Do Competing Ads Cancel Each Other Out?

Do Competing Ads Cancel Each Other Out?

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By: Shea Posey, Senior Account Executive and Jake McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer

While watching Super Bowl LVI, you probably noticed a common theme this year among car brands: electric vehicles. In fact, there were seven commercials from six different manufacturers featuring EVs. In Featured in Adweek: Shared Experience Is Worth the Price of a Super Bowl Ad, we talked about how a Super Bowl ad can spike sales of 10-15% per household in the months following, but if a competitor also advertises, that gain could turn into a loss. So, what happens when you have SIX competitors all vying for the same customer?

It’s possible that we’ll see a little less positive growth among the auto manufacturers than in other brand categories, but that remains to be seen. One thing we do know, however, is how the brain processes information about brands and how that information is stored in our memory. There are two primary variables: category and difference. Most of the EV spots in the Super Bowl leaned heavily into the category but offered virtually no differentiation. In other words, we learned that those brands have electric vehicles, but we don’t know what sets each brand’s EV apart from its competitors.

So, what can marketers do to make sure their competitors aren’t canceling them out? Well, the simplest and most powerful way to drive memorability is frequency. We know because of the mere-exposure effect, the more we’re exposed to something, the more we remember it and even grow to like it. But what if frequency isn’t an option, like in the Super Bowl? That’s where psychology marketing comes in.

Here are five effective strategies based in memory science to keep your brand from being offset by your competitors:

Be distinctive

The brain filters out information that it thinks it already knows. Thus, when you see an ad that looks like other ads in the category, you will mostly ignore it. If you’ve shopped for a car, you suddenly realize how many dealerships claim to be “the home of low prices.” Your brain just tunes that out.

If you can swap out the brand logo with a competitor’s, the ad is a cliché. Every category has them—ideas that were effective before everyone began to copy them, killing their effectiveness. This cycle persists until someone (that’s you) shatters them, creating great results. So to break the cycle and be memorable, do something wildly different with your creative. The brain will pay close attention to anything that it thinks is unique.

Use brand codes

The brain has lots of ways to establish distinction and memorability. They are generally referred to by behavioral scientists as “codes”—mental shortcuts for associating memory and uniqueness.

Codes are something your brand can “own” and should be used consistently and repeatedly. A simple example is your company logo, a design that only you can use. There are dozens of other great ways to employ codes—unique characters and audio cues are the most memorable and among the least leveraged across creative executions.

Create mental associations

Memory is contextual: We remember things and use products in specific contexts, places, or circumstances. For instance, we may eat more seafood when we are at the beach; we think it tastes better there. Milk seems more delicious when eating cake or cookies. To make creative more effective, be very specific in defining your mental associations—what is the time, place, or case for the product or service? The more specific, the easier it is to remember.

Use mnemonics

Our brains use shortcuts—mnemonic devices—to make things easier to store in long-term memory. There’s plenty you may remember from elementary school because of them. Mnemonics are at your disposal in ads, too: Structuring creative into a narrative will make it more memorable, as will triggering specific strong emotions within the narrative.

Although not used as much, leveraging mental imagery or using alliteration can also be effective techniques to make your message stick.

Trigger mental engagement

Most ads are intended to be passive—something to watch or listen to. But an effective way to be memorable is by tricking the audience into thinking about it. This can be done by asking questions within the creative or just after it, posing a problem to be solved, using a non sequitur, including a game or a next step—all are effective ways of making an impression in long-term memory.

Give us a call at 833-579-1905 or email us at [email protected] to discuss how we can help you turn psychological insights into great creative advertising.