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Using the Unfamiliar to Make Brands Familiar


retail, marketing, people counting, shoppertrakRetailers understand how difficult it is to cut through the online and offline clutter to capture a consumer’s interest. Content added to online channels alone is staggering with 140 million tweets, 1.5 billion pieces of Facebook content, 10 million Tumblr posts, 1.6 million blog posts, 2 million Youtube videos, 5 million Flickr images, and 60,000 new websites – all of this on a daily basis (Contently). What makes it more challenging is that a retailer’s strategy isn’t just to capture a consumer’s interest, but to compel that consumer to take action.

So exactly how does a retailer break through the clutter to capture attention and get people to remember its brand? Interrupt the pattern by using novelty.

Douglas Van Praet in his book, Unconscious Branding, discusses a long held belief that repetition of the same material over a prolonged period of time leads to learning and memory retention – kind of like school.  Because brands are “learned behaviors,” businesses have often used this concept in advertising to nudge consumers along their brand path by playing the same commercial over and over, recycling the same products and ideas, or even copying what seems to be working for the competitor. Although this repetitive nature may have worked in school, science has proven that in advertising it’s a different story.

That’s because research has revealed that our brain has been built to ignore the old and focus on the new. Novelty and surprise determine what gets our attention and what keeps it. Scientists have found and explored a “novelty center” in our brain that is activated by unexpected stimuli which can cause an emotional or behavioral reaction and results in learning. New things excite us because they hold a potential for a reward. However, once we are familiar with a stimulus and are no longer rewarded by it, there’s no need to pay attention to it. It’s not the familiar message that sways us, but the unexpected one.

As Van Praet explains, “Pattern interruption works not only because it excites our sensibilities and teaches us something new, but because it is one of the quickest ways to redirect our behavior; the ultimate goal of almost every marketing effort.” (106) An advertisement – no matter how originally creative – when played over and over will eventually lose its effectiveness. However, slight variations in the same ad over time can actually keep a consumer’s attention because the pattern is continually being interrupted. Retailers can find this concept to be effective in all forms and channels of marketing – from advertisements and social media interactions to display layouts and store operations.

While retailers explore the best tactics to capture attention and compel behavior, ShopperTrak can provide the tools to effectively measure performance through our people counting technology. Successfully engaging consumers is always a retailer’s challenge, however, our in-store analytics, which is grounded in shopper conversion, allows them to capture and apply actionable insights to all functions of their stores.


Van Praef is on to something with his analysis using pattern interruption to get the consumer to consistently pay attention to what is being advertised. Use the same format but tweak it occasionally to give it the twist needed to capture and retain. Good story.
Posted @ Monday, October 07, 2013 10:07 AM by Don Paden
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