As marketing budgets tighten, there may never be a better time to grab the attention using the Halo Effect, says behavioural science expert and Hardhat CEO Dan Monheit (lead image)…
It was a crazy idea inspired by Louis Vuitton’s recently appointed creative director; acclaimed musician, designer and lover of comically oversized hats, Pharrell Williams – a Louis Vuitton monikored handbag the size of a grain of salt. Yet the world’s tiniest ‘‘Microscopic Handbag’, measuring in at 0.03 inches, managed to create a colossal halo in terms of global media coverage.
The handbag was created by New York-based art collective MSCHF, who have a habit of generating hype amongst the cool kids with the release of blood infused Air Maxes, Gobstopper inspired lickable sneakers and a casual shoe that’s modelled on the kind of moon boot you’d be given in hospital post ankle surgery.
The micro-handbag project took hype culture to the high end, expertly combining MSCHF’s street cred with the luxury halo only Louis Vuitton could bring. While LV didn’t officially sanction the bag, it didn’t exactly fight it. Nor would it have minded the global headlines it generated for all three brands when it sold for $100,000 on Pharrell’s new luxury auction site, Joopiter shortly after release.
The Power of the Halo Effect
The project took advantage of a cognitive bias known as the Halo Effect, which causes us to take an initially positive impression of a person, product or brand and extend it to unrelated areas. This concept was first coined by American psychologist Edward Thorndike in his 1920 paper, ‘A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings’. Thorndike found that people tend to take one exceptional trait of somebody and use it to form a view about a person’s entire personality. The Halo Effect is why people judge others as intelligent, successful, and likeable simply because they are well dressed well. It’s also why good looking people tend to get paid more and receive shorter prison sentences.
This powerful psychological phenomenon isn’t confined to how we feel about people. This same strange quirk can also be used to work wonders for the way we percive brands. Beyond amplifying media opportunities and building brand fame, the Halo Effect can be pivotal in building brand awareness.
One of the best illustrations of its power can be witnessed in the aftermath of Apple’s 2005 iPod launch. Yes, the iPod was incredible and so were the vibrant, iconic ads for it, featuring silhouetted hip-hop and roller skating dancers on bright, colourblocked backgrounds. It’s no surprise that these ads sold a lot of iPods. What’s more interesting is that they also drove a 68 per cent lift in sales of Apple computers. The very same Apple computers that were available the year before the iPod. In a shining example of the Halo Effect, consumers were compelled to view the same products in a whole new, halo infused light thanks to the launch of the iPod.
Make no mistake, brands are continually evaluated, judged, and measured on initial impressions. Consequently, there is the need for ‘Northstar’ projects to illuminate your brand and attract attention even when economic conditions seem challenging.
This sentiment may feel counterintuitive when there’s been collective whiplash from brands pumping the brakes on marketing budgets. Or, in some cases, switching them off altogether. However, as industry sage and personal mentor Chris Savage is always quick to remind us, “Conditions are always perfect.”
Consumers are still spending on small luxuries. According to a recent Finder survey, 15 million Australians still spend on small indulgences, treats, and certain comforts despite the cost of living crisis. Of all the generations, Gen Z (86 per cent) are the most reluctant to give up on discretionary spending, followed by Millennials (76 per cent).
So, if consumers are looking for something appropriately optimistic,, your next, well-executed Halo project could be just what pulls them in.
Say my name
While competitors are pulling back, battening down and intensifying their focus on performance marketing, the bar for grabbing consumers’ attention has never been lower.
Northstar projects may present as a risky proposition in uncertain times. By their very nature, they’re hard to make stack up from a short-term ROI perspective, but their significance lies in their ability to instantly convey a brand’s essence to customers, staff and the world.
If executed correctly, the shine from a great halo project can extend all the way down to the bottom of your product range, sending sales and profit margins skywards.
Halo projects may include brand partnerships that let you double down on your proposition in new and exciting ways (Dulux Weathershield x Surf Life Saving Clubs, Westpac Rescue Chopper), inspiring in-store events, a truly unique window display or creating a weird and wonderful flavour or variant.
A Northstar project won’t be the thing that tips you into financial ruin, but when executed well will improve brand perceptions, drive traffic and bring with it a ring of success.
Why wait? The chance for return has never been better.