Getting people’s attention in an increasingly crowded space is the challenge all advertisers face. On Facebook, given the small real estate and defined limits we have, it’s an even bigger ask.
Step in psychology. Advertising is all about psychology. We are using words, images, people, and emotions to persuade people that they want, need, desire our products. Yet most advertisers only have a cursory understanding of the tools they use.
Here we have picked out 7 ways you can use psychological techniques and the latest research to make your Facebook ads standout from the crowd, craft them to maximize persuasion, and make them unforgettable to your customers. All have examples from our Facebook Ad Gallery showing how advertisers are using these techniques right now.
1. Always Show Faces
If you want to draw people’s attention straight to your ad, make sure it shows a face.
We love looking at faces. Because facial recognition and the ability to read emotions in people’s face are the ultimate social tools, are brains seek them out everywhere (hence pareidolia – our desire to find faces in clouds, in toast, on Mars).
We have a specific part of the brain that responds only to faces. Cells in the Fusiform Gyrus, sometimes called the fusiform face area, only fire when they see a face. No other object can get them to respond. In 2005, a study from Caltech showed that people have specific cells that only respond to individual people — in this case Jennifer Aniston. Dubbed the ‘Aniston cell’ no other person, celebrity or not, could get that brain cell to fire.
Faces are therefore a great way to use the brain’s natural processes to capture someone’s attention. Here Snapwire draws you to the ad with a happy face:
And if you can add a well-known, recognisable celebrity face to your ad, like ELLE have, all the better:
I am sure plenty of people now have a Kardashian Cell in their brain.
2. Emotions Always Win
Unless you’re T-1000, emotional arguments are always going to win over rationality. We’re always drawn to emotions in other people, especially in their faces, so this is a great way to use the above technique as well.
Research has shown that facial expressions are universal between all cultures. One of the reasons we like looking at faces is because we want to read the emotions of other people, so we know how to behave towards them. This means that we are really good at picking out emotions in faces, even if they are shown only through microexpressions.
Positive emotions are more likely to work in Facebook ads. But you can find a few, usually advertising news services like OMG, that use the ability of any emotions to catch our attention and get us to click:
But it’s more common, and a better advertising strategy, to draw people in through positive emotions. See Snapwire again:
Faces + Happiness = the perfect combination.
3. Use Red to Catch Attention
Most mammals can only see 2 colors. Humans can see 3. We’ve evolved to see reds, along with the blues and greens dichromats can see, because only when we started to lose our hair. Once our ancestors could see the bare skin beneath they could see the red blood pumping through it. We would become red when excited or angry, and this association has stuck. Because of this evolutionary change we find the color red the most enticing, shocking, and exciting color of all.
Facebook ads that use red in a shocking way are few and far between. This ad for Wen Haircare uses red to capture your attention:
The red really stands out and catches your eye. It uses it subtly though, along with green to emphasize the naturalness of the product.
Other colors can work as well. Color increases readers’ attention spans and recall by 82%. The opposite of red’s excitement and aggression is blue’s calm and friendliness. This why everything in Facebook is blue. It wants to be a calm and friendly place to be.
4. Make Your Customer Part of the Cool Crowd
As much as we love to think of ourselves as individuals, we never want to stray too far from the crowd. This is why 2 psychological techniques work so well in online advertising: social proof and social contagion.
People respond to ads that show them what people like them are doing.
Since birth we are looking for proof that the behaviors we exhibit fit in with society. This in-built craving for guidance never leaves us. It gives them the sense of comfort that if they choose your product, they will not stand out from their peers. They can comfort themselves with this social proof that it’s OK to use this product.
226,869 people chose General Assembly. All those people can’t be wrong. Plus, it’s an actual number. They could have said 200,000, or rounded it 225,000, but because they showed you the actual number of people that chose GA, you are more likely to believe them.
Like I said, emotions work. One of the best ways this is demonstrated is how they can spread through society. We love to be a part of something evocative, something that makes use feel like we’re living. If an ad can have some emotion that makes us feel part of society in a meaningful sense, it will be insanely popular.
There is a great recent example of social contagion:
The ALS Bucket Challenge went crazy. People were desperate to be a part of it. The ALS Association have used this to raise over $100 million for an amazing cause. They have taken ownership of the Bucket Challenge and added it to their advertising to maximize interest.
5. Increase A Viewer’s Dissonance
You have an internal model of what you are like. In it, you’re awesome. You are competent, smart, funny — people hang on your every word.
Then you do something dumb. What happens in your head? You find yourself trying to rationalize your behavior, or just trying to bury it. Your brain can’t cope with the idea that what you did wasn’t in line with your idea of you.
