Have you ever had that horrible moment where you’re in a rush, looking for something and for the life of you can’t see it anywhere, but then, in your panic, realise it was right in front of you the whole time?
You instantly question whether something’s wrong with you.
A quick Google search tells you you’ve definitely got early onset dementia.
Then you wonder if it’s that early morning binge watch of Rupaul’s Drag Race at the weekend finally catching up on you.
To make matters worse, you immediately feel the stare of your incredibly smug partner from 12 feet up on their high horse with a look on their face as if to say:
“What an idiot. I saw your keys straight away. I’m so much better than you are.”
The truth is there’s a very good, scientific reason our brains often can’t see something – even if it’s right in front of our eyes – and it’s subsequently the same reason that many major brand’s retail environments can go pretty much unregistered by the minds of consumers, falling into the dreaded ‘invisible to the naked eye’ category.
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The Importance of Movement
Oren Klaff is an American businessman who has pitched on behalf of some of the world’s largest venture capital firms for billions of dollars of investment into projects including new airport constructions, skyscraper builds and gigantic mall developments.
Simply put: he’s a man who knows a thing or two about how to grab the brain’s attention and influence the decision-making process as a result.
In his book How to Pitch Anything, Oren explains why our brains register some information immediately, but fail to see other things altogether.
“A huge part of the brain is devoted to detecting movement.
This is what makes it so hard to find things you have lost in the moment. Your keys, your cell phone, your pencil. They don’t move.
You can look right at something and not see it because it is standing still.
This is why animals, when they’re frightened, tend to freeze.
Your brain grows accustomed to things that are not changing, and then, they effectively vanish from sight.”
Oren goes on to discuss the importance of this when it comes to selling something.
In business terms, you have to paint a picture of whatever it is you’re selling as something that’s new and moving into the future.
This is pretty well known when it comes to advertising strategies; running the same campaigns over and over would become boring and make the output invisible to consumers amidst all of the new, fresh approaches out there.
So why for so long have brands settled for the ‘same old’ in their retail strategies?
The capabilities of technology to bring an environment to life and create an experience far surpassed the way most retail spaces are designed long ago.
In fact, other than EPOS and stock management systems, not that much has really changed when it comes to most retail experiences for decades.
The simple fact is that if your retail environments aren’t designed to deliver a new experience, you’ll fail to register as ‘movement’ and – a lot like that set of keys you can’t see right in front of you – your retail space will be a lot closer to invisible than you’d like to think.
The Concept of Change Blindness
Oren goes on to explain something else which is pretty important when it comes to registering positively in a potential buyer’s mind:
“There’s one more detail about the brain and how it works that you need to know and it’s called Change Blindness.
It’s surprising, but if you show people two pictures in rapid alternation and one of those pictures has some change in it, even a relatively major change, people will not see it.
You can replace grandma with a tree in two different photos: it does not register as movement when you do it this way and the brain ignores it.
It’s only when your attention is focused deliberately on the thing that is changing that you can finally see it.”
This phenomena is actually pretty amazing and has to be experienced to be understood:
Mind blowing, isn’t it? And it doesn’t just work over short spaces of time either.
Anyone who’s ever been on a diet knows that you can lose pounds and pounds of weight but not look think you look any different because you see yourself in the mirror every day.
Yet as soon as you bump into someone who hasn’t seen you for a few weeks, the first thing they say is, “Wow, have you lost weight? You look great!”
What this goes to prove is that people won’t always notice changes that are right in front of them because they see similar things in their every day lives all the time.
In that sense, you’re not only up against your direct competitors for share of a consumers’ attention, but up against every single business and entity out there that’s making any kind of noise – be it physical or digital.
Switching off Autopilot
It’s important to note here that when most consumers walk around stores or scroll through Instagram, they’re in a passive, autopilot state, so even if they’re looking directly at something, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re taking it in.
So in the midst of all the competition for air time, how do you switch off consumer autopilot mode and pull people out of that passive state?
The answer is to genuinely engage people on a deeper, more emotional level.
Surprise people with amazing experiences they simply weren’t expecting and – like a fish slapped across the face – you can surprisingly smack them out of passivity and right into the heart of your world.
In other words, if you want to be remembered, you have to create ‘new movement’.
Your entire retail strategy – from your flagship stores and event spaces to pop ups and eCommerce sites – has to be more than just easy on the eye; it has to do great things beyond what people have become accustomed to.
What consumers can smell, hear, touch, taste and – ultimately – the way you make them feel plays a major part in whether they remember you or not.
I doubt she’d read Oren Klaff’s book, but Maya Angelou was along the same lines when she rightly said:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you showed them, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The question is, does your retail strategy make people feel the way you’d like, does it register as new movement with consumers, or are you invisible to the naked eye?
Thanks for reading, I really hope you enjoyed this piece. If you’re interested in snapping consumers out of autopilot mode and into a place where they engage with your brand, click here to get in touch.