Do customers see what you see in your ads?

Is the woman turning to the right or to the left? That depends. Some will see her turning one way while others will see the opposite.

This animation is a visual trick, but it illustrates the idea that two people can look at the same thing and see something entirely different.

Selling is largely about perception. And everyone’s perception is a bit different. To be successful at writing or designing direct mail, ads, or other selling tools, you must grasp this simple idea.

Every person comes to your advertising with different experiences, knowledge, language skills, attitudes, preferences, and prejudices. Even something as simple as a headline can create a totally different response for two people.

Stop struggling with old-fashioned diet pills. Now a revolutionary new weight-loss system can magically melt away fat in just 3 weeks with no special diet or boring exercise!

That’s a typical headline, but ask two people what it says to them and you may get two radically different answers. One person may be intrigued and enticed to read more. Another may think it’s empty and deceptive drivel. Same headline, different people, different reaction.

You can get the same variety in response to design. For example, if you have a copy-heavy layout with little focus on aesthetics, some would react positively and benefit from the depth of information while others would react negatively and think that ugly design equals bad products.

There’s nothing you can do about these various reactions. What you can do is try to understand the expectations and communication preferences of your target audience and meet them.

More specifically, you should consider the sort of advertising your audience responds to. When you rent a mailing list, you can often research the advertising of other companies using the list. When you create a print ad, you can look at past issues and evaluate the tone and appearance of the other ads in the publication.

This is not to say that you should compromise what you believe to be solid selling techniques. But you shouldn’t be a slave to one style for copy and design. Do what you need to do, but consider adapting to your audience so their perception of your message aligns with your own.

Oh, and about that spinning woman …

… it’s from an actual psychological experiment on visual perception. Supposedly, it tells you if you’re right brained or left brained. But if you try hard enough, you can make her appear to change directions. One source claimed that the more intelligent you are, or the more integrated your left and right brain, the easier it is to get her to change directions.

I’m curious. Which way do you see her spinning? Can you make her turn the other way at will? I initually see her spinning clockwise. But I can make her change if I concentrate.

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7 Responses to “Do customers see what you see in your ads?”

  1. Chad on February 10th, 2009 2:25 pm

    I can only see her spinning counter-clockwise.

  2. Hunter Nuttall on February 11th, 2009 1:52 am

    Not sure about the left brain/right brain theory, because I’m pretty close to the middle of left handedness and right handedness, but I can’t see her spinning counter-clockwise.

    Actually, I saw this animation before, and I could see her spinning counter-clockwise, but only in Internet Explorer. Why? Because IE is a lot slower than Firefox!

  3. Dean Rieck on February 11th, 2009 10:25 am

    I didn’t try looking at the image in another browser. But I found that if you look away for a second and think about her spinning the opposite direction, then look back, she moves the other way.

  4. Patty Coldwater on February 11th, 2009 1:39 pm

    Very interesting — she was definitely spinning clockwise, but after reading the article she was spinning counterclockwise. Was that your copy, Dean?

    On a more serious note, one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a direct mail copy writer is trying to write to some amorphous “group” rather than an individual. Even if the individual isn’t a real somebody, I think speaking to one individual always works better than speaking to several. Some of the worst copy I’ve seen trys to pull in often disparate characteristics of the target market and include them all in the copy.

    I think the same is true with most public speaking. The best public speakers present as if they were carrying on a one-on-one conversation rather than making a speech.

    A conversational tone convinces. A test of good copy is “how would I say this if I were speaking to my best friend?”

  5. Dean Rieck on February 11th, 2009 1:49 pm

    Good point. I try to imagine a specific person reading the copy and looking at the visuals. It really helps.

  6. Chad on February 18th, 2009 7:04 pm

    I came back to show this picture to a friend, and I could only see her spinning clockwise this time!

    I thought it was a trick before – where people would maybe admit to seeing both just because they were coaxed into thinking both were possible.

    Anyways, now I can make her change either way. I really don’t think it has anything to do with the capabilities of one’s mind though…

  7. On the Money on February 25th, 2009 5:01 pm

    Saw both …

    You won’t appeal to all of the people all of the time so you need to trust gut instincts (and perhaps focus groups …). I have a couple of people who occasionally review my work to provide opinions and advice. I don’t always follow their advice but am grateful for it nonetheless.

    Great post though … !

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