“Win­ning ad awards is a silly way to mea­sure suc­cess.”  – A para­phrase of thoughts expressed by my col­leagues, Tim Miles and Char­lie Moger.

And while I heartily sec­ond that emo­tion, I usu­ally let Tim or Char­lie express it, since it’s less sour-grapey to say it after you’ve won those kinds of awards, which they have.

But the inter­est­ing thing is that not all ad awards are based merely on creativity.

You can enter and win awards based upon mar­ket­ing effec­tive­ness! That award is called an “Effie,” and you can review the 2012 Effie win­ners here.

But if you’d also like to see a meta-analysis of win­ning cam­paigns, show­ing what win­ning and final­ist entrants had in com­mon, then you’re also in luck.

Effie World­wide has com­pliled just such an analy­sis in their 2012 Effie Report, and have also been kind enough to sum­ma­rize their  key find­ings as follows:

  • Effie Final­ists tend to spend more on paid media, but not nec­es­sar­ily the most. More final­ists spent in the $20 mil­lion to $40 mil­lion range than in the $40 mil­lion+ cat­e­gory, and nearly half spent less than $20 million.
  • Effie medal­ists have slightly fewer goals to achieve, and cam­paigns with a busi­ness objec­tive, rather than one to reach a tar­get audi­ence, col­lect more medals.
  • Never under­es­ti­mate David tak­ing on Goliath – he’s 47 per­cent more likely to win an Effie medal.
  • In the Shop­per Mar­ket­ing Effie cat­e­gories, about two-thirds of final­ists’ pro­grams demon­strated some aspect of dis­rup­tion – either by novel prod­uct place­ment in the store, chang­ing the way shop­pers per­ceived the retailer or chang­ing per­cep­tions of the brand.”

So what I’d like to do today is take each of Effie Worldwide’s bul­let points and dis­cuss it in terms of local advertising/branding:

Spend More on Paid Media

It’s tempt­ing to go after “free adver­tis­ing” such as Word of Mouth, Social Media, and var­i­ous PR and Guerilla Mar­ket­ing tac­tics, but while those are effec­tive, expe­ri­ence shows that there’s just no replac­ing old-school mass media mus­cle when it comes to grab­bing increased share of mind, and in turrn, share of mar­ket.

But if that’s the case, then why didn’t final­ist spend the most on media?  Frankly, I’m guess­ing here, but I think this indi­cates intel­li­gent media buys along with the desire to effec­tively con­cen­trate on one (or a few) media source(s) rather than a spend­ing spree spread out over too many media types.

It might also indi­cate the invest­ment in long-term, day-in and day-out media spends for brand­ing rather than mas­sive, flash-in-the-pan spend­ing for one-time mar­ket­ing blitzes.

In any case, accord­ing to Effie World­wide, effec­tive mar­ket­ing strate­gies are more likely to have intel­li­gently invested in paid media.

Focus on Fewer Goals & Tie Them to Busi­ness Objectives

There’s an apoc­ryphal story about a copy­writer who was late to a client meet­ing, wherein the board was going to dis­cuss with him the 13 Points they wanted to their ad to cover.

So the copy­writer walks in late car­ry­ing a hockey bag over his shoul­der. With­out say­ing a word, he places the bag on the con­fer­ence table, pulls out a board that’s basi­cally been turned into a bed of nails — a rather eye catch­ing prop that grabs every eye in the room as it’s placed on the table.

The copy­writer then takes a fry pan out of the bag and slams it down onto the bed of nails. Lift­ing the fry pan up, he shows the exec­u­tive team the dim­ples. Then writer-boy swaps out the bed of nails with a board fea­tur­ing a sin­gle, impos­ing spike potrud­ing from it. He slams the fry pan down, forc­ing the spike clean through it, cre­at­ing a half-inch hole big enough to stare through when mr. copy­writer holds the pan up to show the board.

At this point, our intre­pid copy­writer says, “Now how many points do you want the ad mes­sag­ing to convey?”

As it is with ads, so it is with cam­paigns: one point, goal, or objec­tive per cam­paign is always best.

