The number of users on social media increases day by day. We are all connecting with our friends, colleagues, and even our grandmothers, and the business world is more than happy with the opportunities this hyper connectivity era offers, brands can strengthen their relationship with their customers and reach new ones without having to place printed ads in places where they could go unnoticed.
But this is not a mystery to anyone, we are exposed to a huge ocean with waves of information, publicity and more publicity. Our eyes perceive more stimuli than we can process and some of them enter our brain without even being noticed, so reaching customers effectively can be tricky.
Brands need to catch attention. (See visual marketing) And to capture it, they use strategies based on advertising psychology. While psychology explores the human psyche and why people behave the way they do, advertising tries to influence them to make decisions.
Although at Flayyer we know that brands have experts designing their campaigns, we compile a series of tactics that are the result of several scientific studies, and we elaborate examples so that anyone interested can get the most out of our platform and superpower their link previews.
So, let’s start.
First, it is necessary to point out that there are 3 types of attention that are captured in different ways, so it is important to identify which strategy we are targeting. These are: immediate, short term and long term. (Moran & Desimone, 1985)
Immediate attention is purely instinctive, activated in our subconscious. If someone yells, we immediately turn in that direction, without thinking. If we are scrolling in a static social media feed and we see that suddenly something moves -like a gif-, it catches our attention.
Short term attention happens next when we go from a subconscious state to a conscious one and judge whether that something really deserves our attention. It is not called "short" because of the time it can last, what characterizes it is that the mental immersion is not so big. If something slightly more interesting happens ahead, it is most likely that we will pay attention to this new stimulus.
Long term attention, on the other hand is acquired via repetition, it is deeply linked to the stimuli that we already know and puts us in a state of expectation. Highly recognizable brands enjoy this type of much desired attention, where almost simply by showing their main color people recognize them effortlessly.
Then, there are a series of stimuli with their variables, such as contrasts of colors, sizes, shapes, use of space and movements, which together can result in hundreds of combinations. We know, it may seem like a lot, so we created this guide considering the features of our Flayyer builder, but, spoiler: there is no magical formula.
Link previews are static, so we will focus on tactics that respond to 4 types of stimuli, whose great advantage is that they capture our attention immediately and automatically, even if we're not paying attention. They are salience, people (and animals), high arousal and self-relevance.
Here we go.
Highlighting items by color, orientation and motion.
A) Color: This could be the quintessential featured dimension. For evolutionary reasons, we are more than capable of noticing wide ranges of colors - some people more than others - in order to survive.
This variable is complex, so we will cover it in depth later. Meanwhile, a good tactic is trying not to saturate the entire canvas with colors, we must leave behind the horror vacui (fear of the void) and add focal areas, highlighting only the most important thing we want to convey. For this, we can, in addition to highlighting the main element, reduce the intensity of the elements that accompany it.
In this way, we also add fluidity to the complete compositions, facilitating understanding for people who see them.
B) Orientation: Several scientists have mapped the brain since the 1960s, starting with psychobiologist Roger W. Sperry. He postulated the theory that each hemisphere processes different types of information in different ways; while analytical thinking predominates in the left brain, the right brain is attributed to an intuitive and visual function.
When we are in front of visual stimuli, the brain processes the information with its hemispheres crossed. That is, what the left eye sees is processed by the right side of the brain, and vice versa. So, it is easier for us to process the images if they are located on the left and the texts if they are on the right.
C) Motion: Movement, as well as color, also makes us react instinctively most of the time. In advertising, the resource of animation is used a lot, web pages give life to some buttons so that they move, etc. But as we mentioned before, link previews are static, so the movement is represented in a different way, where there is a “feeling” of movement. (Franconeri and Simons, 2005)
In these examples we can see how the use of slanted fonts gives a visual sensation of movement and speed. If we go one step further and play with overlays of the elements or using shapes that break the perpendicularity of an image we can perceive some dynamism.
2. People (and animals)
We decided to mix these stimuli into one since they work in almost identical ways.
As human beings, our brains search for faces on an instinctual level to detect a threat or to read emotions. There is a part of our brain called the ‘fusiform face area’ which is especially dedicated to recognizing human faces. Something similar happens with animals, our ancestors needed to detect them quickly to hunt, and well, not die eaten.
