Show Disorganized Assortments From the Past

Disheveled assortments perform better for past viewers because this content feels "touched."

Nick Kolenda
Updated on
Displaying book covers where some are tilted

Disheveled assortments perform better for people who have already viewed content, while clean assortments perform better for new people.

Assortment of guides in a messy format and clean format. The messy format performs better for the past (e.g., customers), while the clean assortment performs better for the future (e.g., prospective customers).

Why does that happen?

In physics, "entropy" is the amount of disorder.

Over time, entropy only increases. Stephen Hawking said:

You may see a cup of tea fall off a table and break into pieces on the floor ... but you will never see the cup gather itself back together and jump back on the table (A Brief History of Time).

This law of entropy has been drilled into your brain: You prefer advertisements that depict the future in a pristine and untouched condition because your brain is conceptualizing the future in this style (Biliciler, Raghunathan, & Ward, 2022).

Suppose that you're sending a confirmation email to new subscribers. These subscribers haven’t “touched” your content yet. Subconsciously, they are conceptualizing your content in a pristine condition.

Once they digest your content, however, entropy will exist. Additional exposures (e.g., remarketing ads) should perform better with an imperfect style because their brain is conceptualizing this content with entropy.

Clean assortment of guides for new subscribers, and a disheveled assortment for past viewers

Same with branding.

An ad for modern kitchen tools performed better with a fully intact egg, whereas an ad for traditional cooking tools performed better with a broken egg:

Ads for past framing (e.g., past customers, traditional brands) performed better with a dropped ice cream cone, broke egg, and torn cassette. As with future framing (e.g., prospective customers, modern brands) performed better with an untouched ice cream cone, unbroken egg, and full cassette.

  • Biliciler, G., Raghunathan, R., & Ward, A. F. (2022). Consumers as naive physicists: how visual entropy cues shift temporal focus and influence product evaluations. Journal of Consumer Research, 48(6), 1010-1031.