Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Close Up Photos More Persuasive At A Charity Site

This holiday season someone gave me a gift certificate to donate to the charity of my choice at You can browse through hundreds of worldwide charities and donate to the organization of your choice. Of course while browsing I noticed that some organizations were more persuasive than others. Some used photos very effectively, like the one above with the close up of a smiling girl. But in other instances the photos were not as powerful. In the second photo here the girls are too far from the camera to see their face. It's not as powerful or persuasive. To make a plea for donation you need to show human faces that are showing human emotion. What better use of persuasion than at a site like this!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thumbs Up: Credo mobile email hits 5 Persuasion hot buttons

I get plenty of marketing emails, and this one that came the other day really stood out. Credo Mobile... it's a cell phone service provider that also promises political change! They use 5 different persuasion techniques, all on one page:
1. The word "Free" is very powerful and they use it several times
2. Scarcity -- "Offer Expires..."
3. Association -- They are a politically active company, and they talk about Barack Obama on the page... they are associating themselves with Obama... like Obama, then you will like them
4. Consistency -- The message is: If you are someone who cares about being progressive, then you want to (be consistent) and use a progressive cell phone service provider.
5. Social Validation - -The bottom ofthe page has a customer testimonial, with a name and photo.

Good job hitting persuasion marks Credo!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sexy Product Needs a Sexier Web Site

PNC bank has created a unique offering for people in their 20s (Generation Y). It really is different, and it's getting a lot of press. But they seem to have missed the boat at their website.

This is a great example of the concept of "the home page is dead". At their home page (first picture) you'd be hard pressed to find the link to virtual wallet, (it's a small item in one of the lists) and they sure haven't used Neuro Web Design techniques to persuade people to go there. They'll tell you that they designed a special web site for the product and that their marketing takes people to that website. You'd think they would give it a little play on the home page, using a picture of a 20 year old who is happy with a link there to the product.

If you do make your way to the special virtual wallet site (second picture) you'll find a site with moving graphics and a lot of text. It looks like it was created by Gen X people for Gen X people... again, no principles of Neuro Web Design... where are the pictures of 20 year olds? Where are the stories of real people with real photos of them talking about how virtual wallet has changed their life? Where is the social networking? PNC will create a big splash with their marketing, but eventually it will fall short. They need to use make use of unconscious persuasion techniques for Virtual Wallet to stick.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thumbs Up: Website Uses Principles of Persuasion

The website gets a thumbs up for using principles of Neuro Web Design effectively.

Look at their home page ( On the home page is a large photo of a woman who looks really happy. In fact, she looks positively joyful.

Chapter 10 of Neuro Web Design describes the research on why pictures are so powerful at persuading at a website. The message on this home page is that this person is doing great things with this Constant Contact's software.

Next look at the large text that says "Look what you can do today! It's using the word "you" in large letters in the headline, which follows the principles in Chapter 6 on the Self. Using the word You (especially in large font size and in the headline) captures the attention of the unconscious. It tells the unconscious brain that there is something important on the page. You! You are ultimately all that matters to the unconscious, and using the word "You" in large letters gets that message across. The reaction will be for visitors to the site to (unconsciously) assume that the software is for them, and that the company has their best interest at heart.

There's a link in the top Navigation bar to Customer Examples. When you go to that page ( there are stories of how customers have used the software in their businesses. This page uses principles from Chapter 2 in Neuro Web Design on Social Validation. The message is that other people are using this software, so many of them that they need a whole section of the website to talk about them.

At the Customer Example page, there are again pictures and stories (more Chapter 10). This time the pictures are of the emailing campaigns that customers implemented using the Constant Contact software.

Someone recommended that I check out Constant Contact (Chapter 2, Social Validation!). Once there it took me less than a minute to be persuaded to try their free trial. Their website is a great example of Neuro Web Design at work. A big "thumbs up" for Constant Contact's site.

Monday, November 24, 2008

5 Ways to Engage the Unconscious Mind at a Website

We like to think that we are rational, logical decision makers, but the reality is that most human decisions are made unconsciously. So if that is true, can a website engage the unconscious mind?

Here are five of the more compelling ways to do that. Write back and tell me if you agree.