In some experiments, researchers made small changes to an image and they measured if people noticed them. Ro, Russell, and Lavie (2001) found that people can detect changes in faces more easily than in other objects, so ads with faces will probably be more salient if they are paired with ads with just objects.
We are also influenced by bodies and body parts. A full body can give us the feeling of dynamism (hey, another motion tactic). Check out this Tokyo Olympics Flayyer, you can imagine the player scoring, right?
Look at this other Flayyer.
What did you notice first?
Langton, Watt and Bruce (2000) said that ”the physical structure of the eye may have evolved in such a way that eye direction is particularly easy for our visual systems to perceive. Indeed, recent work suggests that the output of simple cells found in the visual cortex can, in principle, signal the direction of gaze”. Based on this, the order in which we see the elements would be first the face, then the call to action, and finally the brand logo, although of course, this may vary.
If we use these tactics but showing a cute puppy, we can get results amplified by ... a lot. However, some animals capture more attention than others. It will depend on the reaction we want to achieve.
3. High arousal
When talking about subconscious reactions, we might assume that trying to elicit emotions is a winning strategy and that is, partly, true. But we say "partly" because according to researchers, attracting attention depends on arousal.
Barret and Russel (1999) argue that emotions have two dimensions:
Arousal: The level of activation
Valence: The level of pleasantness
Remember when, at the beginning of the guide we talked about immediate attention? This is an effective way to capture it. The reason? Once again: evolution. We developed neural mechanisms to easily detect arousing events that put us on our toes, ready to act.
We wanted to test ourselves, so we made a survey (you can read more here) comparing an ad for a national brand of plant-based products with a Flayyer designed by us, and we asked the volunteers what sensations both images provoked in them. We realized that this brand has top-notch ad campaigns, so we thought there would be no difference, or it would be very subtle.
But numbers don’t lie and as a result, 63% of those surveyed said that the ad did not cause them anything since the preview did not show the full product, while 17% were curious about the X3 and its meaning, which in this case It offered a pack of three ice creams, and those who felt like buying it were customers who already knew the brand.
In contrast, with the Flayyer preview only 10% were curious about the offer, while 57% declared that the ice cream squares caused them one thing: CRAVINGS. I myself had to buy one of those.
So that's what it's about, provoking an active emotion that causes us something strong. In the previous point we mentioned that not all animals caused the same effect and this is the reason. If you want to attract attention, you are more likely to succeed with a kitten or a giant snake (because fear is a pretty big emotion), than with a sweet sloth.
It is the stimulus that makes seeing our own face, hearing our name or thinking about our experiences, striking.
The power of self-relevance is described as “automatic attentional capture ensures that self-related information is not missed and it is effectively encoded when present in one’s nearby environment” (Alexopoulos et al., 2012)
It is not necessary to delve into great psychological explanations, we all turn if someone says our name. Brands have been able to use this resource very well through customization. In 2014, Coca-Cola launched the "Project Connect" campaign, where they invited to share a soda with other people, putting names on their packaging, and it was a HIT.
Another way to cover it is from a broader approach: mental interaction. In simple words, encourage people to fix their attention on an image with which they can interact, mentally, of course.
For example, in a study by Elder and Krishna in 2012, they did a series of tests where they showed the volunteers different ads, such as a bowl of ice cream by itself and one with a spoon inside, and they found that the second one captured more the attention since people could imagine eating the ice cream with the spoon. The same happened when they showed a mug with the handle to the left and another to the right, where they preferred the second one since the right is the dominant hand of most people.
In this last example we see the tactic of self relevance in conjunction with the people tactic. The ad with the ice cream cone in hand is probably more eye-catching than the one showing the ice cream itself.
In conclusion, this compilation covers the tactics that we consider key taking into account the features of our platform, but it is not necessary that they be applied all at once, in fact, we encourage you to take them as a starting point and play with them. We invite you to read the second part where we talk about color psychology and some extra tips 😉.
And as we said, there is no successful formula, perception and behavior are broad and very interesting topics that we look forward to continuing to discover with you by watching the masterpieces that you will design on our Flayyer Platform.
Which of our Flayyers caught your attention? Let us know and talk to us to start your free trial. Take advantage of this new marketing opportunity and tell a story from the moment people share your website on social media.