Advertising Voodoo #1

Incongruous Information = Stopping Power

Incongruous information is a powerful tool for successfully achieving the first element in ad effectiveness – stopping power.

Time is a scarce resource and advertising media are inherently noisy environments. You have only a second or two – at best – to grab a the attention of your audience long enough to deliver your message and achieve understanding. It is the same for print, broadcast and online media, but I’m going to primarily focus on print advertising as the example in this post.

Incongruous information involves hitting your audience with information or imagery that doesn’t quite jive with their expectations. This causes readers to stop turning the page and spend time on the ad to try to understand and classify it. We are all familiar with the concept of “standing out”, but this post takes a shallow dive into the psychology and neuroscience behind ads that stand out effectively.

Classic use of incongruous information in TV ads is the Energizer Bunny campaign. You think you seeing just another boring ad when suddenly, a pink rabbit banging on a drum enters the room.

The Technical Explanation (or pay-dirt for consultants)

The definition of incongruous information gets a little technical. I’m sorry, but at least you’ll have some complicated-sounding bonus terms in your pocket you can use to dazzle your client or boss and sell them on your shiny new ad concept.  If you’re a consultant, you’ve just hit pay dirt.

Incongruous information (bonus term) is information characterized by inconsistency. A more common explanation is information that is unexpected or doesn’t fit with a person’s preconceptions. Those preconceptions can relate to any current knowledge, attitude, emotion, and most importantly for advertising, expectations.

Information incongruency causes cognitive dissonance (another bonus term). Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term that describes the uncomfortable, but unconscious, tension that comes from holding two conflicting cognitions (bonus term meaning thoughts) at the same time. This theory holds that these conflicts compel the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, in order to minimize the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions.

Now here’s the non-technical explanation:

  1. The brain doesn’t like when it encounters things that don’t fit into one of it’s buckets.
  2. When something doesn’t fit, your brain is compelled to spend time on it either to figure out why it doesn’t fit or to convince itself that it does fit.
  3. Either way, whatever that “it” is, your brain has to focus attention on it to comprehend it and make it fit.

To make “it” fit, your brain has to modify it’s preconceptions to accept the new information.  You can see the value here – after all, the goal of advertising is to modify preconceptions and get our audience to accept our new products. In advertising we call this “gaining mind share.” (duh)

Go to part two: Advertising Voodoo #2: Information Incongruency Applied

Advertising VooDoo Series

Advertising VooDoo is a series of articles that explore neuroscience and psychology of what makes advertising work.

Further Technical Reading:

Neural correlates of incongruous visual information. An event-related fMRI study.

Role of Incongruity and ‘Aha’ Effect in Positive Affect Experienced from Visual Metaphors

Advertising VooDoo

Advertising VooDoo is a series of articles that explore neuroscience and psychology of what makes advertising work.

One definition of advertising is “… a form of communication used to persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services.”

Advertising is everywhere. Sometimes its recognizable – commercials on TV and radio; ads in magazines; text, banner, and video ads online. Some its less recognizable. Menus, signage, store layout and design, landscaping, location are all advertising in that they communicate information in an attempt to persuade an audience to take an action.

Our culture is so drenched in advertising that it has become invisible to us – like the individual leaves on a tree. We are so habituated to all its elements that advertising has become just another part of the background noise of our everyday lives. But it affects us. Often in profound ways.

Advertising Is A Mind Hack.

Advertising can exert such a fundamental influence on us that it can change behavior, ideology, and beliefs. How/ Why? Because it takes advantage of common, hard-wired psychological mechanisms that have evolved over eons to help our species survive. Successful advertising hacks into these mechanisms, hijacks them, and puts them to use to influence behavior.

The series of posts that will follow will offer insights into how this works. Some of the posts will be more practical, others will be more academic, but all will relate to the psychology and neuroscience of advertising.

Advertising Voodoo Articles

Advertising VooDoo #1: Incongruous Information = Stopping Power
Advertising VooDoo #2: Information Incongruency Applied
Advertising Voodoo #3: The Exposure Effect
Advertising Voodoo #4: Right Isn’t Always Right

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The Quality of Your Site = The Quality of Your Company

 We’ve heard it all before.  Your website is often the first contact a potential customer has with your company.  Here are five studies that confirm the importance of that first encounter and the effect your site’s quality has on your brand.

Perception is Everything

“Testing of our model shows that the most important constructs for increasing initial trust in our experimental context are branding and website quality.”
Journal of Management Information Systems (JMIS), Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 199-224

“Retail brand trust, off-line patronage, clothing involvement and two factors of website quality (usability and information quality, visual appeal and image) were found to significantly influence online apparel shopping intention. ”
Influences of retail brand trust, off-line patronage, clothing involvement and website quality on online apparel shopping intention

“The hypotheses predicted that IT-mediated signals of quality, coupled with expectations and attitude, would affect a consumer’s perception of organizational quality and influence their behavioral intention (i.e., whether or not they would do business with the organization). Results from this study indicate that students expected more from the websites  of IT proficient organizations and were more accepting of websites from organizations with a low IT proficiency. These results further develop signaling theory and have significant implications for IT-proficient organizations that must meet a higher standard when creating a website. Such an organization may unknowingly send a signal of low quality if consumers believe its website does not meet expectations.”
Investigating IT Proficiency and Website Characteristics as Signals of Quality: Guilt by Association?