And if you want to nar­row it down to one objec­tive, you’ll want to choose a busi­ness objec­tive. So, fig­ure out how you want to mea­sure suc­cess in term of your (or your client’s) busi­ness, along with what the required time­line is, THEN cre­ate a cam­paign clearly aimed at achiev­ing that sin­gu­lar, busi­ness goal.

And by the way, “dri­ving traf­fic” isn’t a busi­ness goal. Increas­ing gross sales might be, but merely get­ting traf­fic through the door isn’t. So con­ver­sion ain’t just a met­ric for online businesses…

Act Like David Rather Than Goliath

Increas­ing mar­ket share when you have very lit­tle of it to begin with is rel­a­tively easy, as there are plenty of com­peti­tors to steal cus­tomers from, and plenty of prospec­tive cus­tomers to steal. On the other hand, once you’ve cor­nered 30–35% of the mar­ket, grab­bing more of that same mar­ket is darned difficult.

This is why, again accord­ing to the Effie Report, smaller busi­nesses tak­ing on larger com­pe­ti­tion are more likely to find their adver­tis­ing effec­tive — because gain­ing mar­ket­share always involves steal­ing it from some­one else. So when you’re already hold­ing almost all the mar­bles, there are fewer and fewer left to acquire.

For local busi­nesses that means that once you become the Goliath of your cat­e­gory, you either have to open up a new store in another mar­ket, or open up another busi­ness, or business-line, in the same mar­ket. Either way, your future growth will be pow­ered by your Davids rather than your Goliaths.

Of course, this assumes that the smaller busi­ness has some­thing new or inter­est­ing to offer the cus­tomer… which leads us to

Prac­tice Disruption

If you look at how that last bul­let point is worded, it’s basi­cally say­ing you need to do two things:

  1. Grab people’s atten­tion through some form of novelty
  2. Pro­vide peo­ple with some sort of Unique Sell­ing Proposi­ton, OR change the way they FEEL about the brand

In other words, if you’re offerng the exact same thing as every­one else, in the exact same man­ner, and if your ads are pre­dictable, bor­ing and dull, then it won’t mat­ter that you’re invest­ing in paid media in order to air ads aimed at achiev­ing mea­sur­able busi­ness goals for a busi­ness that has plenty of mar­ket share left to steal — you’ll still lose.

But if you’re ads cap­ture the inter­est and imag­i­na­tion of the buy­ing pub­lic, while offer­ing them a strong rea­son to do busi­ness with you, you’ll soon dis­rupt the power struc­ture of your indus­try as you dom­i­nate every mar­ket you care to enter.

My only note of cau­tion is to add in a third point: cred­i­bil­ity. You can grab their atten­tion and promise them a tempt­ing and rel­e­vant ben­e­fit, but if your audi­ence doesn’t believe you, your ads won’t achieve much.

Rel­e­vance and Cred­i­bil­ity are the meat of the mes­sage. The nov­elty part sim­ply ensures that your mes­sage is heard long enough to be deemed rel­e­vant and credible.

Ah… Val­i­da­tion

Inter­est­ingly enough, these are the same prin­ci­ples espoused by all Wiz­ard of Ads Part­ners, includ­ing Tim and Char­lie, so it’s grat­i­fy­ing to see them espoused by a insti­tu­tion ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing effec­tive adver­tis­ing, such as Effie Worldwide.

If you’re inter­ested in explor­ing these prin­ci­ples to grow your busi­ness, why not con­tact one of us?

2013 is just get­ting started, why not make it your year to thrive?

 

It’s a slight change, but it makes a world of dif­fer­ence, doesn’t it?

The photo comes cour­tesy of a rather clever ad cam­paign for The Cape Times – some­thing I was turned onto by the always-wonderful No Cap­tion Needed blog. The intent was to make us see these iconic pho­tos with new eyes, allow­ing the idea of a self-taken-phone-camera-pic to shake up a clas­sic. And it worked.

But it also trans­for­rmed the pho­tos into some­thing creepy, espe­cially this one.

It’s one thing to look on as the ecstasy of vic­tory so over­comes a sailor’s sen­si­bil­i­ties that he kisses a stranger in the street; it’s entirely another when the sailor still has the self-awareness to phone-pic him­self dur­ing his sup­posed blissed-out moment.

