15 years ago while traveling I went into a bookstore and found they had a very large white rabbit hopping about free in the store. No, I do not do drugs, nor was I hallucinating. The big bunny was the store mascot.
I remember the place to this day, and if I ever visit that town again I'll look up the bookstore to see if they still have a rabbit there. Why do I remember this particular bookstore after 15 years, because seeing a bunny in a bookstore was unusual.
Let me lay down some brain science on you. Have you ever been in a restaurant full of people talking when somebody happened to say your name? Whether or not they were talking about you, or somebody else with your name, you probably tuned right into their conversation. Previously to that their conversation probably was faded into the background noise.
Believe it or not, your unconscious mind was scanning every single one of the millions of stimuli coming into your brain every second. Your conscious mind cannot possibly track everything. In fact, you can only hold about 7-9 pieces of data in your conscious mind at any given time.
So what happened when that person spoke your name? Well, a part of your brain called the reticular activating system triggered your conscious mind and said - here's something important that you need to pay attention to. The reticular activating system is the part of your brain that wakes you up. In caveman days it would make us perk up when a pattern of shapes moving through the woods might be a saber-toothed tiger.
Unusual stimulus trigger the reticular activating system, because our unconscious mind perceives that it unusual stuff may be a threat.
One day I was driving through Boston when I saw a clown smoking a cigarette in front of a four star hotel. Instantly my attention was pulled to this very unusual sight. Fortunately I didn't crash the car.
Unusual stimulus is also more likely to be remembered. Why? Because you are paying attention to it. Most memory problems can be attributed to a lack of focus. If you are thinking of four or five disparate things when you put your keys down, you may have a hard time finding them later.
How does this relate to small business marketing? If you want people to pay attention to you or your marketing, you have to present them with something that's not dull. You have to present a novel stimulus.
Here's a warning: being strange without a purpose can hinder your marketing results. A lot of local businesses I speak to want to do quirky, high-concept ads like big ad agencies do. Unfortunately these ads don't work well for big companies, and less so for small business.
The reason why big companies can continue to do high-concept ads is because they have hundreds of millions of dollars to repeat the ads over and over again. They build brand recognition on a very expensive and difficult path. Many good companies have gone out of business on this path.
Remember the ads for Superglue that had a construction worker dangling from a hard-hat glued to an I-beam. It was quirky and novel, but it also demonstrated the strength of the glue.
Not every business can benefit from going funky. Funeral homes and personal injury attorneys come to mind.
What's unusual about you or your business that will make a meaningful difference and bump the old reticular activating system into gear.
J D Moore - Marketing Comet