Yes, I am trying to bother you…

Normally, when we think of being bothered, we associate it with being annoyed. Like “stop bothering me.” But bother can have positive connotations when it comes to getting someone’s attention.

“Bothering the eye” is an age-old tool in advertising in order to ensure your message gets noticed. Think of placing an image or a headline that doesn’t quite fit (remember Volkswagen’s Lemon campaign) or using the “kidnapping font” (letters cut out of a newspaper) in an otherwise standard PowerPoint presentation. Or, something like this bold car wrap that jars you out of the mundane — and forces a double take.

Safe = Generic

In the insurance industry, every ad, or just about every ad, draws from the same set of stock images — the boardroom, a construction site, a handshake. Yawn. These visuals are meant to convey comfort, safety and assurance but frankly they just ensure that no one can tell your ad from your competitors. Now think about Geico commercials. When they came out years ago with ads that highlighted random elements (The Gecko, The Cavemen) and D-list celebrities (Charo, Peter Frampton, Charlie Daniels), it made people notice. Geico understands that in order to stand out, they need to “bother the eye” — especially when it comes to something as commoditized as car insurance. Take a look at one of their newer spots about a house overrun with “aunts.

Sock it to Me

I took up this strategy, albeit more subtly, with my website. Sure, the homepage copy speaks to my clients’ pain points about wanting to get noticed and stand out from the crowd, but then I ask “What color are your socks?” I’m willing to bet that no other communications firm is asking this question. Just like design that makes you sit up and notice, the socks are meant to make you stop and say, “wait, what?” Because I, like you, don’t want to blend in. While design, messaging, and execution have to be relatable — they MUST be distinct. Otherwise, you swim in the sea of sameness. 

Reputation Risk Management is paramount — first do no harm. However, there’s plenty of room, even with guardrails, to ask, “what if we try this?” What can you use to bother your audience? Let’s talk and see what we can come up with.