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About Face by Dan Hill
Chock Full of Awesome

I started reading Dan Hill’s About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising a few nights ago. At first I was ready to throw it on the nightstand and categorize it as a snoozer. But as I got further in, I realized the book is a gold-mine of data. Hard core data.

So while it’s not an easy read, it’s a highly valuable one if you’re looking for reasons why your marketing is flailing and clear steps to make it better, all based on research. In most cases, facial coding which is Hill’s specialty.

Keep it Simple

That’s chapter two of the book, AND the focus for tonight’s Neuromarketing tweetchat (otherwise known by the hashtag #NMchat).

We all know KISS (keep it simple stupid), and I’ve talked here before about things like cognitive fluency. Keeping it simple is a well-known and simple concept, and yet I see ads, teaching tools, and websites every day that fall flat on keeping their message or creatives simple.

But How Can Simple Be So Hard?

Companies, organizations, and agencies “suffer from tunnel vision”, Hill says. They can’t see when there’s too much information, not the right kind of information, buried information, and so on because they are too close to the projects. They already “get it” so they see their message with biased eyes. Not to mention that the drive to sell or persuade can override common sense on simplicity.

That’s bad news because no matter how good your product, your service, or your cause, if your audience experiences frustration or confusion they will develop a negative view and abandon ship. Dan Hill found over a decade of market research that “frustration is the number one negative emotion felt by us in response to exposure to advertising.”

Your Homework

So…here’s where things get fun. For #NMChat tonight we’re going to look at three sites and talk about what wasn’t clear, what was frustrating, every little element that made things more difficult for us and what happens to our perception of the brand or organization in that process.

And if you’re brave you can offer up your site in the comments and we’ll take a look at it too! Free and awesome feedback on how you can improve your site’s simplicity score? Sweet! But I have to limit it to THREE otherwise #NMchat will go on all night!

Let’s Get a Look at Those Sites!

To come up with three sites I went to Google and searched for the first three things that came to mind: “protecting the environment”, “writing”, and “meditation supplies”. I chose the sites that hold the #1 position for these terms. These are sites that hold valuable Google real estate for short phrases so they’re already doing well on getting attention, now let’s see how they do on connecting.

Wait, before you click! Set a timer. Once you click, let your eyes flow naturally and see how many seconds it takes for you to figure out the mission, product, or service of the website. In other words, what’s the point? It’s not a race, I’m curious to see how long it would take a random visitor.

Site 1: Young People’s Trust for the Environment

Site 2:

Site 3: Dharma Crafts

As you take a brief surf through these sites, take note of if and when you have even brief moments of confusion or frustration. What caused it?

Ok then…have fun, share your site if you want to be a guinea pig, and…

Join Neuromarketing Chat on Twitter by following #NMchat starting at 7PM ET Thursday 12/2/2010


  1. says

    I can’t make it to the twitter group, but these three sites represent drastically different phenotypes of websites: 1)Spread awareness, 2)build a community, 3)and buy our stuff. I suppose if we fused them all together, we’d have a business plan (… a community of young writers trying to sell meditation products… hmmm). My thoughts:

    #1) Young People’s trust… clear mission. I actually liked this site the best. My eyes went to the sunflowers first. Beyond that, the site looks like its for kids. Not sure if that’s a good thing.

    #2) …. overall an ugly site. My eyes go immediately to the advertisement hard right and I am already turned off to the content as a result. Not sure what a ‘creative environment for authors’ is… a little vague. Don’t most people write in their own, internal environment?

    #3) Dharma crafts looks good, but I immediately know that they’re trying to sell me something… even though sites like amazon et all have shopping carts, it’s not the first thing that catches your eye when you go to the site. However, the look/feel and colors are soothing… I imagine that’s fairly in sync with their mission.

    Good post by the way. In an increasingly complex world, sometimes less is more. I wrote a piece about ‘choice overload’ theory in psychology which stems from a similar phenomenon: -cheers!

    What comes to mind when you look at your own site?

  2. says


    I had the same experience with #2, That ad on the right is visually dominating and throwing the entire balance off. It’s almost too easy to see where that site could improve.

    Thanks for your feedback. I’ll take a look at your post on ‘choice overload’.

  3. says

    Looking at the website I am immediately turned off. The half second that I see key words such as “FREE” and “NOW” or an exclamation point I know that I am being sold something. That leads me to bounce off right away. Does this have to do with my upbringing, age or prior exposure to advertising and promotions? I don’t know. But I do know that I immediately shut down after I see these words.

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