Pattern Interrupt

Imagine this…

It’s been a long day. You’re thrilled to kick your feet up and relax. 

You plop down on your couch and open Instagram. Your feed is flooded with familiar content like friends sharing photos of their kids or business gurus talking about their “game-changing” 9-step morning routine.

It’s expected. Boring. Run-of-the-mill.

You’re unconsciously on the hunt for something interesting. And so far, nothing noteworthy has popped up.

That is, until one scroll takes you to something you’d never imagined you’d find. 

It’s a video of a pooping unicorn. The fuzzy stuffed animal is pooping out rainbow soft-serve ice cream. Seriously.

Your thumb hovers over your screen as your brain tries to figure out what’s going on. You keep watching the video and let your thumb settle to the side of your phone, so it’s out of the way.

What made you stop scrolling?

In today’s edition of Why We Buy, we’re taking a look at Pattern Interrupt  – how using contrast drives people to pay attention.

Let’s get into it…

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The Psychology of Pattern Interrupt 🧠

Perception is relative. We don’t see things as they are but how they compare to others things in the same environment.

When something breaks the pattern of what’s expected, we pay attention.

We like the familiar. It makes our lives easier by taking less mental energy. It’s the reason we prefer to:

  • Take the same route to work every day
  • Shop at the same grocery store
  • Order takeout from the same restaurants

But, this familiarity can get interrupted by an unexpected stimulus (like a hilarious meme).

When you’re looking through baby pics, boring business advice, and generally “meh” content online, you’re in a pattern of scrolling.

And when a pooping unicorn suddenly appears on your screen, it breaks the pattern. You actually freeze for 1/25th of a second trying to figure out what is happening.

Pattern interrupts work.

Pattern Interrupts have helped Squatty Potty, the brand behind the infamous pooping unicorn, sell more than 5 million products and bring in over 9 figures in sales.

Inside Your Buyer’s Mind 🧐

Ads that feel like “ads” often get ignored. 

But if your ad blends into the organic feed—rather than breaking the pattern—people may also scroll right by it.

Understandably this leaves marketers feeling like this…

Buyers need a Pattern Interrupt to notice your content (whether it’s on a social media feed or on a billboard).

But just because you have their attention doesn’t mean they’ll like you for it.

If your attention-grabbing ploy feels cringe or sales-y…you’ve done the opposite of what you’d hoped for.

How can you grab attention in a way that makes your brand irresistible?

How To Apply This 🤑

Alright, so how can we apply this right now to sell more?

Create ads using contrasting colors

One of the most basic ways to catch attention is to use contrasting colors. And don’t be fooled. Just because it’s basic doesn’t mean it won’t work as well as other fancy attention-grabbing strategies.

BiddyCo uses bright neon colors, like purple, teal, yellow, and red, in Magic Spoon’s ads. These neon colors pop against the standard “all white” interior design photos or your friend’s baby pics that you’re scrolling past. You pause and pay attention.

BiddyCo then compounds the attention they’ve snagged by creating intriguing posts that keep attention.

Use odd, scroll-stopping imagery in ads

Is there anything more scroll-stopping than a unicorn pooping soft serve ice cream? 


A woman in a fancy dress sitting on a toilet surrounded by cows might do the trick.

Scroll-stopping imagery is a Pattern Interrupt that makes our brains say, “wait, what?”. It stops the scroll as we try to figure out what’s going on and who is behind this ridiculous content.

If you’re looking for scroll-stopping ideas, create a “safe space” with your team to throw out any idea without the fear of feeling silly. Share your most ludicrous ideas and work backward to either tame them or help them better fit your campaign.

Share contrarian or counter-narratives takes that surprise people

You can get buyers to stop scrolling by saying what nobody else is willing to say. Going against the grain of generic advice in your industry grabs attention. 

Not sure how to be contrarian? Use customer research to figure out what your buyers are tired of seeing and how you can create a Pattern Interrupt.

Alex and Leila Hormozi are experts at creating counter-narratives. While tweets about waking up at 4 am and cold plunges go viral—and, let’s be honest, make our eyes roll—Alex and Leila buck the trend. 

They say the things that other entrepreneurs might try to hide about their lifestyle (like not making their bed, watching Netflix, and prioritizing their business over their happiness).

The Short of It 💥

When your buyers are inundated with copycat marketing campaigns, you have to stand out.

Pattern Interrupts stop buyers in their tracks and make them notice your brand.

Great Pattern Interrupts make people fall in love your brand—even if it’s a poop-y product 💩


Until next time, happy selling.




Wanna really get inside your buyer’s head?

There are a few ways I can help:

  1. Get explosive clarity about what works with buyers by learning how to conduct 1:1 Clarity Calls (3200+ happy students)
  2. Learn how to mine online reviews from real buyers to generate ideas and copy that converts (400+ happy students)
  3. Book a 1:1 strategy call with Katelyn and get the answers you need to get unstuck and move forward with confidence

Thank you to our featured sponsor

Written By Katelyn

Katelyn Bourgoin is the CEO of Customer Camp, a 4X founder, and a cheese lover. She lives by a simple mantra: whoever gets closer to the customer wins.

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