1. Use sex, food, or danger. The unconscious mind pays attention to the possibility of sex, to food, and to danger. If you use any of these triggers at a web site then the unconscious pays attention. So show a picture of a good looking man and/or woman with a flirtatious look in their eyes, or a full color picture of luscious food, or a scary picture, and you'll grab 'em. Well, not all sites lend themselves to using any of those, so let's move on to #2.

2. Use ratings. Ratings invoke the principle of social validation. If we see that other people have rated the (product, idea, author, blog, etc) highly, then we feel we should check it out too.

3. Tell a story. Some of the latest research on brain scans (fMRI scans) shows that people digest information in a story format. Using stories makes information easier to understand, and engages us automatically on both a conscious and unconscious level.

4. Don't offer too many choices. Research shows that people pay attention to only about 2 or 3 attributes of a product or an offer at a website. If you offer too many choices the unconscious can't decide (it's really the unconscious deciding). Too many choices and people freeze up and don't take any action at all.

5. Use the word YOU. The unconscious mind is all about YOU. You will pay attention if you see the word you.

Check it out. See if you react a certain way to sites that follow these 5 principles.

Top 10 Reasons Boomers Go Kicking and Screaming Into Blogging

I actually have two blogging coaches and one twitter coach. I'm trying to get the hang of this blog thing. I really am. It's a slow road. I'm a baby boomer and I just don't think we boomers are good at this blog/twitter/viral marketing thing. But I'm trying.

One of my blogging coaches says that top ten lists are good. That people like to read top ten lists in blogs. And my twitter coach, well, I haven't even begun to figure out what she is trying to tell me to do with twittering. I might be able to master blogging one day, but I'm not sure at all that I'll ever be a master twitterer.

So here is my top 10 list of things that prevent boomers from easily blogging or twittering:

#1 -- we have a really hard time saying things concisely. In a blog we have only a few paragraphs to say something pithy. That's not enough for us. We tend to ramble. And twittering gives us only a few words! It's daunting!

#2 -- we feel that if we say something it has to be really profound. We've got an ego the size of an elephant.

#3 -- we are acutely aware of the fact that most people that are possibly going to read the blog or the twitter message are NOT boomers, and we fear that we have nothing to say that younger generations are remotely interested in.

#4 -- we are awed by the internet. To publish something on the internet is a BIG THING to us.

#5 -- we think that blogs are like columns in newspapers and we have the old-fashioned idea that it is journalists and writers that write columns. We don't think of blogging as a job.

#6 -- we don't understand any of the twitter messages we get from others, so we can't imagine sending a message like that out to anyone else.

#7 -- we are afraid that we will write a blog and no one will post a response. It's like checking your mail box and no one sent you any letters...

#8 -- we're afraid of using outdated an anachronistic examples like #7 above. I should have said "it's like checking your inbox and no one sent you any emails..."

#9 -- we're afraid that people will actually read our blogs and find out that we actually don't have anything interesting to say.

#10 -- we're afraid that we'll obsessively go back and read our own blogs and twitter messages and realize how dumb we sound.

Oh well, time to go twitter about my blog (?)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Social Computing Elected the US President

The last chapter in my new book is called “The Next Big Thing”, and it’s all about the fact that being human means being social. It is built into our brains and evolution to live together with others, and to be very influenced by our “pack” or group. History shows us that whatever technology there is, we will find a way to use it to communicate – to make it social.

Look at the history:

The printing press allowed people to communicate via the written word in a way that was much faster. Before the printing press each book had to be copied by hand, a task that sometimes took years. The printing press brought that time down to days, and in some instances, hours. That meant that books could be created by the thousands and more for people to read. But that wasn’t the main use of the printing press. Individuals and small groups used it to start to communicate quickly. Much of the early use of the printing press was not long books, but short pamphlets or even one page “bills” like bulletins. The printing press was truly a form of mass communication.

Same thing with telephones. When the first telephones were first being developed they were viewed as an updated version of the telegraph. There was no plan for people to have telephones in their homes. The assumption was that the telephones would be in the telegraph offices and be used to convey messages from telegraph office to telegraph office (and from there the message would be written out and delivered).

