Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Buyhaviour 5: The Spotlight Effect


Metamorphosis of Narcissus - Salvador Dali

You know when you have a pimple how you think everyone's looking at it? Or, let's flip that, how about when your partner gets a haircut, of course you always notice it, right? What about when a brand tells you about their amazing features. You're lapping that up too, aren't you?

Brands are narcissistic egomaniacs. Marketers mistakenly believe people care about and pay attention to them. Yet, in reality, brands don't get noticed half as much as marketers think. 

In an experiment in the 80s, uni students were asked to put on a Barry Manilow shirt (something equivalent to a One Direction shirt today) and wear it to class. Afterwards they were asked to say how many people they believed noticed them wearing the 'embarrassing' shirt. The result: The number predicted was around twice who actually did - wearing a 'cool' Bob Marley shirt produced the same results.


This, thinking you're the centre of attention, is the Spotlight Effect and brands demonstrate this bias all the time. And the implications are huge, especially on creative.

The Spotlight Effect helps explain why marketers are happy to simply create ads that pontificate a laundry list of features. In their spotlight-affected minds, they think consumers are looking at them already. They're not.

This misconception creates roadblocks to creative ideas. Creative is used to achieve cut-through or noticeability. If a client believes they are already noticed then they aren't going to want a creative ad. Hence why so many ads we see are wallpaper. 

So, dear marketer, if you freed your brand from the Spotlight Effect, you would realise a single-minded creative ad that gets noticed will trump an uncreative one expounding a list of product features that doesn't, every day of the week. 

Because, even though you think people are looking at you (like you were wearing a cool Bob Marley shirt), they actually aren't - they don't care about you, you egomaniacal jerk. And an ad that's not noticed is a waste of money and, just like getting a pimple the morning of a presentation, would be better if it didn't exist at all. 


Discover more from the Buyhaviour Series:

Buyhaviour Series: An Introduction 
Buyhaviour 1: Availability Bias 
Buyhaviour 2: Status Quo Bias 
Buyhaviour 3: Confirmation Bias 
Buyhaviour 4: Conjunction Fallacy 
Buyhaviour 5: The Spotlight Effect
Buyhaviour 6: The Matthew Effect  
Buyhaviour 7: Fight or Flight Heuristic
Buyhaviour 8: Imposter Phenomenon 
Buyhaviour 9: Red Queen Hypothesis 

Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one's own actions and appearance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Christopher Ott

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