If you're looking for a business/marketing book that is a true winner, you've just found one. It takes a lot to really blow me away, but About Face - The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising did just that.
I'm a fan of author Dan Hill, so I went in with high expectations. Dan did not disappoint.
About Face combines theory with specific actionable advice
There were two things I really liked about About Face.
- Focus on the why, not just the what. The introduction title is "Science Meets Creativity." We often see ads that are successful, but don't know exactly why the ad was successful. My problem with "creativity" is that it's often difficult to replicate. Dan Hill uses science like facial coding to actually measure true emotional reactions in test subjects. He shares research on how the brain reacts to different types of messages.
- Specific actionable recommendations. The second, and more important reason I like this book is that it gives you specific recommendations from wording of your ads to types and placement of images I kept jotting down notes for clients I'm working with and specific ideas for improving their marketing materials. Now THAT'S the sign of a book worth reading.
Dan points to this quote, "Advertising does not first get attention then create an emotion. Advertising creates an emotion which results in attention." I think this is the key to the whole book.
What you'll learn in About Face
- Why the Billy Mays commercials worked so well.
- Why pausing in a commercial can give it more emotional impact.
- Why implied motion in images holds our attention. And why motion of any kind is often a winner. (This also helps to explain why this Men's Warehouse commercial works so well).
- Why brain research suggests putting the still image on the left and copy on the right for more effective ads.
- The greater number of people in a photo spread, generally speaking, the less positive consumers emotional response to it. (Aka, having 5 people may be more effective than having 12). You may have too many people to emotionally care about.
- Why the lower right hand side of a marketing piece is the corner of death. (Yet it's one of the most popular places to put your company logo.)
- What the 12 most persuasive words in the English language can tell us about which is a better motivator - pain or gain. (Hint, most are defensively oriented.)
- What's the number one negative emotion felt by us in response to advertising? Frustration. This is why simplicity and being crystal clear in your messaging are so important. Just in case you're wondering, websites are plagued by frustration - 38%, the second highest in the survey. Another reason to make sure your marketing is crystal clear? Dan Hill points out that, "There's no money in making people feel stupid."
The power of familiarity
One of the best takeaways for me was the advantages of leveraging what's familiar. Here's what Dan Hill has to say:
The focus here is on generating likeability and preference through familiarity. The operative emotion is assurance; the operative term is comfort. In marketing, what's unfamiliar tends to get screened out by us. Go too far afield and you lose people. A far better approach is to use an existing zone of comfort to ease our natural fear of change.
For instance, in TV spots that Sensory Logic has tested we've often seen a surge in both emotional engagement and positive feelings when something very familiar comes on the screen, even if the treatment itself isn't that special. Familiarity increases acceptance.
The importance of faces and mirror neurons, especially when marketing to women
Finally, there's lots of research on faces and emotion - Dan Hill's specialty. The role of mirror neurons is especially important when marketing to women. (Michele Miller wrote about this recently.)
The importance of using faces in advertising, and how to use those faces to most advantage, is something every advertiser should learn.
In advertising the human face represents a treasure trove of opportunity to engage us and compel consideration and persuasion.
So, get out there and get your copy of About Face - The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising by Dan Hill. Get ready to take lots of notes.