Capturing attention in the attention deficit economy

This article is part of a series of articles on capturing attention in the attention deficit economy. Read more.

Marketers constantly seek new attention-grabbing advertising tactics. And for good reason, because each time an ad fails to capture the attention of potential buyers, precious advertising dollars are wasted.

One tactic is featuring two different brands in the same ad – the idea being that as buyers tend to notice their brand's advertising, adding a second brand will increase the total number of brand users and therefore grab attention from more ad viewers. This article explores this assumption and suggests good practice for co-branding in advertising.

The natural physiological tendencies of our brains can both help and hinder marketers' efforts. For example, the brain's reticular activating system encourages us to pay attention to stimuli that are perceived as important and relevant to our lives. Say you adopt a puppy. Suddenly, you will start to notice all the other dogs around you. No, there hasn't been a sudden influx of four-legged residents in your neighbourhood; you're just a typical human 'programmed' to screen out the irrelevant and screen in the relevant. Transferring this to the marketing world, we see that people who have used a brand have a higher chance of tuning into that brand's advertising than non-brand users. This is because the brains of shoppers who buy a brand perceive these ads as 'relevant', allowing them to filter through their brain's screening mechanisms. In the marketing literature, this phenomenon is known as the 'usage-bias effect' and has been documented in many markets, categories and advertising memorability measures. The ubiquity of this known bias makes it a prime weapon in the fight for audience attention. If one brand gets more attention from its users, then surely pairing two brands together should attract attention from an even greater brand user pool, right?