The average buyer in America sees 3,000 ads and messages every day urging them to do something or buy something. Whether it’s a clear plastic hanging sign or something seen on brochure display racks, signage affects everyone. There’s a reason that people respond so well to the messages in a clear plastic hanging sign: respond so well, in fact, that merchandise sold at full price sells 18% better just by having a sign! Scientists have long been curious about the way people respond to signage, and it turns out there are some scientific explanations for this reality of human behavior.
- People start watching and noticing from the moment they are born. When children are born, their visual systems are not fully developed and they’re not actually able to see much. What’s amazing, though, is that this immature development doesn’t stop them for a second. From their first day out of the womb, they start working with all their might to see, notice, focus, and learn about the visual world. Babies turn to look at their mother or father long before they’re actually able to focus their eye muscles well enough to get a good look. And while it will be years before a child can learn to speak, read, or write, and so express their thoughts and ideas, that doesn’t stop them constantly trying to input information through sight. Humans have a life-long habit of looking for information, and that means they are doing it even in a store as they pass custom retail displays.
- The human brain loves and craves stimulation. In fact, people will take stimulation from any sense, whether it be sound, feel, touch, taste, sight, or one of the other 16 senses (that’s right: humans have 21 senses). Sight, however, is normally the strongest, and especially when it’s combined with at least one other sense. Because the human brain responds to so many different senses that are bombarded with stimuli every moment, it has to become very good at weeding out the important from the unimportant.
When the information coming into the brain is the same all the time (such as when a person is sitting in a classroom with a droning professor, for example) the brain just tunes it all out and the person becomes “bored,” even though in reality thousands of stimuli are available. Constant change grabs the brain, however, and forces it to focus. The key to getting people to pay attention to what’s in a clear plastic hanging sign in a store is to do something different that grabs the brain’s attention.
- Color is a great way to grab attention. When people stand outdoors in fields of endless green under an endlessly blue sky, they will eventually stop noticing it all. But if color changes, people are hardwired to respond to it quickly. Color is so effective that when people are exposed to a safety notice with a color on it, their recall of the information improves by 82% over notices without color. Color grabs human attention by changing what the person sees and because colors are strongly associated with feelings and concepts in the human mind. Creative retail display ideas that incorporate color grab the attention and become very effective.
- All this is because the human brains was made for the visual. The brain of a dog is superbly designed to process smells, and this is why dogs can track scents that humans could never detect no matter how hard they tried. But the human brain is superb at detecting and processing sights, and 20% of the brain is devoted just to vision. The nerves that send visual signals and the visual processing center itself are also wired to communicate with all the rest of the brain. This makes it virtually impossible for a person to pass that clear plastic hanging sign or the display signs and not notice a well-crafted piece of visual stimuli.
People were made to see and then respond to what they see. This is what makes store display ideas so irresistible. Next time you pass a clear plastic hanging sign, pay attention to how you’re paying attention.