Let’s face it: Advertisements using faces sell products. But is there a science to deciding which visage will boost your ad’s effectiveness?
The power of the human face to draw the attention of other human faces is well documented. That’s why you see faces everywhere in advertisements. But faces in and of themselves in your advertising, though extremely powerful when used effectively, are not going to automatically attract customers.
There’s a reason the faces of former presidents are up everywhere in the White House. They give strength to whoever is currently in office. On the wall above the desk where Thomas Jefferson wrote his letters, he placed portraits of the three men he admired most in the world for the same reason. He looked to these faces for inspiration.
If you’ve been into a Barnes & Noble lately, you may have noticed they’ve done something brilliant with their in-store decor. Portraits of great authors cover the walls, hanging from the ceiling and as shelf-toppers. It really has a quite a startling effect.
And I can’t help thinking when I look at those faces, and see them looking unabashedly back at me, that if I read their great thoughts, perhaps, I can be as brilliant as they are. In short, they make me feel inspired. What a way to hook customers!
The fact is: Humans are genetically programmed to be interested in other humans’ faces. We use our ability for pattern recognition to study faces and ascertain moods. Studying faces likely stems from a primitive survival technique. Smiling faces make us smile. Sad faces generate empathy.
Looking into each other’s faces stirs the emotions, and since buying something can be an emotional decision, you want the emotions of a potential customer to be “powered up” by your ad.
What easier way to “power up” a potential customer than to put a face – any face – in your advertising, right? Not exactly. It turns out there’s a bit more of an art to it.
Which faces to use, and how to use them to get the desired effect.
Let’s think about a poster that you might put up on a bulletin board to advertise your new location. You want to put a face on it. But whose? Should you make it a woman since most shoppers are women? Not if own a tobacco shop. Should it be an older person? Not if you’re a gym with free weights only.
As a rule of thumb, “the face” of your advertising needs to be representative of your target audience – same age, sex, ethnic persuasion, income level/dress. The face can also be of the person your target audience is buying the product for. Does the picture of a baby on the box help sell bibs? Does the Pope stop in Kentucky to talk to citizens of dubious merit? You betchya.
Eyes are where the real power lies.
Here is the rule of thumb with eyes: As a viewing audience, we either need to see all of an eye, or none – sometimes the back of the head can be intriguing, too. This could be because it makes us wonder what the face would look like if we could see it. Seeing part of an eye, or just the eyelashes, doesn’t draw in viewers.
When people see a face, the first thing they do is look in the direction the face is looking – (no kidding) to see what the face is seeing. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Either have the face looking straight at the viewer or tilted in the direction of your offer – never away from it.
The offer – what you want to sell customers – needs to be what leaves an impression from looking at your ad. Put more succinctly, the face pulls me in, then, leads me to your offer. If the face in your ad is looking away from your offer/logo, there’s a disconnect.
Lastly, try to avoid pictures of pictures of faces: showing pictures of faces in a picture book, for instance, rather than just the picture itself. The simple fact is: The smaller the face, the less it draws the eye.
The face can be your greatest asset because of its drawing power. That can also make it your greatest challenge. The face needs to lead the eye of the viewer to the offer or, at the very least, not away from it. Choose the faces in your ads more carefully, and I bet you’ll see better results.