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You don't want to stand out. Trust me

Updated: Apr 19

“No I can't remember our engagement date. But I remember you wore weird socks that night.“

– Is that you? Then you should read this article.

This article is inspired by The Choice Factory. A book written by Richard Shotton about cognitive biases in marketing and everyday life. Read another article from this series.


It’s a beautiful morning. You’re going to work. Soon you’ll be running in that 9 to 5 corporate hamster wheel again. Well, so what. Exercise gives you endorphins. The weather is too good to be depressed. But wait! “Why don’t I treat myself?” You mumble. There’s no rush to get to those spreadsheets. Your favorite coffee place is just around a corner…

You arrive at your destination. Coffee scent lies lazily on your nose. But there’s a little problem. Or ten little problems to be exact. „Oh no,“ you moan. A queue of 10 people is standing in front of you. All wanting to treat themselves. “Goddamn coffee sucking leeches! You swear while peaking at people. You don’t want to stumble upon somebody you know from work. You’re in no mood for a small talk. 

It’s safe. Nobody’s here. Not even that annoying little Maggie. The accountant who loves to shove photos of her dog in your face. Only people in suits, jackets, hoodies and one wacko in a yellow coveralls and a cylinder. 

Finally! After 15 minutes you get your coffee and then join the other hamsters. You're in a good mood. Work will go smoothly today. Hope Maggie won't bring the new polaroids… 

When you get home that night, you’re happy. Another fruitful day. You take a shower and get straight to bed. You close your eyes. Now, what are you dreaming about?

  1. Coffee 

  2. Maggie's dog

  3. Wacko in a yellow suit and a cylinder

Any guesses? Okay a little research first.

Von Restorff Effect makes you remember things

In 1933 a scientist called Hedwig von Restorff summoned a group of people. She shoved to their faces a list similar to this one:

FVG / YSD / LFK / 345 / OZQ / CCD / ALD

She realised almost everybody remembered the three numbers. Because they stood out. “People tend to remember things and events that stand out,“ she said and named it the Von Restorff Effect. It’s also known as the Isolation Effect. 

Brands are terrified to stand out

Richard Shotton tried to copy Von Restorff. He presented a group of people with 11 logos of car brands and one fastfood logo. According to his findings, people were 4 times more likely to remember the fastfood logo over cars. (And no, they were not “simply hungry as fuck.“ He checked.)

Being different works. People remember your brand. People remember you. And People buy what they remember. So why don’t we strive for standing out more?

The answers are the same in marketing and everyday life.

We listen to experience

Seems reasonable to copy the good example. If other beer companies support Ice Hockey tournaments, our beer company should do the same. Beer and watching sports go hand in hand very well indeed. Only problem is that at the end of the game, people will remember that “funny beer commercial.” They won’t be saying: “Pilsner is the best.”

Maybe next time try to mix things up a little. Do a commercial spot for ballet. There might be less beer enthusiasts watching, but everybody will remember you.

We listen to data

What is more reasonable than that? “Study shows that beer drinkers watch hockey. So let's partner up with hockey teams!“ 

Yes. Trends are strong. Does not mean you can’t start a new one. And maybe, if you play your cards right, in 5 years studies will show that beer drinkers love tutus and Swan Lakes.

We don’t want to be responsible

There is no certainty in life. And in marketing. Bringing something fresh and new means amazing things for you – if it will pay out. And a disaster if you loose. Not many people like putting more stress into their lives.

We are wired to search for the group, not stand out from one!

In 1984 Robert Cialdini called this psychological bias the Social Proof. He proved that people without much conscious thought copy the actions of others in choosing how to behave in a certain situation.

Since the beginning of time we have been used to living in groups. Acting as others is one of our strongest internal needs. It kept us alive during the prehistoric times.

When the rest of the group ran, we ran. We did not wait to see the saber-toothed tiger to realize why they’re running. We did what others do. Without thinking. And that’s why we survived.

Even people that stand out usually does it to prove their loyalty to some group. Metalheads, punkers, judges. All of them do weird things with their hair to belong. 

It almost feel unnatural to stand out. And It looks unnatural too – if you do it for the benefit of others.

Try to ditch the opinion of others, channel your inner freak and do something that resonates with you.

Maybe it will stand out. Maybe not that much. But it will work. In marketing and everyday life.

Correct answer:

C. Wacko in a yellow suit and a cylinder

Source: Richard Shotton | The Choice Factory 

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