5 Questions With Marcus Foley, Co-Founder, Tommy


Our industry is at a critical point during which potential readers and consumers are more guarded with their attention than ever before. Content is consumed at the pace of technology and, in turn, more brands are converging into narrowing spaces and facing competition from a myriad of companies both within and outside of their sectors.

As a result, we as marketers must rethink how we cater to a generation that has developed a reflex for opting out of and scrolling away from content that doesn’t match their values and interests.

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On Friday, 1 November, during #SMWLDN, join Tommy Co-Founder, Marcus Foley, for a discussion that will address this topic exploring five practical strategies for ensuring your work is seen and not ignored and insights for reframing our strategies to catering to audiences of content experts.

Ahead of his session, we sat down with Marcus to get his perspective on the key difference between disrupting and earning attention, what brands he’s observed that are successful in their engagement tactics, the evolution of content marketing over the last few years, and more.

SMW: In the context of the ‘attention economy,’ what are a few standout examples of brands who are doing a good job in earning attention? What are their key tactics?

MF: First up, in the highly-competitive fashion category, for me, Pretty Little Thing are head-and-shoulders above their peers. Their goal is to make every woman feel like they’re ready to take on the world and they certainly celebrate everybody. It oozes effortlessly through everything they do on their social channels.

The way they celebrate body diversity is beautiful, their approach to building endorsements through influencers and peers is carefully considered, the way they speak their brand truth is ever-present and their commitment to constantly giving back to their community is clear to see; consistently identifying opportunities to engage and stand for so much more than just selling their products. Add to that punchy copywriting, a distinct digital brand world this is craft at its best.

Often one of my go-to’s is Nike Running. I simply love their Instagram channel and often benchmark their content. From click-bait carousels that make you want to explore more, vertical formats that move beyond the AV edit, by transforming a linear piece of content to tell a story in a unique and interesting way, or serving a piece of content that grabs your attention for all the right reasons. For example, disrupting your feed at that one moment you’re doing anything but going for that run “You’re all caught up. You can now put your phone down and go run”. Nike knows how to consistently earn your attention.

For me they are living proof if you’re willing to invest in content marketing, you can leave your competition behind. By being playful, mischievous and contextual at their core, they are winning through in the attention economy.

In your perspective, what is the difference between earning attention and disrupting? How should we, as marketers, reframe our thinking around earning attention?

Firstly, in the context of creating content for social media, disrupting is a tactic to grab someone’s attention. Think impact followed by the narrative. It should be a single-minded obsession with how you disrupt their feed and stop them from scrolling past you.

We consider how to seduce the viewer into examining the work and there are a number of tactics you can deploy; from mimicking the scroll, hacking the UI, subverting the familiar in an interesting way or simply creating a piece of content that is visually stunning. Whichever tactic we deploy, we never lose sight of our moment of impact and are always brutally honest when we ask ourselves “does this stop us mid-scroll, does it deserve our attention”. If the answers is no, then push back, start again.

Secondly, earning attention is about figuring out how to get people to keep paying attention to you because once you earned the right, audiences will give you more of their time. Once you’ve unlocked their attention you must hold that attention and use that attention effectively. This is the fundamental challenge we have to address as marketeers. Ask yourself what are you bringing to the party, do I deserve to turn up in their feed, do I deserve a few moments of their time and am I consistently earning the right for the audience to keep paying attention to me?

We need to be honest about the capacity for human attention, figure out how to get people to keep paying attention. If content lacks variety, intelligence, and inventiveness we will zone out.

How has content marketing evolved over the past several years? What are the core qualities that set effective content marketing apart from the noise?

We are now marketing to a generation of content experts who are so much more in control of what they take in. We are converging into narrowing spaces, facing competition from a myriad of brands and over the last seven years we have all caught up with our content marketing. As we head into 2020, we need to sharpen up our content strategies and start asking different questions.

If you start with ’they just don’t care about you’ then ask ‘do we deserve your attention’, then you’re setting off on the right path. The answer is not always comfortable, but as output has become predictable and the repetitiveness has killed the ability for your content to command attention, then we need to bring a brutal honesty into our content marketing efforts and start asking these questions.

Over the years our agency has constantly evolved to embrace the trends in digital and exploit the creative potential of each new era. Now our model focuses purely on earning your attention. No matter where you are across the content eco-system, we just focus on the most scarce resource of all, time. How we get some and then ask ourselves honesty “do we deserve some of it”.

And those core qualities that are cutting through and earning attention; brands who don’t let their competition dictate what they do, who offer variety, intelligence, are inventive, playful, contextual to the core and are clearly committed to investing in their content.

In what ways is capturing attention within the entertainment industry different from other industries? Is there a distinction between securing long-time engagement that is sustained versus a more short-term, immediate strategy to capture eyes and ears?

Marketing entertainment has always presented a set of unique challenges. Whether you’re building a global audience from scratch, re-engaging fans in a franchise or driving membership subscription, you need to understand audiences around the world and how to entertain them. Certainly, the art of grabbing attention has been the one ever-present over the years, be that for short-term activation or a more meaningful long-standing hit.

Our campaigns have always had innovation at the heart, with a relentless pursuit to find new and fascinating ways to surprise an audience and grab their attention. Whether that is leveraging start power in a unique way or ensuring your first to market with a new format on a social channel, being agile has allowed us to seize the moment.

Those strategies based on grabbing attention and building fame are relevant more than ever, no matter what category you are marketing to.

Aside from campaigns, purpose, sustainability, etc., what innovative ways have you seen brands earn attention from their audiences?

I always love content that taps into the human instinct to play. The sooner you let an audience take control of the content, the longer they will stay and play. The content becomes a reward in itself. I am certainly seeing lots of great examples with formats like IG stories that play into this principal. More importantly, from a neuroscience perspective, it creates a more memorable experience and a positive association with your brand. I will certainly be covering some of this off during my talk at Social Media Week London.

Don’t miss your chance to explore the power of content marketing with Marcus during #SMWLDN (31 Oct – 1 Nov). Claim your pass online today to get a discount off the walk-up price.

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