Pick Me! Attention-Grabbing Strategies to Branding


If you are a native South Floridian, you may remember the immense Don Bailey ad off the Palmetto Expressway. As a teen, I remember driving past it and laughing every time. As a result, it has been engrained into my long-term memory. So much so that when I started to think about successful attention-grabbing ads, it was one of the first to pop into my mind.

As a marketer, my first thought is to break down why and how it got there – settling into the back of my mind where I could pull it out at any moment decades later. It is a horrible design, it is a bit disturbing, and it definitely didn’t connect with me as a teen. While the ad failed to get me to become a Don Bailey customer it does, however, play into the fundamental elements that make people pay attention to your message as a brand.

We have merely seconds to grab the attention of our consumers and to make matters more complicated, we are competing with hundreds of other messages – and not just from industry competitors.

We all have selective attention. And pre-attentive processing happens before we even begin to decode messaging. With branding especially, we need to attract first. Just keep in mind that for the consumer, this step happens unconsciously based on stimulus. The Don Bailey ad may not capture all the fundamental principles that help in pre-attentive processing, but it is a good start.

So how do you get the consumer to zero in on your message through attention-grabbing stimuli? Here are a few strategies:

Make it pleasing to the eye, ear, or any sense for that matter.

First and foremost, the stimulus has to be pleasant. Whether it is an experience like walking into a retail store or a digital ad on Instagram, the image or message you want to relay must be favorable. If you have ever walked a mall, you probably remember the smell of the Cinnabon counter at the food court. And most likely you strolled past every other counter to get a sample of the delicious treat. You didn’t go to the mall expecting to try a cinnamon bun, but the smell subconsciously led you there. Alternatively, if you have ever walked into a movie theater and smelled the scent of burnt popcorn, you would most likely go straight to the theater rather than standing in line for concessions. Smell is a powerful stimuli because it causes an immediate reaction. The same can be applied to visual stimuli, a smiling model with a set of bright white teeth, a soothing scene of paradise, a burly, muscular man lying on a carpet (only joking), it just draws you in.

Make it pop, shock or amaze!

The element of surprise…

This is where ads like Don Bailey’s stand out. The “one of these is not like the other” approach. In a sea of billboards, how can you not look at a half-naked man on a carpet? You can’t unsee that! Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to do something outrageous to grab attention, but definitely try to think differently. A generic solution to branding will get you nowhere. Brands synonymous with this are Doritos, Old Spice, and Dove. While Doritos and Old Spice go for the off-the-cuff strategy, Dove is a good example of breaking the mold and showcasing women of different body types. It was a move that different standing out among competitors with women of all color, shapes, and age. So as people perused ads in magazines, tv or online, Dove drew consumers in by positioning their brand as a pioneer in positive body image.

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KISS excess goodbye

KISS, we all know the term (Keep it simple stupid or Keep it super simple). As far as ad copy goes, be clear and get to the point. For visuals, whitespace can go a long way. When it comes to experiential branding, give people space to take in stimuli and don’t overwhelm with too much at once.

I refer to the adage of accessories – “when in doubt, remove one.” You don’t want to over-accessorize your approach and stick to one focal point. You want people to be able to process with ease and not be confused when they interact with your brand.


Be in-tune with and relevant to your audience

Know your audience! Drill that into your brand strategy. It seems simple, but it’s way more complex than that. Your audience should share a similar goal, but they all have varying values, cultures, and beliefs. You need to home in on those and really learn to segment your potential and current customers based on your objectives. From there you can really start personalizing stimuli to resonate with them. In a digital world, you know have the tools to hyper personalize content, use them. Mass media was a wide net, now marketers can use a hook with the appropriate bait. A campaign, for example, would have a shared brand image, but content may be curated to target more specific groups based on demographics, psychographics, and behaviors along the funnel.

The ultimate goal with all of this is to have them pick you, your brand and hopefully be able to recall you when they are ready to make a decision. The key is finding ways to start that initial process of grabbing attention so that consumers are willing and ready to decode what you are trying to say.

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