What can a Freddo chocolate bar teach us about communications?

Simon Andrew

Categories: Culture, Communications

We ran a little experiment at Benefex HQ to find out how we can challenge auto-pilot and capture an employee’s attention using internal communications. With a little help from some chocolate frogs, we found out some interesting results.

People don’t see what’s in front of them
Change blindness can be defined as the failure to notice the world around us. Our brains go into power-saving mode, or auto-pilot, so we let things pass us by. If our surroundings broadly fit in with what we expect to see, then there’s no need for concern. And what we see doesn’t even enter our conscious thought.

This doesn’t help us out in the Engagement Team at Benefex. How can we get an employee excited if they don’t even see our communications? We need them to see things, digest them and ultimately, act on them.

Secret squirrels
Last month we took on a secret mission – to put people’s auto-pilot to the test. So we came up with a little experiment.

We created an eye-catching poster and a simple form of response, testing how many people read it and then completed the action required. Under the ruse of a food based theme, we asked people to email a specific address in exchange for a Freddo (the chocolate frog).

To measure the results we ran this as an AB test. We knew that if we put the poster where people expected to see it, then change blindness could take over. But if we put posters in unexpected places, then the theory suggests that we should get a better response rate. So that’s what we did:

Campaign 1: Poster holders
We put the poster in two poster holders around the office and left them there for two days.

The action required was to email your favourite takeaway in exchange for a Freddo.

Campaign 2: Freestyle
We put an almost identical poster on the kitchen door and another on the cupboards in the kitchen, and left them there for two days.

The action required was to email your favourite pizza in exchange for a Freddo.

Two campaigns. Four posters. 44 Freddos.
We recorded the number of employees to complete our task on each campaign. The results showed:

The freestyle campaign received 700% more responses after 9 hours.

As you can see, the freestyle poster campaign outperformed the poster holder campaign with some conviction. There were around a third more responses in total. But after the first two hours, the freestyle campaign had already received 400% more responses. Better still, after nine hours the free style campaign had 700% more. Crazy, right?

But what’s even more interesting (or so, we thought) was where the response came from. Image 1 (below) shows the spread of responses across the office. Look out for the chocolate fans sat together in the Employee Support Centre that we think may have spread the word…

Thank you Mother Nature
The poster holders are always there. Our employees know that, they’ve seen them a hundred times and most of them don’t notice when they change.

However the kitchen door and cupboards rarely have anything on. That dramatic change in environment snaps you out of auto-pilot.

If you drive, think of when your subconscious takes over behind the wheel. When do you snap out of it? When some idiot pulls out in front of you. In brain terms, a change in environment is a danger – and thanks to evolution, we’ve been hard wired to notice that. In communications we need to use this to our advantage. Why do bright colours attract more attention? Think of bees, wasps, poisonous snakes, tree frogs – nature uses bright colours as a danger sign.

So what can we learn from this? Well, two things:
1. Don’t go making all of your posters red, orange and yellow
If we try and make everything stand out, suddenly nothing will. We have to work out what is important, what deserves to be noticed and make sure that takes priority.

2. We’re not all gifted with a bright behind, so we need to work hard to stand out
As soon as something becomes common place, we’re blind to it. We need to continually challenge the way we engage our employees, to stand up and demand attention.

Download The Benefex Guide to Reward and Benefit Communications for more exciting communication methods.

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