Advertising and the Reticular Activating System

  • 7 March 2013

Have you ever learned about something for the first time and then started noticing that very same thing everywhere you went? That’s called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) and it helps your brain create connections and makes things easier to remember.

One of the most common occurrences of RAS is when you buy a new car. Once you buy that car, you start noticing more cars just like yours on the road. Does this mean that everyone went and bought the same car you did? No! It just means that your brain has forged a connection with something it never cared about before.

So where does this fit in with advertising? I’m glad you asked! Since we can’t necessarily choose what our brains remember, RAS can be used to the marketer’s advantage.

Here’s an example. Say someone sees a Toyota commercial on TV for a new RAV4. A week goes by with no further thought about the vehicle. Then, one day, she is on one of her favorite blogs and notices an ad for a RAV4. A week ago she wouldn’t have even noticed the ad, but now she does. She sees the dealership that it’s for and heads to their website. She finds the car she wants and buys it the next day.

So how should businesses use RAS to their advantage? The answer is with a variety of advertising. You need both traditional and digital advertising components to connect with every shopper. Most people who buy from you will have heard about you through multiple sources. Plus, you don’t know what will activate their RAS. It might be a banner ad, search ad, TV spot or radio ad.

Long story short, if you want to take advantage of RAS, make your advertising memorable, and use variety. You never know what people will remember later on when they are making a purchase.

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