Many years ago you could have seen inappropriate advertisements like the one pictured here. The advert is for car servicing, which has nothing whatsoever to do with a woman in skimpy, sexy clothing. You also used to see classified adverts that read something like “SEX…! Now that I have got your attention, would you like to buy some wallpaper.”
Such advertising these days has largely disappeared, thankfully. Indeed, the Advertising Standards Authority takes a dim view of such adverts.
However, here’s the problem. In spite of their obvious inappropriate issues, there is one common feature they all shared; they worked. Even though you know it is wrong, these kinds of adverts get your attention.
Indeed, go to any trade show or exhibition these days, and you will find young women in very short skirts assisting on stands for plumbing parts or women in bikinis draped over cars. You can even find tanned, topless men wearing a bow tie around their neck and tight trousers supposedly acting as waiters at some trade shows.
It’s true – human beings are turned on by something sexy.
Here’s what happens. Your heart rate goes up, and your body heat increases; your pupils widen, and you sweat more. It is a simple biological reaction known as “arousal”.
Now, new research shows us an aspect of this which can partly explain how those inappropriate adverts worked. The study found that when you deliberately make people’s heart rate increase and arouse them, they become “blind” to the visual inputs they are receiving. In other words, when aroused your subconscious takes over and your conscious brain is put aside for a while. In essence, your conscious thinking is much more unconscious than you realise when you are aroused.
For website owners, this is an important discovery.
I am not suggesting that you need to fill your pages with sexy images of bikini-clad women or topless hunks. Rather, it is to realise that by arousing your visitors you can get them to be “on your side” more often as their subconscious brain will be in play for a greater amount of time.
So how do you achieve this? How do you arouse your website visitors, to make their heart rate increase or their pupils widen?
Apart from sexy images, the number-one way that people get aroused is when they see something that applies to their selfish side. For instance, if your website visitors tend to be men in their middle years, then images of men in their middle years are what appeals. This is because it triggers the “me, me, me” response – and that is what leads to arousal. Similarly, if you run a hotel website and you are targeting young brides, then that is what your images need to focus on, rather than lovely pictures of the grounds, or the beautiful table settings.
When you arouse your website visitors with photos that show them “this site is about you and people like you”, they are much more likely to become psychologically aroused. And when that happens their subconscious brain will be playing a greater part in their decision-making, which, in turn, increases the chances of them sticking with your site.
Once again, this new research implies that focusing on your website visitor much, much more, could have significant effects on the impact of your site.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+