Pattern Interrupts: How To Use Them, And Why They’re Fucking Awesome

Ben Sweetlove

Using clever strategy to draw important consumer attention

Amidst a sea of constant stimuli and information overload, marketers gotta find innovative ways to stand out and engage their target audience. One powerful technique that has emerged in recent years is the strategic use of pattern interrupts. 

Here’s are some great ways to use pattern interrupts in your marketing (and why we think they’re fucking awesome!*)…

*Hint: my profanity is a pattern interrupt, did it work? 

What you’re *really* trying to capture

Consumer attention is a scarce and valuable resource in today’s fast-paced digital landscape. With an overwhelming amount of information and advertisements bombarding individuals on various platforms, capturing and maintaining attention has become increasingly challenging for marketers.

Attention serves as the gateway to engagement, brand recall, and ultimately, conversion. Without capturing attention, marketing messages risk getting lost in the noise, rendering the efforts and resources invested ineffective.

What is a pattern interrupt in marketing?

Pattern interrupts, in the context of marketing, refer to deliberate techniques employed to disrupt the typical flow of consumer thoughts, behaviours, or expectations. 

Pattern interrupts are unexpected and attention-grabbing moments strategically inserted into marketing messages, designs, or experiences. The primary objective is to interrupt the established patterns of consumers’ thinking and redirect their attention towards the marketing content being presented. 

By introducing novelty, surprise, or a break from the mundane, pattern interrupts create a momentary disruption that captures attention and piques curiosity.

How do pattern interrupts enhance brand recall?

When a pattern interrupt disrupts the expected or ordinary, it stands out in the minds of individuals, making a lasting impression. By deviating from the norm, brands can capture attention and create unique associations with their products or services.

For example, a company may use a distinctive and visually striking logo that breaks away from industry conventions. Similarly, a memorable jingle or tagline that uses unexpected humour or catchy wordplay can create a pattern interrupt in auditory stimuli, reinforcing brand recall in consumers’ minds.

How do pattern interrupts foster emotional connections?

Pattern interrupts foster emotional connections by evoking surprise, curiosity, or positive emotions. When a brand introduces a pattern interrupt that sparks an emotional response, it becomes more memorable and establishes a deeper connection with the audience.

For instance, a heartfelt and unexpected storytelling approach in an advertisement can create an emotional pattern interrupt. By tapping into consumers’ emotions, such as nostalgia, empathy, or inspiration, brands can forge a stronger bond and leave a lasting impact. 

This emotional connection not only enhances brand recall but also cultivates loyalty and advocacy among consumers.

Understanding the phenomenon of ad blindness and automatic filtering

Ad blindness is a psychological phenomenon where consumers develop an unconscious ability to ignore or disregard advertisements. Consumers are constantly exposed to a barrage of promotional content, and as a result, they have become adept at filtering out irrelevant or intrusive advertisements. 

Ad blindness stems from a combination of information overload, repetitive ad formats, and a desire to focus on content that is personally relevant or valuable.

How pattern interrupts disrupt automatic filtering

Pattern interrupts disrupt automatic filtering mechanisms associated with ad blindness. They create a momentary interruption in the consumer’s thought process, capturing attention and redirecting focus to the marketing content being presented.

Tactically, pattern interrupts work by leveraging novelty, surprise, and engaging elements that deviate from the typical ad format. This can include visually striking designs, unconventional storytelling approaches, humour, interactive features, or unique presentation styles. 

Strategies for leveraging pattern interrupts to overcome ad blindness:

To effectively leverage pattern interrupts and overcome ad blindness, marketers can employ several strategies:

  • Visual Creativity: Use visually compelling designs, vibrant colours, or unusual imagery to grab attention and disrupt visual patterns.
  • Unexpected Storytelling: Tell stories that surprise, evoke emotions, or challenge expectations, creating a narrative that breaks the monotony of traditional ads.
  • Humor and Wit: Inject humour or clever wordplay into ad content to catch viewers off guard and make the experience enjoyable and memorable.
  • Interactive Elements: Incorporate interactive features like quizzes, polls, or games that encourage active engagement and create a participatory experience for the audience.
  • Personalization: Tailor ads to individuals’ preferences or specific demographic segments to make them more relevant and personalised, increasing the likelihood of capturing attention.
  • Contextual Relevance: Deliver ads in contexts where they align with the consumer’s current needs, interests, or location, making them more meaningful and less likely to be ignored.

