How Psychology can Improve Advertising Visual Appeal
Try to closely compare these two pictures :
After focusing on them for a certain time, you may have noticed some important differences between the two. You may have also been surprised by the efforts you need to detect such big differences.
Well, that’s what psychologists call “change blindness”. It shows how our eyes do not fix the whole of an object, but by their constant oscillation find only what they are looking for.
According to Donald Hoffman in The Case Against Reality, your eyes only see what interests them from an evolutionary perspective. The world you perceive is limited to the interface of your human perception, which is only sensitive to certain types of visual cues (food, human faces, living things…).
As such, this has big consequences on how marketers can attract attention with branded visuals. Customers don’t necessarily see what the marketers want them to see in their visual ads.
Here are 4 experiments that explain how you can use perceptual biases to effectively draw the right attention to your products.
Exogenous cues can trigger unexpected attention
You may have immediately noticed the change from the first to the second picture here :
But do you notice the change as quickly in this case?
Psychologists call this kind of remarkable visual cues like the red lozenge “exogenous cues”. They attract our attention immediately by specific factors such as intense colors, unexpected shapes or visual oppositions.
By making these kinds of changes appear, you are able to divert a subject’s attention directly to a particularly noticeable information. It is this kind of technique that is often used in marketing to get the right message across.
The fashion for asymmetrical logos can be explained by the greater visual impact of an icon that creates contrast and therefore attracts the eye.
Our eyes are attracted to salient features
Individual path of perception is also defined by the objective of their immediate search. For example, when you are looking for a particular object of desire such as food, you interpret and asses the importance of the images you see as food-related cues. Everything that remind you of it then gets immediate attention.
This means that your eyes rarely return to the object for which they have found no prior interest in their search. This is what psychologists call “inhibition of return”.
As a result, if an object does not correspond to the context and to our request, it is often neglected permanently. Whereas, on the other hand, features such as an apple or even just the vague appearance of a food item can catch our attention intensely if we are hungry.
That’s why marketers give great importance to the customer’s behavior context when displaying their ads. Depending on the viewer’s situation and moment of time, he will not pay attention to the same visual stimuli because he will be driven by different desires : outside lunch or dinner, they will pay less attention to food-related cues.
The new marketing trend of “Native advertising” try to apply these psychological triggers. They use harmonious context associations with the product message to create the right connections in the viewer.
Oreo’s ad campaign had been based on a very popular subject at that time : Game of Throne. It melts harmoniously this universe with the young and fun Oreo’s universe. The mix of the two brands has created maximum engagement, because everybody was talking about the series’ last season
We perceive animated objects better
When psychologists studied the difference in perception of a normally animate object with an inanimate object, they found a counter-intuitive result.
After successively showing participants an image of a scene in nature and an image with a homogeneous color, they added subtle differences to the former that they took some time to notice. Then they applied the same process with the second image, adding more obvious changes with the uniform background. In the latter case, however, the participants took even longer.
The difference in these results for the psychologists can be explained by the difference in the objects observed in the two pictures: in the first one, the objects recalled living and animate beings (animals and humans); in the second one, the objects were inanimate in nature (tools, instruments…). They thus concluded that our eyes are much more attracted by categories of objects called animate.
These discoveries can also be useful to marketers: faces that are awake or full of emotion, moving animals, or even simply objects that vaguely evoke a living being. In the latter case, the effect is even stronger because it is less subtle and creates surprise and fascination:
Brands such as Duracell, M&M’s or Android have based their branding on a mascot with a vaguely animal appearance. Others, such as Taco Bell, Coca-Cola or Target have increased the strength of their advertising by adding animals (Chihuaha, Polar Bear, Bull Terrier).
Supranormal stimuli have supranormal impact
It is quite easy to imagine that images that create attention by themselves are powerful. But that images that exaggerate these traits to the supernatural are much more effective show that the eye often overlooks reality.
Indeed, psychologists have studied how individuals identified caricatures in relation to real portraits of people drawn. They found that exaggerated features had far more effect than these simple resembling photos.
Our human eyes are very sensitive in what are called ‘’supranormal stimuli’, and would be responsible in the animal world for our attraction to beauty, which would be something extra natural compared to the normal.
This can be seen in the magnificent and extravagant plumage of the male paecock to attract females, or the diversity of dance and movement in the breeding rituals of birds and rodents.
Marketing can take advantage of this effect by focusing on some very specific eye-catching features, such as the look, the smile, or human traits.
Advertisements such as Colgate or Coca-Cola use for example a lot of smiles to trigger deep emotions to their viewers.
Your turn to get inspired by these psychological explanations to create appealing ads for your customer’s eyes!