Some­times, it’s just a whole lot bet­ter when some­one else is con­trol­ling the cam­era and the spot­light. In fact, not just some­times, but often.

Trans­lat­ing this to adver­tis­ing and marketing:

  • When oth­ers sing your praises, it comes off as cred­i­ble and gen­uine; when you sing your praises, you come off as a wanna be Don­ald Trump
  • When reviews praise an item to the sky, we believe it; when prod­uct copy does so, we read it with a large grain of salt
  • When you tell me how great some­one else is, you come off as pas­sion­ate; when you tell me how great you are, you come off as arrogant

Well.. you get the pic­ture. Why not let some­one else hold the cam­era.  Or, if you’ve got the cam­era, why not point it at some­thing other than yourself?

Drama­tists advise each other to “enter late and leave early.”

That means take the dra­matic focal point or pur­pose of a given scene, and move the “cut” or “fade in” — the entrance — as close to that point as pos­si­ble. Elim­i­nate the preamble.

Then, exit the scene as soon as you’ve accom­plished the dra­matic moment. Don’t tie up the lose ends and don’t spell out the ram­i­fi­ca­tions. Let the audi­ence fill in the gaps between one scene and the next.

This empha­sizes the drama by cut­ting out the “bor­ing bits.” And it works. But  almost no one ever men­tions the impor­tance of rit­ual to this process.

Because a rit­ual is a defined process, one can enter into the mid­dle of one and have per­fect ori­en­ta­tion around what’s going on — what hap­pened before enter­ing the scene and what to expect next. Expec­ta­tions that can then be har­nessed for sus­pense and/or sub­verted for surprise.

And rit­ual offers the same help for leav­ing a scene early: the audi­ence already knows how the rit­ual is sup­posed to end. So the writer doesn’t have to show you, or he can high­light the dra­matic depar­ture from the ordi­nary by fore­ground­ing how the end­ing dif­fers from expec­ta­tion. Brides are sup­posed to walk out of the church mar­ried to the man they met at the altar, so run­ning away from the altar with a crazy man that showed up halfway through the cer­e­mony (like in the grad­u­ate) is pretty dra­matic.

Here’s a great video exam­ple of John August edit­ing a new­bies script and apply­ing exactly this principle:

YouTube Preview Image

The rit­ual, in this case, is check­ing into a hotel. We’ve all done it, we know how that rit­ual starts and ends — so why show all of it?

For adver­tis­ers, enter­ing a rit­ual late and leav­ing it early lets you squeeze more story into less air time. Like this Clorox ad:

YouTube Preview Image

The entire ad is built around a rit­ual that is then sub­verted to make a point. And that would be cool enough if it was just a typ­i­cal 30-second ad, but if you look at the time­line on the video, it’s actu­ally a 15-second spot. Clorox com­pressed the ad into half the typ­i­cal time­frame, allow­ing them to com­bine two of these style ads — two full story arcs — into a 30-second ad-space.

Enter Late and Leave Early Through Ritual!

I’m a fan of explana­tory videos for sev­eral reasons:

  • High engage­ment (for at least the first 20 — 60 sec­onds). In a TL;DR world a well placed video will hold a visitor’s full atten­tion for at least 20 seconds.
  • Multi-media. You’ve got mov­ing pic­tures, words, music, and sound effects all work­ing to con­vey infor­ma­tion and cre­ate emotion.
  • Emo­tion & Impact. Noth­ing beats video when it comes to high-impact demos and/or con­vey­ing pas­sion, enthu­si­asm and sincerity.

Unfor­tu­nately, very few explana­tory videos take full advan­tage of these strengths.

  • Many waste their high-engagement win­dow with too much unadorned expo­si­tion and preamble.
  • Most over-use the “say-it, show it” tech­nique and under-use visual sto­ry­telling tech­niques to point where they become noth­ing more than poorly illus­trated radio ads.
  • And more than a few tend to over­play the cartoon-y ani­ma­tion in ways that under­mine effec­tive emo­tional impact

But Sales­force knocked their video on Cloud Com­put­ing out of the park. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it now:

YouTube Preview Image

Granted, the video could jump to the point even faster than it does, but even still, the cen­tral meat of the mes­sage starts after 15 sec­onds — within the 20 sec­ond win­dow of engage­ment. More­over, the fast-moving ani­ma­tion eas­ily keeps view­ers’ atten­tion until then. And after that, the video just keeps get­ting better.

