I just finished a Financial Times Q&A session with Michael Caine lookalike Maurice Saatchi, where he suggests the proliferation of fast-switching media channels will be the death of traditional advertising.

The idea? So many messages coming so quickly means companies must clarify their brand to a single thought/word, and then market it so ruthlessly that any mention of the company brings to mind the thought (Volvo/safety).

I’ve quoted a sample of his reasoning:

“The latest developments in neuroscience indicate that a teenager today, who has grown up in a multi-channel, digital environment, processes messages in a different way to his parents. His brain is physically different. It has rewired itself. It responds faster. It sifts out. It recalls less. This is what makes it possible, apparently, for a modern teenager in the 30 seconds of a normal TV commercial, to take a phone call, send a text, receive a photo, play a game, download a music track, read a magazine and watch commercials at X6 speed. They call it CPA, Continuous Partial Attention.”

Maybe. But what about the little guys?

It sounds plausible. Yet small and medium-sized companies don’t do “branding.” They can’t allocate the monster ad budgets needed to brand their names, much less co-opt a word in the language. They don’t mess with non-niche media channels. And they must maximize return on every dollar (or get steamrollered by bigger-spending competitors).

My belief? Small and medium companies should brand… by engaging. An engaged listener isn’t limited to a one-word attention span. Engaged listeners don’t need to be shocked into picking your message from the continuous garbage flow that contains all the other messages.

Simply put, engaged readers are looking for your message, not running from it. Engage a customer, and you’re bookmarked. RSS’d. Part of their trusted daily feed.

Saatchi assumes that interrupt marketing is the only choice. For small and medium business, it’s fast becoming a last resort for anything but prospecting in the least qualified markets. For the rest, engagement marketing tilts the playing field in favor of those businesses willing to be authentic – those willing to create a community that supports their brand instead of trying to force their brand on the community.