7 captivation triggers you need to succeed in your market

How do you get attention amid all the noise out there? If you ask Ben Parr, he will tell you that you need 7 captivation triggers, which he expounds on his recently launched book, “Captivology.”


Parr was at the NY Technology Startups meetup last June 11 at Union Square ballroom to talk about these triggers and how it can help you grab people’s increasingly divided attention. The author is also an investor aside from making his name as a journalist for Mashable, CNET and other publications.

The 7 triggers are automaticity, framing, disruption, reward, reputation, mystery and acknowledgment. It clearly borrows principles from branding and advertising,

The first one, automacity, is about how specific sensory cues like colors, symbols and sounds capture attention based on automatic reaction to certain stimuli.

Experimenting with the one color one should wear to get a ride when hitchhiking, he came up with red, explaining “how immediate attention is an automatic response.” Red, of course, stands out, the way orange stands out in Amazon’s Add to Card button.

Framing, the second trigger, is also crucial in any product or service, because you may have the best product or service out there, but nobody is talking about it. Parr talked about the time nobody wanted to use a deodorant until it was marketed efficiently by Odorono. Another framing method is scarcity. If something is scarce, we pay more attention to it.

The third trigger, Disruption, is about violating people’s expectations so you can change what people pay attention to.  Parr pointed out how Patagonia produced an ad headlined “Don’t buy this jacket,” which made people buy more of it, doubling the clothing line’s sales.

“When something is out of place, we pay attention to it. We pay attention to find out,” he said with a word of caution. “The disruption must match your brand’s values. (It has to have) significance.”

The fourth trigger, Reward, is tricky in the sense that it can be about “wanting” (dopamine) or “liking” (opiod), intrinsic (food, sex, drugs) and extrinsic (you creating motivation). Knowing how to build a strategy around rewards can help boost your company or services.

The fifth trigger, Reputation, carries with some of biases on first impressions. Parr cited tests where people pay more attention to someone wearing a doctor’s coat.

The sixth trigger, Mystery, is how you must be able to create suspense in your ad, what Parr calls “uncertain reduction theory” and how even moment-to-moment suspense works.  Example: the story of the dog and the horse in the Bud ad 2015 Superbowl commercial. Cliffhangers are just as effective.  

The seventh trigger, Acknowledgment, is about fostering a deeper connection, because people tend to pay attention to those who provide them with validation and understanding.

“We pay attention to those who pay attention to us,” Parr said.