Same thing with cell phones. I was talking one day with a client at Motorola who told me that years and years ago his group at Motorola invented the cell phone, and then put it on the shelf where it sat for years. “Why?”, I asked. “Why didn’t you bring it to market right away?” He answered: “Well, we thought we’d only be making about ten of them. Not much of a market.” “Ten of them? Why did you think that?”, I asked. His reply was “We figured each head of state for major nations would have one. You know, the President of the United States, the head guy in Russia, and so on. We thought they’d use it to prevent a world war. I had no idea people would use it to call home before leaving work to see if they should pick up milk!”

And now it’s happened once again with Barack Obama’s election as US President. I participated in the campaign at my local level and was struck immediately by the campaign’s use of technology. Millions of people in the US were tracked in a data base that used buying patterns, magazine subscriptions, and whatever other data that can be purchased, to figure out whether they were likely to be an Obama supporter, a McCain supporter or undecided. Then legions of volunteers were sent out to knock on doors and conduct a short survey. The results of that survey were fed back in to the database. Algorithms were revised and new lists created that got tested again. This continued every week for weeks and weeks. The campaign used this data to decide where to target, who to call, which doors to knock on (focus on the undecided). At the same time the viral power of Facebook was put to work. Technology was used to socially collaborate and network. From campaign contribution, to volunteering, to creating a buzz, technology and social collaboration on the web had a major part in electing a President.

People will always push the envelope to bend the available technology to purposes that extend and improve communication and the opportunity to be social. It always leaves me wishing I could see ahead and predict the next social use of technology. Every time I find myself saying, “of course, why didn’t I see that coming!”

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Plot By Apple to Convert PC Users?

I write my blog on a MacBook Pro. In fact, I do almost everything on my MacBook Pro. That may not seem unusual, but I can assure you it is. For as long as there were PCs, I was a PC person, not a Mac person. I've been using computers since before there were screens. I've been using computers since before there was Apple or Microsoft. I used to run programs with a casette tape on a Radio Shack. Ok, I'm showing my age, aren't I? The point is that I was NOT a mac type person until about 5 months ago. Now I am sitting here with my Mac, my iphone, and my iPod. What happened!!!

What happened was that I bought an iPod a few years ago. I told myself that it would be a great gizmo to have while exercising, but the real reason was that my kids had one and it looked like it would be cool and fun. But getting an iPod meant I had to buy an Apple product. I actually did feel a twinge of dissonance when I broke a little bit from my non-Apple, all-PC persona to buy an Apple product. But it was only a type of MP3 player really, right? So it was a small action away from my usual persona. Not too drastic.

But it was a crack in my PC Persona. The research on commitment shows that once someone commits to one small thing, it often creates those cracks in persona and makes it easier to make more decisions in line with the new view of the persona. I was now a PC person who used an Apple product. I loved my iPod. And over time my PC persona began to give way. I was becoming a person who believed in Apple products. This created a huge amount of dissonance, and when it came time to purchase a new laptop, I dissipated the dissonance by buying a Mac laptop. I had effortlessly erased years of a PC persona, because my persona had already been sliding that way, even though I was not conscious of the slide until it came time for the larger purchase.

So my question is, did Apple introduce the iPod on purpose? Knowing that it would create this avalanche later? Was the iPod a masterful lead-in to getting people to switch from PCs to Macs?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Undecided Voters? Not Really.