The relationship between pattern interrupts and increased engagement

Pattern interrupts have a direct impact on increasing engagement with marketing content. By disrupting established patterns and capturing attention, pattern interrupts create a momentary break from the mundane and stimulate curiosity. This heightened level of interest and engagement encourages consumers to interact with the content, spend more time exploring it, and actively participate in the brand experience.

When pattern interrupts successfully capture attention, they create an opportunity for deeper engagement. Consumers are more likely to read, watch, or listen to the marketing message in its entirety, increasing the chances of them absorbing the intended information. This heightened engagement leads to improved brand awareness, increased recall, and a greater likelihood of the consumer taking the desired action, such as clicking through to a website, signing up for a newsletter, or making a purchase.

Techniques for using pattern interrupts to drive conversions

Pattern interrupts can be strategically used to drive conversions and prompt desired actions from consumers. Here are some techniques for leveraging pattern interrupts to achieve conversion goals:

  • Clear Call to Action: Integrate a clear and compelling call to action within the pattern interrupt to guide consumers towards the desired conversion action.
  • Interactive Elements: Incorporate interactive features, such as quizzes, assessments, or product configurators, that actively involve consumers and encourage them to take steps towards conversion.
  • Limited-Time Offers: Use time-sensitive or limited-time offers within the pattern interrupt to create a sense of urgency and drive immediate action.
  • Personalisation: Tailor pattern interrupts to individual preferences or specific segments, offering personalized recommendations or discounts that resonate with the consumer’s needs or interests.
  • Seamless User Experience: Ensure a seamless transition from the pattern interrupt to the conversion process, minimizing friction and making it easy for consumers to complete the desired action.

Case studies

Several case studies demonstrate the significant impact of pattern interrupts on marketing campaigns. Here are a few examples:

Dollar Shave Club: The brand’s viral video advertisement, featuring a pattern interrupt of unexpected humor and bold storytelling, led to a massive increase in brand awareness and customer acquisition. The pattern interrupt, combined with a clear call to action, resulted in a significant boost in conversions and a substantial return on their marketing investment.

Spotify’s “Wrapped” Campaign: Spotify’s annual “Wrapped” campaign utilizes pattern interrupts by delivering personalized year-end music listening summaries to its users. This interactive pattern interrupt not only drives engagement and user retention but also prompts users to share their summaries on social media, resulting in increased brand visibility and organic user acquisition.

Old Spice: The Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign employed pattern interrupts through unexpected humor, rapid scene changes, and unique visual effects. The campaign went viral, leading to a substantial increase in brand engagement, social media shares, and ultimately, sales.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: This viral campaign raised awareness and funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research. It involved participants dumping a bucket of ice water over themselves and challenging others to do the same. The pattern interrupt of individuals willingly drenching themselves in ice water created surprise and humor, driving widespread participation and generating significant donations.

“Dumb Ways to Die” by Metro Trains: This animated video campaign aimed to promote rail safety. It featured catchy music, colorful characters, and unexpected scenarios where characters met unfortunate (and humorous) fates. The pattern interrupt of combining a serious message with playful and unexpected content captured attention, resulting in millions of views, shares, and increased safety awareness.

Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” Tweet: During the 2013 Super Bowl blackout, Oreo tweeted a simple image with the text “You can still dunk in the dark.” This real-time pattern interrupt capitalized on the unexpected event, providing a humorous and timely response. The tweet quickly went viral, generating widespread attention and positive brand exposure.

These case studies demonstrate how pattern interrupts can generate significant results by capturing attention, increasing engagement, and driving conversions. The creative use of pattern interrupts has proven to be a powerful strategy in achieving marketing objectives and delivering a positive ROI.