Don’t blend in; stand out – The Von Restorff Effect

What is the Von Restorff Effect?

If you’ve worked with me or read some of my other articles, you will know that I’m fascinated by the behaviour psychology of how we use, interpret and react to photography and images. So, for example, the Mere Exposure Effect is a favourite subject of mine!

The Von Restorff effect, also known as the “isolation effect,” is another psychological concept that can also apply to using imagery in marketing. First described by German psychiatrist and paediatrician Hedwig von Restorff in 1933, it’s a psychological phenomenon in which any entity that stands out from a group is more likely to be remembered than the others.

Who remembers the children's TV show "Sesame Street"

If you do, you may remember the game (and song!) “One of these kinds is doing his own thing”!

There was a grid where 3 kids were doing a similar activity, and the 4th was doing something different. The game was for young children to identify which was different.

Simply put, we’re more likely to be drawn to and remember the “thing” that’s different and stands out.

So which of the above headshots stands out the most?

So why is it beneficial for business and how do we use it?

In marketing, the Von Restorff effect (Standing out from everyone else!) can increase the memorability and effectiveness of advertisements, products, and branding. Therefore, leading to increased brand loyalty, and being front of mind with the people you want to engage with.

In other words, it another way of generating awareness to bring in sales!

Create Visual Contrast

This is about creating a contrast or distinction between your products or services and the competition.

When designing your marketing materials, consider elements that stand out. For example, this could be through your unique brand colours, logo, typography or package design for product-based businesses.

For example, Apple is known for its minimalist product design & marketing style. Their marketing materials often display high-quality, isolated images of their products against plain backgrounds. This approach emphasizes the product’s sleek design and highlights its unique features, making it more memorable.

Use Unique Imagery

Consider using unusual or unexpected photographs to grab attention and make your marketing materials more memorable.

Bit of a no-brainer coming from a photographer! This is about choosing distinctive and relevant images for your business. Showing photos of the people behind the company will always be unique. Many businesses have individual and team headshots but think about how those could differ from how your competitors show their headshots (if they do!).

Don’t even get me started on playing it safe by using stock imagery. You don’t want to look vanilla and generic. Do you?

Photography & Video Techniques

Applying the Von Restorff effect to “how” your visual content is created can make the results more exciting and appealing.

Using different styles and techniques and understanding photography equipment can make the photograph more eye-catching and unique by isolating an image’s specific subject or object. For example, using a shallow depth of field to blur (Sometimes referred to as bokeh) the background or using bright colours to contrast against a neutral background.

I sometimes use this  in headshots & portrait photography to bring emphasis to the person’s face. Equally, using a shallow depth of field in lifestyle and even product photography can make the images stand out more.

Also, breaking conventions, such as unconventional compositions or perspectives, can help make an image stand out. For example, using the rule of thirds, playing with reflections, symmetry, and other techniques can make an image stand out and be memorable to your ideal clients.

This is a whole other subject to explore in a future article!


The correlation between storytelling and the Von Restorff effect is that storytelling often involves creating memorable and distinct narratives or elements that capture the audience’s attention and make them more likely to remember the content.

I discuss the importance of storytelling through images in more detail in the article – What is Storytelling Photography for business? In essence, by sharing compelling stories about your business, products, or customers. Unique stories have a way of sticking in people’s minds.

Interactive Content

One way to apply the Von Restorff effect in marketing is by making your product or brand more interactive. You could consider engaging your audience by creating interactive content, such as quizzes, polls, or games.

From a photography perspective to could consider, 360 virtual reality experiences, interactive websites, or social media campaigns that encourage interaction and participation of potential clients.

It’s about making your audience more likely to remember your brand over your competition because of a unique way they interact with your business.

Examples of businesses adopting the Von Restorff effect.

Here are 4 well-known businesses using captivating photography, visual content and branding to benefit marketing positions and capture their client’s attention.

  1. National Geographic’s Instagram account features breathtaking and isolated images of natural landscapes, wildlife, and cultures. Reinforcing their position as a leading nature and exploration brand.
  2. GoPro’s marketing revolves around action-packed adventure shots captured by their cameras. The bold and dynamic images showcase extreme sports and exhilarating moments.
  3. Red Bull’s marketing includes images of extreme sports and stunts, often taken from unique angles or in intense moments. 
  4. FedEx’s logo incorporates a hidden arrow within the letters, creating an element that stands out once noticed.

Beyond Photography

It’s not just about photography. Here are a few more examples of who to incorporate the effect in your marketing:

  1. Select a colour scheme that is different from your competitors and aligns with your brand. 
  2. Utilize bold and unique fonts for headlines and essential information. The text should be easy to read but also visually distinct.
  3. Craft attention-grabbing slogans or memorable taglines that differentiate your business from the competition.
  4. Negative space, or the empty space around design elements, can draw attention to the present content. Use it strategically to make your message stand out.
  5. Incorporate humour, wit, or unique narratives in your marketing materials. People tend to remember things that make them smile.
  6. Highlight special promotions, discounts, or limited-time offers that stand out from your usual offerings. People are more likely to remember these.
  7. While aiming for distinctiveness, ensure your branding remains consistent across different marketing channels. A unique yet cohesive brand image reinforces memory.
  8. Use customer testimonials and previews highlighting your business’s unique aspects. People tend to remember the experiences of others.


Remember, the goal is not to be overly flashy or tacky but to strategically use the Von Restorff effect to create memorable and distinctive marketing materials, using contrasts, interactivity, and breaking conventions that resonate with your ideal clients.

As a photographer, I don’t just turn up and create content you “think” you need. We work together to understand your brand so that we can make your visual content stand out and be memorable to the people you need it to be.

Need help im making your visual content stand out from the rest?

Click here to book your no-obligation phone consultation with me

Not ready for a call? Have more questions? Click here to get in touch via email

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