Here are some spe­cific aspects of the video that are worth not­ing, copy­ing, and demand­ing from your explana­torry video, should you decide to get one:

1. The video coun­ter­points less-emotional words with more emo­tional imagery

For exam­ple, at the 40 sec­ond mark, the audio says “you call tech­ni­cal sup­port, and they don’t know, so they blame some­one else.” But the imagery shows the tech sup­port guy loung­ing in a chair with his feet up, laugh­ing at the cus­tomers predica­ment while mind­lessly throw­ing darts. The neu­tral audio com­bines with the cut­ting video to cre­ate a mes­sag­ing impact that’s greater than either one alone. Nice.

Another great exam­ple occurs when one stick fig­ure “sticks up” a cus­tomer stand-in, fir­ing a pis­tol that unfurls into a microsoft flag — all while the announcer says, ”…the way you pay for cloud apps is also dif­fer­ent.”  Well played, Sales­force. Well played : )

2. The ani­ma­tion enhances the emo­tional impact of the mes­sag­ing rather than under­min­ing it

At the 44 sec­ond mark, the video shows a rather unstable-looking stack of soft­ware, which top­ples when one of the soft­ware boxes get’s swapped out forr an upgrade.  The top­pling of the boxes is meant to rep­re­sent and dra­ma­tize a seri­ous real-world problem.

A less-effective video would show the stack crash­ing straight to one side or another, with­out employ­ing any depth cueus. In cin­e­matic terms, they’d use flat stag­ing, more suit­able to com­edy than drama. Worse, they’d prob­a­bly make the crash car­toony in a way that would belit­tle the real-world con­se­quences sup­pos­edly rep­re­sented by the animation.

In the Sales­force video, on the other hand, they show the stack crash­ing towards the camera/viewer, using depth stag­ing and seri­ous sound effects to enhance the dra­matic effect of the crash. And it works, because the pro­duc­ers of the video knew their craft as visual storytellers.

You can see this same depth stag­ing when the “hair­ball” crushes the small busi­ness two. The scene is shot at an angle, look­ing up at the advanc­ing hair­ball, rather than shown flat.

Remem­ber: videos should use seri­ous stag­ing and seri­ous sound effects for seri­ous sub­ject matter.

3. The video builds upon visual sym­bols from one scene to the next

The Sales­force video empha­sizes the mess of a soft­ware crash by cre­at­ing a giant hair­ball of IT difficulty/failure around the top­pled soft­ware stack at the 50 sec­ond mark. Then that same hair­ball crushes a small busi­ness under the weight of IT dif­fi­cul­ties 10 sec­onds later, while the audio track says, “small busi­nesses don’t stand a chance.” Great pair­ing of visual sto­ry­telling and sym­bol­ism (IT fail­ure will kill your small busi­ness) with explana­tory audio.

Later the video will also con­trast the wob­bly soft­ware stack dis­played at the video’s 44 sec­ond mark with a nice, super-stable, cloud-supported stack of cloud-based apps show­cased at the 2:40 mark.

4. The Video Makes Effec­tive Use of Real­ity Hooks and Analogies

When the Sales­force video com­pares gmail with Microsoft Exchange, a light goes on. Any­one with the slight­est gMail expe­ri­ence knows that it truly deliv­ers on Apple’s claimed promise of “It just works.” gMail might not have the best inter­face in the world, but it does work uber-reliably, with no tech­ni­cal fid­dling required on the part of the user.

So what bet­ter way to drive home the advan­tages of cloud-based com­put­ing over reguar, enter­prise level soft­ware than bring­ing it to the level of imme­di­ate, shared expe­ri­ence.  The abil­ity to bring the ben­e­fits of cloud-based apps home to the viewer, serves not only as an explana­tory anal­ogy, but as a per­sua­sive “real­ity hook.”