Congratulations, you have just experienced cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is when you hold two conflicting ideas in your head. Rationally we know that something isn’t right, but we’ll try and use different justification strategies to resolve the conflict. Usually these thoughts are about ourselves — we like to think of ourselves as smart, but worry that we’re stupid. Any evidence for the latter requires some serious mental gymnastics for us to keep going and not dissolve into a curled up ball of self-doubt.
But the upside is that this doubt can be a significant driving force for us to succeed and get better. We want to conquer this self doubt and are always on the look out for anything that can help us. See how Jeff Walker uses this technique to get you to doubt your marketing prowess:
Are you making these mistakes in your marketing?
Me? I don’t make mistakes in marketing. I’m a marketing machine! But I better click on this ad to make sure I’m not being stupid and really am a marketing machine.
6. Make Your Product Scarce
FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. Apparently it’s in the dictionary.
It’s proper name is the Scarcity Heuristic. The world is so complex that we are constantly taking little mental shortcuts. This is one of them. If something is scarce, we presume it’s more valuable. This principle is true most of the time, so it makes sense for us to use it as a general rule.
Of course, this means if we make something scarce, we can make it more valuable. This is the psychology behind sales, exclusives, and one-day-only events.
And there is a scientific basis behind FOMO. Stephen Worchel, from the University of Southern Maine tested college students on their FOMO tendencies. He asked 200 students whether they would like a cookie from a jar with 10 cookies, or a jar with 2 cookies.
Nearly everyone took from the 2-cookie jar. Though all the cookies in both jars were the same, they perceived that the 2-cookie ones were more valuable and didn’t want to miss out.
You can see its use in all kinds of advertising. UrbanDaddy uses this technique to sell ‘exclusives’ and ‘one-of-a-kind’ experiences:
Pair that idea with the image of the women enjoying a great vacation and you have the ingredients for the ultimate FOMO.
Banana Republic also uses scarcity to drive sales, not only of its clothes, but also to get people to sign up to its store card:
Current cardmembers see that ad and worry about missing out on the 30% off for a limited time. Non-cardmembers are missing out on missing out. Double FOMO.
This concept can go even deeper. Here Shopify uses it to make you think about missing out on a whole new life:
7. Use The Ultimate Words
Images are king when it comes to advertising, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect your copy. Why? Because an image may instantly catch a persons eye, but the few words you use are what will ultimately win over a new customer. You have to get them right.
I’ve bolded those words for a reason. Even without the bold they should have drawn your eye as they are 4 of the ultimate words to use to catch people’s attention (along with a fifth: free. I couldn’t crowbar that one in). Copyblogger Gregory Ciotti has picked out the 5 most powerful words in the English language. They may not seem that powerful, but they are, simply because they are so efficient.
Why is you so powerful. Because it makes you think of you. If every ad could be hyper-personalized that would be even better, but in lieu of that, the word you will suffice. Our brain is activated specifically by hearing or thinking of our own name and ourselves.
Including you in an ad, as Outbrain have, is as good as naming your customer:
Free is the ultimate word for any viewer of an ad. We are always on the lookout for free. Including it in an ad and it’s almost guaranteed to catch the eye.
We value free highly. Dan Ariely, of Predictably Irrational, tested the power of free. He offered people one of two chocolates. A Lindt truffle for 15 cents, or a Hershey’s Kiss for 1 cent. Almost everyone took the Lindt.
Then he reduced both prices by 1 cent. The Lindt became 14 cents, and the Kiss became free. This completely flipped the result. Now all the subjects went for the free option, even when it wasn’t their preferred option. Just because of free.
This is one of the reasons free trials, like the Kindle one here, succeed so well:
We want answers. Humans are inquisitive souls. We are constantly questioning why? And because of that the word because means a lot to us.
Take these two sentences: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” and “I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I am in a rush?”
These were two sentences from a study into the power of because from Robert Cialdini’s book Influence. They may not look too different, but they get very different responses. When offered a reason, with ‘because’, even if its as flimsy as it is here, we are more likely to be persuaded. 60% of people let the man through with the first sentence, but 94% with the because.
‘Because of you’ in this St Jude message is doubly powerful:
We love now. We discount things drastically into the future, so instantly nearly always seems like the better option. This has been backed up by brain scans, showing that if you offer something instantly, our brains go crazy. Instantly is the whole point of Amazon Echo:
New brands have a hard time establishing themselves. This is because our brains respond better to well-known brands than anything new on the market.
This doesn’t mean that you should shy away from new though. We are novelty-seeking animals, always sniffing out new experiences, places, foods. That’s how we got to the top of the evolutionary tree in the first place. Using new is a great way to re-invigorate an established brand and put it back into the customer’s mind. New seasonal arrivals, as advertised here for West Elm, make your customers see you afresh every few months:
Over to you!
All the ads are coming from our Ads Examples database, you can head over there to find more, it’s 100% free and updated every 30 minutes! And we’d love to here about how you are using these techniques, or other ones, in your Facebook ads.