In the social media world we’ve moved away from merely bean counting our page likes and followers to getting those people to interact with our brands. It makes sense, right? In the real world your neighbor down the street may like you enough to say hi when they see you, but are they a real friend? Getting a page like or follower means you have acquired an acquaintance. Comments and shares means your acquaintances want to know you better, agreed with you, and hopefully want to tell their friends about you.
Marketers attempt to drive engagement in various ways. They take polls, conduct contests, post quizzes, have giveaways, and of course, provide useful information. They may even share viral content from other sources. There are other methods that work too.
The Great Peanut Butter and Jelly Dilemma
One of the best examples of customer engagement I have personally experienced happened many years ago in the offline space. I was writing and producing a quarterly hardcopy/email newsletter for a client who sold specialty hardware to the theatrical industry. Believe me, you couldn’t pick a more mind numbing subject to write about. The most exciting piece I normally got to create was a comparison of different ropes for various applications.
While preparing one of the issues we decided to throw in a silly item, just for a change. We asked, “How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Peanut butter spread on the bread and jelly on top? Or do you put peanut butter on one slice of bread and jelly on the other?
Within days of mailing out our normal few hundred copies of the newsletter we started getting emails, letters and faxes (!!!) back from our readers. There were a lot of answers that matched our A/B test, but there were also a surprising number of folks who baked or toasted their PB&J sandwiches, added fried bananas or even bacon. By the next quarterly issue we had heard from about 30% of our mailing list. Respondents started agreeing or disagreeing with each other in letters that we printed. And by the third quarterly newsletter had received 15 requests to be added to the mailing list.
It’s called “Pattern Interrupt”
Pattern interrupt is a term first used by hypnotists to define the tool they use to break habits and open the patient up to changing their behaviors. In marketing this is one of the most effective ways of getting the attention of your audience. You break the pattern of what people expect to see on your Facebook page, as an example, and they will likely sit up and notice. After that happens your important promotional message will be presented to an already receptive audience.
How can marketers use pattern interrupt to their advantage? The simplest way is to post something entirely unexpected and outside your normal voice, whether it’s funny, controversial or just plain silly like my peanut butter and jelly example above. Be creative and break whatever patterns you’ve been using to communicate. Keep testing different ways to disrupt your audience’s normal expectations.
A final question
So, how do you make your peanut butter and jelly sandwich?