microns with Mus would be different. They could be sent by a platform like MyToday for free. Only when they are opened would brands pay – and this payment would be in the form of Mus which are transferred in their entirety to the consumer. So, MyToday becomes like a loyalty program operator – an intermediary between brands and the consumers. Mus offered by brands are added to the wallets of the consumers for them to use. An attractive redemptions platform would be needed to ensure that Mus have value – thus directing favourably the attention and actions of consumers.

It all sounds interesting and exciting. So hasn’t anyone done it before?


The Hurdles

The idea that I have described about creating a points system for brands to reward consumer attention and action seems like a simple enough idea that it should have been quite common by now. But it is not. That is what intrigues me. Why have brands not done this? Here are some reasons that I can think of as to why this has not happened.

First, such a program can only be done in the digital world. In the offline transactions world, we had brand-specific loyalty programs. These were typically physical cards which had to be shown at checkout and to which points were added. As ecommerce grew, the mobile number or email address became the identity to which the points could be linked. The rise of a digital identity also led to the creation of multi-brand programs (Payback in India, for example). Credit card companies also created their own points programs to drive the usage of their cards over other payment alternatives. As these programmes grew, so did the benefits and rewards of owning and using a card. One thing common to all is the linkage with a transaction because it is impossible to measure and track engagement in an offline world.

Second, until recent times, digital was not a large channel for most brands. Hence, digital communications and engagement was a small part of the overall marketing program. As such, the basics were all that was important – send out the receipts and offers, and hope for some clicks. Digital’s growth has skyrocketed in the past few years and a new class of digital-only direct-to-consumer (DTC) challenger brands have emerged. So, it is only now that there is a critical mass of digital brands – some digital first, some digital only and some hybrid (offline first, with digital as add-on).

Third, engagement budgets have been mostly much smaller than acquisition budgets in most marketing departments. The exciting thing is to get new customers – which means running TV ads or doing large spends on Google and Facebook. The bigger the budget, the more exciting it is for the marketer. Once a customer is in, engagement, retention and growth are typically given to a much smaller team with even smaller budgets. These teams do their bit – emails, campaigns, push notifications, SMSes with a single objective to get the consumer back to the website or the app. In these smaller budgets, there is little room for rewarding attention.

Fourth, should brands decide to spend to reward attention and action, someone in the C-suite would definitely bring up the issue of double spending: “So, you are spending on sending the email, and then also spending to get someone to open or click the email? This doesn’t make sense at all.” And thus any rewards program would be nipped in the bud since no email company would be willing to take up a pure performance campaign because they would have no control on the creative, and there is a finite, non-zero cost for sending emails.

Fifth, should all these hurdles be crossed, no loyalty brand would be willing to run a program where 100% of what the spend is passed on the consumer.

Finally, to really make a program like this work, it would need to get multiple brands on board – consumers will not find it attractive if points can only be earned across one or two brands.

A product or program has to solve all these problems simultaneously to succeed. And this is what the Netcore’s MyToday Microns and Mus platform hopes to do.


MyToday Microns and Mus

What I will write next is a vision for the MyToday platform – I will know whether it succeeds in the months to come. I like to share ideas openly because I have always believed that by ‘open-sourcing ideas’ one can get inputs from others which could make the idea better. So in that spirit, here is where the imagination takes over. already supports the creation, publishing and sending of microns. The new element in this is the addition of Mus. My initial thinking was to price microns at a fraction of emails to drive the interesting use cases – these were short emails and thus cheaper than emails. Since emails themselves are quite cheap (15-45 cents per thousand emails, or about 1-3 paise per email), making microns even cheaper would not be that attractive. Emails anyways have the best RoI and technically, they can do all what microns can, so just offering something cheaper did not make sense.

It was then that I thought of eliminating the unit pricing for emails entirely – make the price linked to performance (based on the opens). While this was a step forward, this again meant we were still playing the price game.

That was when a new idea came up. The low open rates in promotional emails (typically 15%) has meant that brands have taught their customers to ignore emails. What if we thought of microns as being the opposite and target 100% opens?! While the content of microns would be a key driver, that’s when the idea of adding a points program came in – and “Mus” as a reward for attention and action was born. Mus would be the secret sauce to make microns a habit in the lives of consumers.

Netcore’s 70% market share with emails in India meant that we can potentially take the idea to a large number of brands and thus create a points program across brands. This is still not a done deal but has potential. What brands would agree to would be to pay not Netcore/MyToday but their customers! This payment would be in the form of points – Mus. Each micron would thus be a carrier of rewards, enticing the recipient to open and act. In effect, microns with Mus had the potential to train consumers to open every incoming brand communication with the µ in the Subject field! If brands agree, this would be a great win-win for both them and their consumers.

Of course, the question of how Netcore would gain remains. We would need to spend on sending the microns and managing the platform. But we would not get any cut from what the brands paid the consumers. This is where I decided to take the long view. Done right, Mus had the potential to be a gamechanger in the world of brand to consumer communications. If it works, it would move brands to use more of Netcore’s communication and customer engagement and experience platforms providing plenty of monetisation opportunities in the future. Start with delight and the deals will happen!

So, that’s the idea. Will it work? Can it transform brand-consumer engagement? We will find out in the months to come!