It was a day like any other. The early part spent catching up on news, my twitter feed, and a few neuroscience blogs. Following a link, I landed on Neurotopia. Intrigued, I read on.
That’s when it happened. My attention was hijacked. It called out to me… beautiful shimmering bright red with the soft contrast of bold white. It spoke to me. I quickly regained my composure, “What’s wrong with me?” I thought. I was there for work; I wasn’t going to be sidetracked.
I focused in and read on… when it happened again, this time my feelings were stronger. There she stood, not saying a word just looking at me. I spoke to her, she said not a word. Just shyly, playfully gazed back. Her gentle blue eyes, warm inviting smile – I tried to look away, tried to refocus but I did so in vain. She wouldn’t leave. She reached out to me, this time I really couldn’t help myself.
7 minutes later, it was all over. I now sat alone, staring at myself in the mirror across the room, riddled with embarrassment and guilt; I sought out her forgiving gaze. This time, she was long gone. Just me and the printed receipt for two pairs of No Ride Up, 100% Cotton Bikini Panties with Comfort Soft® Waistband.
I left the ‘thank you’ page of Hanes.com, still dazed, still confused; I was woozy from it all. It was a very simple yet in this case, very effective banner advertising effort.
Very rarely would I click on a banner on a website; you would probably share the sentiment. In fact most web surfers report that not only would they avoid clicking, but in most instances they simply ignore the messaging and wouldn’t be able to recall a single banner advertiser if questioned.
As we’ve demonstrated previously however, your mind is actually processing much more going on around you than you’re consciously aware. The brain is constantly absorbing stimuli – in the vicinity of millions at any given moment. 99% of which will seemingly go completely unnoticed… never injected into your conscious stream of thought, leaving you to believe you might never have encountered a particular person, product, picture, sound etc.
Have a look at this video. Notice that although your attention is focused in one location, the subconscious has actually processed and stored a key element without your conscious awareness!
Banner Advertising is Dead
There’s no shortage of banner advertising critics. Using a narrow view of effectiveness measurement (Cost. Clicks. Conversion.) It would indeed seem like this channel is simply wasted ad spend. So why are so many companies still investing? – Branding. While there are still a lot of clicking taking place on banners, its best purpose is served reinforcing the brand in the consumer’s mind. Notice how many geckos are standing around the pages you visit? The goal is more of a latent one. Not assuming that you’ll need insurance right away, but when you do, the gecko might be the one you call.
Take the findings from a study published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing (Unconscious processing of web advertising: Effects on implicit memory, attitude toward the brand, and consideration set):
This study experimentally examined the effects of unconscious processing of Web ads by manipulating the level of attention paid to the ad (directed vs. nondirected attention). Online advertisers should be encouraged by the findings of this study. The results suggest that, upon exposure to Web ads, consumers experience priming caused by implicit memory and build a more favorable attitude toward the advertised brand regardless of the levels of attention they paid to the advertisements. Furthermore, those who unconsciously processed Web ads did not remember seeing the ad explicitly, but they were more likely to include the advertised brand in the consideration set than those who had no exposure.
So how is it I started with blogs on cognition but ended up the (no so proud) owner of two pairs of XL No Ride Up, 100% Cotton Bikini Panties with Comfort Soft® Waistband? It began with a banner (click for larger version of the offender).
There’s really nothing very special in the design of this banner. It just so happens that it contrasts very well against the rest of the content on this page. The bold colors almost stand above the content to grab my attention. Its position is such that it is evident when I land and also, if I scroll below the fold. And it’s when I scroll that my attention is heightened… I gravitate towards the face. It keeps my attention and seduces me into a path of no return (literally, there’s a no return policy on my panties).
As humans, we are instinctively drawn to faces. A process of evolution, the brain has refined itself, developing significant regions dedicated to the processing of visual stimuli and face recognition. One such location is the Fusiform Face Area (FFA). The FFA continues to be vigorously studied using fMRI technology but research indicates that this area is highly specialized in the recognition of faces.
So eager are we to recall faces that we tend to attribute inanimate objects with face like characteristics.
“…scientists working with DaimlerChrysler scanned the brains of a number of men as they looked at pictures of cars and rated them for attractiveness. The scientists found that the most popular vehicles — the Porsche- and Ferrari-style sports cars — triggered activity in a section of the brain called the fusiform face area, which governs facial recognition. ”They were reminded of faces when they looked at the cars,” says Henrik Walter, a psychiatrist at the University of Ulm in Germany who ran the study. ”The lights of the cars look a little like eyes.”
While including a person’s face in your next ad piece will almost certainly light up the Fusiform Face Area in your consumer, that alone isn’t going to sell your panties. The most successful campaign will be the one that engages the consumer emotionally. The key should still be the deep understanding of your product, your intended consumer and the emotional triggers that bind them. And at the end, an important question to ask yourself is “why aren’t men’s underwear so soft?”
This article was written by Marc Narine.
Marc works with companies to elevate marketing performance and profitability by going beyond the feature/benefit approach to instead assessing the consumer’s emotional and cultural imprints and subconscious attachments to a product. He is the primary author at 3Brain Marketing.