7 proven ways that facial cognition can drive business

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Most people are amazed at how much of the brain is geared to recognize faces and respond to someone's gaze. This capability comes from millions of years of our ancestors looking at each other and having to decide if they were staring at a friend or a foe. But our individual training in what's called facial cognition starts at birth -- when someone picks us up and stares into our tiny, newborn face, and wants to get our attention.

7 proven ways that facial recognition can drive business

Recognizing faces and "wanting to get attention" are so important to human existence that we lingualize that importance with expressions such as:

  • "Why are you looking at me like that?"
  • "You look happy."
  • "Why the sour face?"

Scots Gaelic speakers describe an angry person with "his face is set against the world," Polish speakers use "cabbage face" as a put-down, and Italians use "faccia di culo" for much the same purpose.

It's that "wanting to get attention" part that's the boon to User Experience (UX) and content designers, especially when it comes to consumer testimonials. Proper use requires some knowledge of how the social parts of our brains work. NextStage has been studying facial cognition and related fields in marketing for several years now, has published some scholarly articles on the subject, and demonstrated how companies can drive business with the correct image.

The comment, endorsement, referral, recommendation hierarchy

Often product service or offering testimonials -- comments, endorsements, referrals, and recommendations -- are made that have:

  • the testimonial and nothing else
  • a first name and last initial
  • a first name and a location/business name
  • a full name but no location
  • a picture, a first name, and a location that's geographically distant from where the comment, endorsement, referral, or recommendation is made (often done in TV ads and infomercials)
  • a picture, a full name, and a location/business name

Humans evaluate the validity of any marketing testimonial in the order given. Meaning a testimonial with no attribution is discounted while a testimonial attributed to a picture with full name and a location/business name is evaluated as worth considering.

Consumers are jaded to the point that they go into a state of inattentional blindness or choice blindness when their minds determine something is marketing. They literally a) stop seeing what you're presenting even though it's right in front of them or b) involuntarily shut down their brain's decision centers causing an emotional bias that stops them from deciding for or against your offering.

NextStage discovered some ways to stop these neuro- and psycho-logic defenses from keeping your message out of your audience's consciousness. Here are seven items we learned about the use of faces in testimonials in our most recent study. As always, our criteria is a simple one: Did business increase or not? What follows are simple things that increased business (conversions) 25 to 300 percent on various digital properties.