5. The video’s strongest and bold­est claims are fol­lowed by a gen­uine “Here’s why” sequence

Start­ing at the 1:50 mark and run­ning all the way till 2:10, the Sales­force video makes sev­eral bold claims about cloud-based apps: that you can be up and run­ning in a few days, that their apps cost less, are more scal­able and secure and reli­able than reg­u­lar soft­ware. Then, they give a nice reason-why expla­na­tion for those claims.

Right at the 2:10 mark the video launches into an expla­na­tion of multi-tenancy, com­par­ing it to rent­ing space in an office build­ing (rather than pay­ing for the whole build­ing your­self).  Strong, Rel­e­vant Claims + Cred­i­ble Proof = Per­sua­sion. The sales­force video gets this in a way that a lot of explana­tory videos don’t.

6. The video uses music to its advantage

Go ahead and lis­ten to the video as it switches from the piano music of frus­tra­tion and pain while it explains busi­ness software’s short­com­ings to play­ing a high-beat, up-tempo music when explain­ing the advan­tages of cloud com­put­ing. When you con­trol the music, you con­trol the emo­tional tone of the video, mean­ing that every explana­tory video ought to make per­sua­sive use of music, just like Salesforce’s video does.

The Bot­tom Line

If you’re plan­ning on cre­at­ing an explana­tory video for your busi­ness or start-up, it’s well worth the time to watch a bunch of them from dif­fer­ent providers.  Watch them with the sound off. Watch them with the sound on but the video cov­ered up. Now ask yourself:

  • Which ones make full use of visual storytelling?
  • Which make effec­tive use of music?
  • Which take too darn long to get to the point?
  • And which ones actual achieve both clar­ity and cred­i­bil­ity regard­ing the prod­ucts claimed benefits?

What you’ll prob­a­bly find is that great explana­tory videos require a strongly per­sua­sive script AND strong visual sto­ry­telling. Just make sure you’re get­ting both parts of that equa­tion into your video…

P.S. There are a lot of solid explana­tory videos out there and I’ll be review­ing more in the com­ing weeks, so if you’ve got a favorite you’d like ana­lyzed, link to it in the comments.

 

You, my friend, are hard­wired to find mean­ing; you can not help but con­nect the dots.

Case in point, the tri­an­gle to the right doesn’t exist. The only shapes in that pic­ture are three black pac-man shapes.

Yeah, the neg­a­tive space left by those pac­man shapes include wedges of white — but the larger tri­an­gle that you see con­nect­ing those wedges of white into a mean­ing­ful pat­tern only exists in your mind.

And yet, if the pac­mans are there, you can’t help but see that tri­an­gle, can you?

In fact, the only way to not see the tri­an­gle is to remove two of the pac­man fig­ures, ’cause as long as the dots are there, you WILL con­nect them.

Design­ers refer to this as “clo­sure,” and it’s more than just a par­lor trick or visual illusion.

Clo­sure and Image-Text Interaction

Clo­sure, as it turns out, not only comes into play between ele­ments within a pic­ture, but also between image and text. And this inter­play was espe­cially on dis­play in a recent post by the always-interesting Derek Halpern (h/t Melissa Breau)

Halpern ref­er­ences recent psy­cho­log­i­cal stud­ies show­ing that state­ments accom­pa­nied by related images are con­sid­ered more believ­able than the same state­ment with­out an image. So, a state­ment like “The liq­uid inside a ther­mome­ter is mag­ne­sium” was more fre­quently rated as true when it was accom­pa­nied by a pic­ture of a thermometer!

Sim­i­larly, state­ments about whether some obscure “celebrity” was alive or dead were also more fre­quently rated as true when the state­ment was accom­pa­nied by a pic­ture of the celebrity. And this effect was the same regard­less of whether the pic­tured celebrity was pro­nounced dead or still living.

Clearly, pic­tures have per­sua­sive power beyond what any­one has ever suspected.

