Why do some brands get bought and others do not?

When it comes to selling in-store, there are two figures to bear in mind.

Firstly, the best guess is that our brains process 11,000,000 ‘bits’ of data every second, but only 40 of these are processed consciously. That means 0.0004% of sensory processing is conscious. In other words, consumers have very few cognitive resources for thinking about purchases carefully.

The second important figure is this: the estimated number of products stocked in the average British supermarket is now 50,000.

So, there’s a whole load of products out there, but consumers generally lack the ‘brainpower’ to pay attention to them all.

So… How many? Well, let’s do some crude maths… 0.0004% of 50,000 is 0.2; let’s round it up to the nearest integer, and say 1. That is, people have the cognitive resources to pay attention to one product.

I can almost hear you through the monitor now… “That’s ridiculous!

Researchers affiliated with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science conducted a massive study using various forms of real in-store data from all kinds of supermarkets in Australia, the UK and the US. They analysed till receipts, in-store observations, RFID-enabled trolley tracking, and other forms of data to understand shopper habits.

When looking at the number of products bought in a single trip, the mode was 1. In other words, most people only buy one product when they go to the store.

What’s more, the researchers found that the average amount of time spent in-store was only 22 minutes, and the average proportion of the store’s area visited was only 30%.

The fact is, most of the time, most consumers don’t pay attention to your brand – and this is bad for business. As one eye-tracking scientist put it, ‘unseen is unsold’.

Fortunately, there are a number of things smart brands can do to win the in-store war for attention.

Without giving everything away, here are two hints.

  1. We are innately hardwired to pay attention to faces. Research has shown that, faced with a picture containing a face, there is an 80% chance we will look at the face first; and a there is evidence that cereal brands find it highly effective to have their mascots face’s on the front of the box looking down, at the children in the aisles.
  2. We automatically attend to emotion; for example, a study found that people are over twice as likely to remember an advert if it is emotional.

Why not put these two together? A 2015 study by Lewis Liao and colleagues at Ehrenberg-Bass found that physiological responses to a chocolate bar’s packaging were significantly higher when it featured an image of a happy baby.

The Russian chocolate bar Alenka (pictured right) has been doing this for many years. Incidentally, it has been named as “the most recognised brand in the Russian chocolate industry”.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

There are dozens and dozens of other techniques besides. If you would like me to give everything away, please get in touch.