red sneaker effect

#10 Red sneaker effect: breaking conventions boosts status

If a brand breaks conventions it will be interpreted by others as an indication of higher status.

Evidence: In one study, published in 2014, Harvard professor Francesca Gino asked 159 respondents to rate the status and competence of a professor, based on a short description.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of two descriptions, where the professor either conformed to expectations of dress (“He typically wears a tie to work and is clean-shaven”) or did not conform (“He typically wears a T-shirt to work and has a beard”).

Gino found the professor who broke those conventions was rated as +14% more competent than the conforming professor.

Recommendation: It’s well known that brands that behave distinctively or break conventions boost their noticeability. However, the red sneaker effect shows that this tactic also boosts status.

So, identify your category conventions and then work out which ones are just there for tradition’s sake. If you concentrate on breaking those, you’ll harness this bias.

Richard Shotton

Guest author: Richard Shotton

Behavioural Science wizz and author of The Choice Factory, a best-selling book on how to apply findings from behavioural science to advertising and founder of Astroten.