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Consumers Remember Subtle Changes
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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One of the greatest accomplishments a campaign can achieve is when a consumer remembers the ad. In a cluttered, over-stimulated world, reaching the consideration sets in the minds of the consumers is truly a big deal. We try to figure out ways to persuade the consumer to look at our creative repeatedly, and we find the places where the consumer is most likely to be so we can show them our ads again and again.

We realize that repetition is the key to recognition. We try to leave no stone unturned.

Yet, a new study came out revealing that our repetition model may not be achieving its fullest potential.

In a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers of University of Delaware and Arizona found evidence that suggests that distracted consumers remember an ad more when an ad is slightly tweaked after they've seen it. The release relates the example of a brand placing its logo in the bottom left corner in one ad, and in its second ad the logo appears in the top right.

How fascinating! The article points out that each time consumers see an ad, whether they are conscious of it or not, the mind takes a snapshot of it. Each time the consumer sees that same ad, it recognizes it and the image becomes clearer. So then, if there is a subtle variation of the ad, the mind doesn't consider it the same picture, so it logs it differently. Therefore, instead of the mind recognizing a single picture of the brand, the subtle variations make the mind create a log of several different images, creating a higher likelihood of recollection.

Isn't that something.

Naturally, the anti-advertising community may come out and call this manipulation. That because we are steadily finding out how the brain works that using it for advertising is "tricking the mind." The multiple times one sees an advertisement, though they do increase the likelihood of one purchasing the good or service, do not mean that the ad is coercing one to do it. Those consumers still have to open their wallets. 

In any case, it is always fun to learn more about how the brain works and categorizes information. This new tidbit can help AdLand change the way ads are made. We can toy around with multiple variations of print and digital to see how the consumer recall is affected. A/B testing can be raised to a whole new level of relevancy.

The research is out there. Let's see if we can apply it.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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