Isolation, a marketing tool?

Von Restorff Effect

Isolation, a marketing tool?

Have you ever been to a circus?  If you see a clown in a circus, you wouldn’t pay a lot of attention to the clown would you? What about, seeing an isolated clown walking on the street while you are going to work in the morning? 

No, I am not asking you to follow clowns around, please don’t do that. I just want you to think about these questions while I tell you how you can use the concept of Isolation to improve your marketing game!

Even before the Pandemic, a German Psychiatrist Hedwig von Restorff figured out the importance of Isolation. With the help of a series of designed experiments she discovered that an isolated item in a group of similar items stood out therefore it became more memorable. She ended up calling this phenomenon the Von Restorff Effect. 

Do you know why you should believe in this effect?

Mostly because, even in the paragraph above, which is full of important pieces of information you will remember the term ‘similar items’ the most, only because it has been highlighted and written differently. 

You should also know that 

  • The Von Restorff Effect, more fondly called the isolation effect, has been tested and retested by various psychologists and other researchers. 

  • You will also find a lot of theories explaining this effect. One of my favourite explanations is a study that found biological proof that exposure to isolated items causes higher brain activity which directly translates into better recall and faster recognition of that particular item.

  • The effect works both with semantic and physical qualities, as demonstrated by the following example.

How to use this grenade of an effect without blowing yourself up!

By now, you probably have figured out the various applications of this effect in marketing. You are right, a lot of brands and individuals already use the Von Restorff Effect in the form of - 

  • Guerrilla marketing: It’s just a fancy word for a marketing tactic where a company uses surprise and/or unconventional interactions in order to promote a product or service.

  • Animation: Animation instantly brings any idea to life, it gives the audience a visual aid for your product/service. This helps them remember the concept better. It also gives you a better shot at emotionally connecting with your audience. 

  • Gamifying blog posts : If you have ever completed your profile on Instagram because you wanted to complete those 4/4 steps or have collected frequent flier miles, you already have been gamified. It is a simple technique of using game design elements for an application that’s not a game. 

There is so much more you can do to not get lost in the crowd. With your advertisement or any other form of outreach, you can decide to be funny, quirky, use a little bit of obscenity, just about anything to stand out!

But, remember I called it a grenade, because if not used properly, the whole concept of standing out can even get you thrown out of the room. Here are a list things that can go wrong - 

  • A lot of focus on one aspect of the communication will take away focus from everything else. You need to be absolutely sure about which element to keep in focus. Also, when emphasizing certain elements, we should avoid putting together too many competing elements. Otherwise, nothing will stand out. 

  • People don’t buy ‘what’ you do, they buy ‘why’ you do it. Therefore don’t lose sight of your purpose just so that you can be different. Don’t do things just so that you can stand out, do them because it connects to your ‘why’. The internet is filled with examples of purposeless advertisements gone horribly wrong. One such example that I personally do not like is, this one horrible ad from Burger King. 

Some quick takeaways

  • The Von Restorff Effect is based on our tendency to remember things that stand out from the crowd.

  • The applications of this effect can be used by brands or individuals to get more attention to their product or service.

  • Using the effect can backfire if not done in a planned and a proper manner. 

One last thought…

Before we close this, I would like to revisit the point - People don’t buy ‘what’ you do, they buy ‘why’ you do it. 

Not just for advertisements, for everything that you do, you should always start with your ‘why’ and then move on to your ‘how’ and your ‘what’.

Revisiting your purpose from time to time will also help you maintain some sort of alignment in everything that you do. 

That was it, you have completed the last level! You are now the master of this game. 

Thank you for playing :)