And just know­ing this is incred­i­bly use­ful, but in my opin­ion, the real meat of these stud­ies comes from ask­ing WHY. For­tu­nately, one of the posts that Derek links to nicely sum­ma­rizes the hypoth­e­sis formed by the sci­en­tists who con­ducted these tests [empha­sis mine]:

The rea­son for the dif­fer­ence lies in the sus­pected mech­a­nism at work. The “truthi­ness” researchers (New­man et al., 2012) spec­u­late that a not nec­es­sar­ily pro­ba­tive but rel­e­vant image, like the tire slide above, increases the “cog­ni­tive avail­abil­ity” of the con­cept. That means the mind finds it eas­ier to think about and elab­o­rate on the con­cept. In the process, that makes the claim seem more famil­iar which in turn makes it feel more true: “Truthi­ness” achieved.

There are also other mech­a­nisms that facil­i­tate elab­o­ra­tion. For exam­ple, the researchers refer to the notion of a “seman­ti­cally pre­dic­tive sen­tence,” which means phras­ing that leads a lis­tener to antic­i­pate what the upcom­ing words will be. For exam­ple, “the stormy seas tossed the boat” is more seman­ti­cally pre­dic­tive than “he saved up his money and bought a boat.” That expec­ta­tion causes a lis­tener to feel more famil­iar­ity and trans­late that into greater verac­ity (Whit­tle­sea, 1993). When peo­ple are engaged — by antic­i­pat­ing the final word in this case — they engage in more flu­ent pro­cess­ing and that leads to a feel­ing of truth.

That process extends past the role of imagery. In New­man and asso­ciates’ sec­ond exper­i­ment, they showed that includ­ing non-probative words instead of a photo pro­duced the same effect (e.g. accom­pa­ny­ing a polit­i­cal leader’s name with infor­ma­tion about eth­nic­ity, sex, hair color, etc. — fac­tors that cre­ate a pic­ture in the mind, but with­out telling the reader whether the fig­ure is alive or dead). The addi­tional infor­ma­tion led peo­ple to believe that the asso­ci­ated claim was more likely to be true.”

Ok, so first thing, what the heck does non-probative mean? Basi­cally, it means the photo does not log­i­cally prove the state­ment to be true or false. Non-probative images are merely decorative.

For instance, if you have a state­ment like “The US has the high­est incar­cer­a­tion rate of any coun­try” and you then accom­pany that state­ment with a bar graph like the one on the right, then that image would be con­sid­ered “pro­ba­tive” because it would log­i­cally “prove” the state­ment to be true, assum­ing that you took the image at “face value.”

This is opposed to a more dec­o­ra­tive image of a con­vict behind bars. That photo would be related to the state­ment about incar­cer­a­tion rates, but it would not log­i­cally “prove” anything.

Why “Non-Probative” Doesn’t Mean Non-Persuasive

Although a non-probative pho­to­graph may not “prove” any­thing, it can still sug­gest and imply.

So who says sug­ges­tion is any less per­sua­sive than out­right statement?

For instance, if that photo of the con­vict behind bars was black, it might remind the test sub­ject that the US jails a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of African Amer­i­cans — a visual sug­ges­tion that would surely color one’s judge­ment of the accom­pa­ny­ing state­ment, right?

Because peo­ple can’t help but con­nect the dots between image and state­ment.

It works the same way with the celebrity state­ments as well. because we believe in inter­nal con­sis­tency. If some­one hands us a state­ment with spelling and gram­mat­i­cal errors, we become less likely to lend cred­i­bil­ity to the state­ment or the per­son who wrote it. Any­one recall Dan Quayle’s Potato gaff?

So when someome men­tions a lit­tle known celebrity and pro­vides a pic­ture of said celebrity, we not only auto­mat­i­cally con­nect the dots between pic­ture and celebrity, but we con­nect the dots between know­ing who the heck one is talk­ing about with know­ing what the heck one is talk­ing about. The thought process goes some­thing like, you obvi­ously know who this guy is and I don’t, so you prob­a­bly also know whether or not he’s still alive… 

Why do I think this is a greater fac­tor than the psy­chol­o­gists’ “increased cog­ni­tive avail­abil­ity” hypothesis?

Because sci­en­tists who con­ducted the same test, but who accom­pa­nied the celebrity state­ments with facts and stats about the celebrity instead of a pic­ture recorded the same effect: the stats boosted the per­ceived cred­i­bil­ity exactly as the pho­tos did in the pre­vi­ous test. And my guess is that the stats “prove” to the test sub­jects that the peo­ple mak­ing the state­ment really know who they’re talk­ing about, in pretty much the same way that a pic­ture would. Makes sense right?

