Have you ever noticed how sometimes you suddenly become aware of something once it takes on significance in your life?  For instance, you may begin noticing baby diaper commercials everywhere once you’re pregnant?   Or when you’re in the market for a new car you begin seeing SUVs on the road every everywhere?  That heightened awareness is called the reticular activation system.

My mom went through cancer a couple years ago and I watched the reticular activation system at work in my life.  Suddenly, I started noticing pink ribbons everywhere.  I started noticing how many people there are in public places who are going through chemo.  It was crazy.  Never before had I been aware of all of the people in the mall wearing scarves over their bald heads.

But what does that have to do with marketing?  How can you harness the power of the reticular activation system in your marketing and increase your sales?

Let’s look at an example.  Last year we had a client who was marketing a bottled water just for chemo patients. It’s a great product.  This water actually tastes great when other types of water typically taste strange because of the effects of the medicine.  We were charged with the branding of the product and intentionally used the reticular activation system in the product design.  You might initially be inclined to tip-toe around a sensitive topic like cancer and maybe avoid mentioning that the product is for people suffering from cancer.  However,  if the bottle were devoid of any mention of chemo or cancer or pink ribbons, those who were affected by cancer wouldn’t notice the product.  It would blend in with the thousands of other bottled waters.  How would that benefit those fighting cancer?

On the other hand, if the bottle clearly demonstrated that it’s designed for people who are fighting cancer, then people like myself would perk up when they saw the bottle and think, “Wow, this would be perfect for mom.”  All of the people who are unaffected by cancer wouldn’t even give the product a second glance.  But who cares?  It’s not designed for them.  Perfect.  That just cleared the static and eliminated the noise.

Sometimes you have to do the gutsy thing and go out on a limb in order to stand out.  And since standing out is the goal of most marketing don’t forget to use the reticular activation next time you’re wondering how you can differentiate yourself.   Hope that helps.

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