“A survey of 701 eBay users is conducted which compares the price premiums of two nearly identical online auction businesses, one that has online auction listings with a perceived high quality and the other that has substantially lower perceived quality. Results of this study indicate that website quality can explain 49% of the variation in the trust for eBay sellers. In fact, it shows that sellers with good website quality are all perceived to be equally trustworthy regardless of their eBay reputation; whereas sellers with poor website quality are not perceived to be trustworthy even if they have a high eBay reputation score. The results also show that the trust resulting from increased website quality increases intention to transact and results in price premiums of 12% (on average) for sellers with higher quality listings.”
Journal Electronic Commerce Research Published online: 24 February 2010

“This study concludes that website information quality is the most important factor in enhancing relationship length, while website system quality and service quality contribute a lot to relationship depth and breadth.”
Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, Volume 20, Issue 9 2009 , pages 971 – 988

“Website quality has a direct positive impact on the satisfaction dimension of relationship quality; (2) satisfaction dimension has a direct positive impact on both trust and commitment dimensions”
The Impact of Website and Offline Quality on Relationship Quality

Why Your Website is More Important than You Ever Imagined

I had to pick this up from Newt Barrett’s “Content Marketing Today” blog.  He just put it so well…

Your website can be both different and better than a store in a mall or tradeshow booth. Your visitors are both pre-qualified and ready to buy.  Moreover, they are predisposed to believe that you can help them.  Why?

The vast majority of visitors to your website arrive as the result a search for information that is important to them right now. They have typed in keywords or phrases that pull up your website and enticed them to visit. When they come to your site, they begin with the assumption that your site and your organization may well have answers to their problems.

Get the rest of the article here.

How to Import Your LinkedIn Connections to G+

If you didn’t already know, you can easily import your LinkedIn contacts to G+.

First, export your LinkedIn connections. LinkedIn gives you the capability to easily export your connections to a CSV file. On LinkedIn, click on the ‘Contacts’ link at the top navigation bar. Next, click on ‘Export Connections’ link near the bottom-center of the page and export the CSV file.

Next – Import your connections to your Google account. Go to your Gmail account and click on ‘Contacts’. Then click the ‘More Options’ button and select ‘Import…’ Just follow the on-screen instructions and you’re done in two minutes – tops. I recommend importing your contacts to a new group called LinkedIn so you can keep things organized.

Once you’ve finished the import, go to your G+ account and you’ll have access to all of your LinkedIn connections. It’s that easy.

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Is Google Analytics good enough for measuring online marketing campaigns?

Is Google Analytics enough? I think it completely depends on what your campaign metrics are and what your definition of success is.  If all you’re concerned with is tracking web metrics – visits, source, views, downloads… – Analytics is enough. Using the campaign tracking functionalities, you can get surprisingly granular campaign metrics.

However, if your metrics for success are more related to contacts, prospects, subscriptions, and leads, you really need to augment Analytics with systems that deliver Lead Nurturing and Leads Management functionality. Raw numbers aren’t enough. You have to capture a contact and tie those metrics to that specific individual.

If leads are your measurement for success, you need tools that help you manage and track a potential customer through the contact, prospect, lead, opportunity, design win/in funnel. If you can’t directly tie your programs to those individuals at each stage of the process, you can’t definitively argue or demonstrate the success of your programs.

But to get back to the question, yes and no. I think Google Analytics is enough for some companies, but not for others. For many companies, I don’t think there is a whole lot of argument for investing in enterprise level systems like Webtrends or Omniture. For what they are and what they give you, the cost (initial +ongoing) can’t be justified when reasonable, competitive solutions are free. It would take a hugely significant increase in conversions to justify that kind of hit to a company’s operating margins – particularly for the small-to-medium companies.  I don’t think analytics software alone can deliver that.

Everything You Need to Know About Social Media (and How to Show It)

The Ultimate List: 300+ Social Media StatisticsThe good folks at Hubspot have put together a fantastic collection of data surrounding social media adoption,usage, and impact on business.  The Ultimate List: 300+ Social Media Statistics.  The amount of data is amazing, and it’s not presented as a sea of numbers or menu of reports. What they’ve gathered are some really cool, and quality, infographics and short videos that can help you really tell a story. It looks like a lot of this stuff is slide ready for your presentations too.

Here are a few of the presentations offered.

Check out the full list here:  The Ultimate List: 300+ Social Media Statistics