At dinner the other night my husband said, "How the heck could anyone be undecided two weeks before the election, when this campaign has been going on so long?"
"It's simple", I responded. "They aren't undecided at all."
"Explain that one", was his reply.
I've been recently reading research on unconscious mental processing (for the book I have just finished writing). In the case of the election, when people say they are undecided, I think they actually have decided who they want to vote for, but it's not a conscious, rational, decision. I'ts an emotional, unconscious decision. The undecided voters haven't found a rational reason to put on top of their unconscious decision. The decided voters made an unconscious emotional decision too, but they have figured out rational reasons to tell themselves and others about why they made the decision they made. (The reasons, by the way, are not really accurate - the research calls this "confabulation", meaning people make up reasons which they believe are true, but actually aren't. The real reasons are emotional and non-verbal).
This unconscious emotional decision with a rational reason on top is true, actually of all decisions we make. (See the blog before this one on choices).
When Colin Powell announced he was supporting Barack Obama, one person I know, that had been undecided, immediately said he was now decided. Why? He said that if Colin Powell likes Barack Obama that must mean that Obama will be good for the troops. And, he continued, caring about our troops was always very important to him. He had never said before that he was undecided because he didn't know where the candidates stood on the troops. I think my friend had decided for quite some time that he wanted to vote for Obama, but that decision was unconscious, and he couldn't figure out a reason that he could say to himself and others that was consistent with his self-image, his persona. "Good for the troops" was the rational, logical, reason he could put on top of the non-verbalized unconscious decision. And now he was suddenly "decided".
We make the decision first, unconsciously, and then search for some kind of reason to stick on top that will sound logical and will fit with our persona.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

How Do People Decide – The Order Effect

I like to think that when I decide to buy something it’s because I’ve thought it through and it’s the best purchase. Logically and rationally. But I’ve read too much research on the unconscious and on decision making. So I know that people, including me, make decisions based on unconscious processing and that I don’t use logic as much as I’d like to think I do.

There’s this great research study that proves two concepts: 1) We don’t pay attention to very many attributes about a product, 2) We tend to choose the first item that appears on a product page of a web site.

Here’s the research citation:
Felfernig, A., G. Friedrich, B. Gula, M. Hitz, T. Kruggel, G. Leitner, R. Melcher, D. Riepan, S. Strauss, E. Teppan, and O. Vitouch. 2007. Persuasive recommendation: Serial position effects in knowledge-based recommender systems. In Persuasive Technology, Second International Conference on Persuasive Technology. New York: Springer.

Felfernig set up a website with tents. He had visitors to the site fill out a questionnaire about the type of camping they planned to do. Then the site recommended four tents based on ten different attributes, such as waterproofing, weight, air ventilation, etc. Based on the questionnaire you filled out, two of the four tents are rated as “best buys” for the attributes that are important to you. Which tent will you buy? Tent 1, 2, 3, or 4?

Even though there were ten attributes that the tents were compared on, participants in the study paid attention to only 2 or 3 of the attributes. And when it came time to pick a tent, the participants in the study didn’t even consider the attributes. They picked the first tent more than 2.5 times than any other. They chose the first one 200 times versus 60 for all the other choices combined.

But, just like me, the participants explained their choice, based on the logical decision they thought they were making. They would explain the choice of tent #1 by saying, “This tent is the most waterproof”, for example. They thought they were weighing all the attributes of all the tents, but in reality they were only looking at a few attributes and even those didn’t matter… all that mattered was which tent showed up first.

I’m going to see if I can pay attention to this the next time I go to buy something at a website where there are several choices on the page at once. Maybe if I notice I’m doing it I won’t be so prone to doing it?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New York City Stabbing a Hoax?

I was just doing some research on a murder that happened in Queens NY in 1964. You may have heard of it. It's the Kitty Genovese murder. It's the crime that led to an entire branch of social psychology research.

Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death on the street while 38 witnesses watched and did nothing to help. Social scientists became fascinated by what they called the "Bystander Effect" and a whole series of research studies began to study why it is that people will take action to help when they are by themselves, but not if they are part of a group.

I'm writing about this in a book I'm working on (Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click, PeachPit, due out in Jan of 2009). I found online the original New York Times article about the murder, but then I found online another New York Times article written 40 years later in 2004 that casts doubt on some of the data and its interpretation of the original event. 

Apparently it's now believed that several people probably heard something and maybe saw something, but they probably couldn't have figured out what they were hearing or seeing (based on where the crime occurred and the lighting on the street etc), and it probably wasn't 38 people either. So the truth is that a few people heard some noises and saw someone staggering down a street.

The question I have is: If it took me about 5 minutes to find this updated information on the internet, then why does the original version of events still show up? In research articles, in slide presentations, in books, people still talk about the Kitty Genovese event without mentioning the later update. 

Is it the sheer number of references to the earlier, incorrect version? Or is it that everyone is lazy and they take the first reference they come across?