But would stats really help peo­ple hold an idea in their heads? Would stats make the celebrity more “cog­ni­tively avail­able” to the test sub­jects? I rather doubt it.

So it’s really less about help­ing peo­ple hold the idea in their heads, and more about sub­tly con­vinc­ing them you know what you’re talk­ing about.

And images don’t have to do that explic­itly, as impli­ca­tion and clo­sure work just fine, if not even better.

A pic­ture of an old-fashioned ther­mome­ter dis­plays a sil­very strip in the mid­dle of it, imply­ing the idea of liq­uid metal. Con­nect­ing the dots between image and state­ment, and sud­denly the idea of liq­uid mag­ne­sium seems a whole lot more plausible…

It makes me won­der if a pic­ture of a modern-day ther­mome­ter would have had the same results…

Using Clo­sure To Improve Per­sua­sion & Impact

So… we know this clo­sure between image and text cre­ates greater believ­abil­ity. But how would one use it for images alone?

Well, for images, the short answer is to give the viewer 2 + 2 rather than just hand­ing them 4. Cre­ate an image that makes them con­nect the dots between ele­ments of the image.  Here are some great exam­ples of that:

OK, so these are cheat­ing a bit because they’re both text-based images, but nei­ther of them make much sense until you con­nect the dots — allow­ing both ads to make their state­ments all the more strongly.

Here’s another exam­ple, this time with an hon­est, no-kidding image:

Again, the image is mean­ing­less until you men­tally “fill the gap” about what those sets of feet really indi­cate. Clo­sure at work. There’s also a nice gap/connection between the stockinged feet and the text.

And on a more purely visual note, much of the emo­tional impact of this image can be attrib­uted to the “gaps” that it forces your mind to fill in:

Great exam­ple of clo­sure used to increase men­tal engage­ment and impact. But what about using clo­sure to select more pow­er­ful imagery to accom­pany your per­sua­sive copy and messaging?

How to Use This In Web Copy

Here’s what I suggest:

1. Use the “I saw it with my own eyes, so it must be real” approach

If you’ve got a tes­ti­mo­nial, you could, as Derek sug­gests, place a pic­ture of the cus­tomer who gave it to you next to the tes­ti­mo­nial. That’ll work. Or, if you don’t have that, you could take a photo of the hand-written tes­ti­mo­nial and place it next to the testimonial.

It sounds silly, but just imag­ine the dif­fer­ence between some­one say­ing “this per­son wrote in to say X” and some­one hand­ing you the actual hand-written note and say­ing “look what cus­tomer X had to say.” Which would be more per­sua­sive? The lat­ter, right? Because then you could say that you saw the tes­ti­mo­nial “with your own eyes.”

Of course, the “so it must be true” part would likely go unsaid, but it would be all the more pow­er­ful for it. And that’s why an image of the hand-written tes­ti­mo­nial would be more per­sua­sive than the state­ment alone.

So within your sales copy, deter­mine which ele­ments peo­ple would most want to see with their own eyes, then find images that would give them a sim­i­lar sense of verification.

Another exam­ple, I once worked with a metal roof­ing com­pany that claimed a no-kidding 50-year life span on their roofs. Now the claim and guar­an­tee is great. But what I advised them to do was  find the old­est roof they had ever installed (which turned out to be 30+ years old) and to get both an estab­lish­ing pic of the building/roof and a close-up pic­ture of the metal “tiles.”  It’s one thing to claim a 50-year life span, and another entirely to show a 30-year roof that looks brand new.

Just don’t do the cheese-ball thing of using blacked out bank state­ments to “prove” how much money you make!

2. Use images to sug­gest and emo­tion­ally prime belief

No one does this bet­ter than apple. Take a look at this screen shot from Apple’s page on the new iPad 4:

It’s not an acci­dent that the iPad sports an image of two Porsche’s about to race, or that the image is from a graph­ics inten­sive game. The mes­sag­ing is about speed after all. Speed achieved through high-performance engi­neer­ing. Don’t you think the image of “Porsche Race Cars” brings all that to mind rather powerfully?

