The weirder something seems, the more we remember it

What is the Von Restorff effect?

Also called the isolation effect or bizarreness effect, the Von Restorff effect is the proven psychological theory that the more something stands out from the crowd the more likely it is to be seen. For example in a bucket full of green apples we’ll remember the red one. And be more drawn to it.

The evidence it works

The Von Restorff effect is a phenomenon first coined by Hedwig Von Restorff – rejoice, a female behavioural scientist. She discovered in an experiment that when constructing lists of words, the one that’s different will usually be recalled more easily.

This could be that the word in question is longer than the rest, in a different typeface or language, emboldened, contains a number, is in a different font etc.

Where it fits in our behavioural model – The ‘means’ METRIC

The three core principles of our Behavioural Model is that every behaviour has to have a motivation, trigger and the means.

The means are the resources to get what you want. This isn’t just money – choosing and buying also costs time and effort, thought and worry.

In theory, the means depend on what’s in short supply. So if we’re short of time, we’ll spend money. If we don’t want to take a risk, we’ll invest more thought. If everyone else is doing one thing, we’d rather join the queue and spend time, than feel like the odd one out.

But our judgement of these things is often flawed. For example, we can only judge numbers in comparison with other numbers and we’re inclined to not waste energy, so the easier something seems the more likely we are to choose it (like joining the queue). Which forms the basis of our Behavioural Model.

The means model is split into six different sections: Money, Effort, Time, Risk, Individuality, and Conscious thought. Which handily spells METRIC.

The Von Restorff effect falls under the ‘conscious thought’ piece of the METRIC pie, breaking us out of our autopilot thinking.

How we've used it with clients


Think cow

We tasked ourselves with creating some memorable posters to help small businesses remind customers of the pandemic rules.

One was ‘Think Cow’, a bizarre visual representation of the 2m social distancing rule. Making it more noticeable and memorable for people entering the store. A great use of the Von Restorff effect that even got us mentioned in The Times.

Think Cow

covid-19 behavioural-led retail posters in window

Other great examples of Von Restorff in Advertising:

Cadburys cup and a half of joy

Everyone remembers the ‘gorilla’ ad from Cadburys for one reason: it was truly bizarre and ridiculously entertaining

Cadburys Gorilla

The Three Pony

Three’s campaign was all about how the silly, funny stuff is the heart of our smartphone experience. So why not create their own videos to promote it? 

How we can help you

We’re an agency that makes your marketing more efficient with behavioural science. To find out how we can help you reach your goals, get in touch now.

By Ellen Jackson

Creative Copywriter