There is growing evidence that traditional marketing imagery reduces the credibility and trustworthiness of a website.
Over the years I've noticed a development in behavior of customers to traditional marketing material. Large numbers completely ignore the traditional banner advertisement. But for those who do see anything they consider a traditional advertisement, their trust in the webpage is reduced.
The more serious the customer is about finding something out about the product or service, the less they trust marketing waffle and vague 'hero shot' imagery. I have often heard the refrain "This is marketing. I don't have time for this."
I was recently told of a test where the link that customers needed was placed as a large button beside an attractive hero shot. The hero shot so undermined the confidence of the customers that they dismissed the page as "not useful" and did not see the button. So, it could be said that instead of banner blindness we now have banner poisoning.
Tom Tullis, Fiona Tranquada, and Marisa Siegel of Fidelity Investments, have done some very interesting research on the impact of faces on how customers think of webpages. They tested a piece of text which stated:
"Did you know? Increase your 401k contribution from 5% to 7% to get full employer match"
In one iteration they placed this text beside a traditional hero shot of an attractive woman. In another iteration they simply placed the text without any face. They tested.
With the face included people spent longer viewing. However, while over 90% felt that the statement was accurate when there was no face attached, less than 80% thought so when the face was connected with the text. The researchers also measured "Task Ease" and "Ease of Finding Information". Both of these measures were higher when there was no face.
The researchers also tested images connected with financial experts. These were real pictures of the experts themselves. Even though customers spent longer looking at the text with the expert's picture attached, their trust in the accuracy of the text was reduced.
I have always found length of time on page a very strange measure. It is associated with another weird concept called "sticky marketing." (Who wants to get stuck?) Just because someone focuses on something does not mean they understand or like it. Often you focus on the very things you don't like or understand.
Just because you get someone's attention does not mean that you get their trust. Marketers and communicators need to be careful that they don't undermine the trust and confidence in their websites and brands by using distracting and frivolous techniques.
It is extremely hard to get attention on the Web. When was the last time you went on the Web with the intention of booking a flight and because of some amazing marketing you forgot all about the flight and ended up buying a pair of shoes?
Imagine you're about to enter your local supermarket. A clown jumps in front of you, dancing wildly and shouting at the top of his voice. "Welcome to our supermarket!!!!!!! We're so glad you're here!!!!! BUY our new YOGURT!!!!!" They'd certainly get your attention.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994. His latest book The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online was published in July 2010.