Here’s another example:

So… what the heck is that black ring in the mid­dle of the picture?

It’s not a mag­ni­fy­ing glass. Nor is it a cam­era lens, is it? Maybe it’s some kind of weird bas­tard love child between the two…

But it doesn’t mat­ter, does it. We instinc­tively know that this is show­ing us that even when you mag­nify the pic­ture 2.5X, it’s still high-res enough to look crisp and un-pixelated. Of course, the copy never makes that claim. But the pic­ture cer­tainly sug­gests it, doesn’t it?

If Images Com­bined with State­ments Are Pow­er­ful, What About Video?

But were this really starts to come into it’s own is in explana­tory videos. But that’s a sub­ject for another post…

 

Want your photo to com­pel onlook­ers to find out “the rest of the story”? Cap­ture a scene that’s out of balance.

What­ever scene you cap­ture, it’ll be the imbal­ance — the con­flict between incogn­ruence ele­ments — that cre­ates story appeal and adds intrigue to your photo.

Why?

When every­thing fits, we have no need to won­der at any kind of explana­tory back­story. But when we expe­ri­ence the extraoar­d­i­nary, not only do we pay atten­tion, but we have a built-in need to under­stand the cause and mean­ing of the excep­tion. A need that can’t be trig­gered absent imbal­ance or trouble.

If your wife comes home every evening at 5:30 pm, and you see her car roll into the dri­ve­way at 5:30, you’re not about to won­der why, are you? There’s no trou­ble, no curiosity

But if it’s 6:45 pm and she hasn’t come home or e-mailed or called, well… you’ll start to won­der why, right? And in won­der­ing, you’ll start cre­at­ing sce­nar­ios — sto­ries! — to explain the excep­tion to your wife’s ordi­nary rou­tine. It’s called worry.

So here’s the thing: for any visual scene, there are only 5–6 basic ele­ments at play, and the imbal­ance usu­ally only occurs between two of them. For instance a per­son pic­tured might be attempt­ing to accom­plish a goal with an out­landish or rather excep­tional tool. Here’s an exam­ple of just that kind of imbalance:

Of course, the image is made all the more pow­er­ful by the sym­bol­ism inher­ent in the incon­gru­ence. But the sym­bol­ism only enhances the story appeal inher­ent in the imbal­ance, it doesn’t cre­ate it.  How do I know, because pho­tos depict­ing sim­i­lar action-tool imbal­ances cre­ate sim­i­lar amounts of story appeal and intrigue:

Again, there is a lot of sym­bol­ism in these pho­tos that helps enhance the impact, along with many visu­ally arrest­ing aspects of these pho­tographs that also add to their abil­ity to hold our atten­tion, but these ele­ments are addi­tive and not gen­er­a­tive, when it comes to story appeal. They enhance; they do not cre­ate intrigue. That’s why the heart of all these civilian-soldier pho­tos lies the same cen­tral imbal­ance — the same engine for story appeal.

Another exam­ple is the action-agent imbal­ance. The things being done by or  to a per­son are out of bal­ance with the nature of the per­son pic­tured.  Famous example:

And here’s a very sim­i­lar photo show­ing the same imbalance:

And here’s a very dif­fer­ent photo that still man­ages to cap­ture that same agent-action imbalance:

What’s the point?

Accord­ing to the late, great David Ogilvy the most effec­tive, hard­est work­ing adver­tis­ing images are those with what he called “Story Appeal.”  Yet no one that I’ve been able to find or have heard of has ever made a method­i­cal study of just what goes into cre­at­ing story appeal within an image.

But it’s not like it’s an impos­si­ble code to crack… and I thinkI can say (with­out sound­ing too imod­est, I hope) that I have cracked at least a part of that code…

Inter­ested in read­ing more about this? Let me know either in the com­ments sec­tion or  by e-mail.

P.S. There are other ele­ments and fac­tors that can make an image visu­ally strik­ing and appeal­ing that don’t require imbal­ance. The extreme beauty on dis­play in an Ansel Adams photo is one exam­ple.  But wher­ever you find story appeal, you’ll also find imbalance.

 

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