May 6 | 2020

What do a supermarket shelf and online video have in common?

Susan Vugts

The curve for streaming videos, series and movies is skyrocketing. In this ever growing swamp of content, how can content creators make sure to grab attention with just a thumbnail and title?


While most people in the world now are forced to stay at home to try to “flatten the curve”, watching streaming videos, series and movies is immensely popular.  According to a study held in March 2020, over 40 percent of adults said they are watching more television online, and 64 percent are watching more YouTube. But in this ever growing swamp of content, how do you stand out?

It might seem like a strange comparison, but a newsfeed of thumbnails and a supermarket shelf are actually quite analogous. Especially now that we’re trying to spend as less time as possible in a supermarket, and take quick decisions on what to buy.

If you know beforehand what you want to cook or even if you want to be inspired for your next meal, you are basically just looking for easy and recognizable cues when browsing products. The position in the aisle, a logo, familiar colors and a clean cut description of the product.

Call it the ‘thinking fast’ route from Daniel Kahneman or the ‘memory structures’ by Byron Sharp. Brands in supermarkets are making it as easy as possible to find their can of tomato soup. This is how content creators should think as well.

There are a couple of things to remember here.

In brief: use your distinctive brand assets consistently and set the right expectations. But how do you know what these cues are and how do you organize them in your thumbnails and titles?

  • Knowing what your brand cues are can be based upon consumer research via an Implicit Association test: is it your color, your logo, an icon or maybe talent that immediately evokes your brand, or your competitor’s brand?
  • Set a hierarchy of your messaging; what is the main pull for people to watch and what is the video about?  Use this input to create clear and descriptive copy.
  • When you have made a selection of your cues, create a framework. How do you position your visual brand cues and copy within the limited space of a thumbnail or within a title?

So a supermarket shelf and a video carousel of online videos do have a lot in common. Applying a couple of simple rules learned from shopping for a can of soup, makes it much easier for content shoppers to find your video content in a news feed of thumbnails.



An initiative by SuperHeroes, The Attention Academy is a collaborative platform where research, innovation, and international creativity help brands win, retain, and convert a digitally native generation—you know, the ones with micro-attention spans, and millions of options at their fingertips.

If you have questions about standing out, contact us now.

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