Bringing Behavioral Science to the advertisements development

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The question on how to build effective advertising stays always acute. One of the academic papers which I’ve recently read provides further insights on what triggers consumers attention.

The study conducted by Pieters and Wiedel (2004) on the print ads shows that advertisement’s bottom-up influences (which come from the ad’s visual salience) account for more than three times the variance than top-down influences (driven by the consumers goal-oriented search for information). This is definitely very encouraging to hear for advertisers who spend considerable budgets on their campaigns!

However, as we all clearly understand the ad’s ROI is strongly driven by its content. Hence, researchers provide more insights on the triggers of the effective advertisement.

In their work Pieters and Wiedel (2004) conclude that familiarity with a brand reduces consumers’ attention to the elements related with a brand logo, while increasing attention to the text part of the advertisement. That is a good news for brands with a strong brand recognition, which gives a green light to share more information with consumers about their product benefits in a form of text.

At the same time, increased consumer’s attention on the text part of the advertisement is related with the overall reduction of the attention to the ad (Pieters and Wiedel, 2004). And the only solution that can help to further increase consumers attention towards the ad is a use of the power tool – visuals. As Pieters and Wiedel (2004) mention, visuals have “an intrinsic tendency to capture a substantial amount of attention” regardless of the surface size of the ad, while brand logo and ad’s text definitely lack this tendency.

Considering the importance of image to the effectiveness of the advertising, I’ve decided to share several basic principles for effective advertising visuals based on the core Behavioral Science studies (for further ideas on implementation of Behavioral Economics, check one of the previous posts Importance of context on consumers choice: Behavioral Economics Perspective).

1. Drive Encoding

Encoding allows consumers to build and easily retrieve neural connections associated with a specific brand. As the amount of information to which consumers exposed during a day grows dramatically, it’s more and more critical for the brands to win in encoding. The most simple way to build encoding for your brand is to use the same visual representations and patterns across multiple touch points.

Below I’m sharing an example of how in-store brand studio can build a strong visual connection with a product package for Marc Jacobs “Daisy” perfume.

Marc Jacobs Daisy Love display in Debenhams Oxford St. London




2. Benefit from Mirror Neurons

As we’ve discussed in the post about perceived ownership (Building Shopper Perceived Ownership in the Era of eCommerce), triggering consumers willingness to touch the product is one of the critical in-store success factors. The same logic applies to advertisement. Visuals that show touching, holding or using product evoke an empathetic, mirror response that is driven by our mirror neurons. These images provoke consumers perception of handling the product by themselves, that eventually leads to stronger purchase intent.



3. Employ Visual Storytelling

Visual storytelling can allow advertisers to achieve three objectives at the same time: 1) communicate the story about product and its benefits; 2) make the communication in the most engaging way; 3) be the most effective in attracting consumers’ attention. 

For instance, in a picture below Clinique has managed to deliver its key product benefit with a help of one simple visual.

However, it’s important not to overload a picture with too much information leaving some space for consumers imagination (as all good stories do).



4. Add Movement

As in painting the artists use visualization of movement to grasp viewers’ attention, advertisers can empower their call to action via making their ads more dynamic. This idea is relevant not only for sports brands, but also for cosmetics brands like Chanel shown in the picture below.



Sources: Pieters, R., Wiedel,M. (2004). Attention Capture And Transfer In Advertising: Brand, Pictorial, And Text-Size Effects. Journal of Marketing, 68, pp. 36-50

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