Human Images have been used in advertising for centuries. Without a doubt, human faces in advertisements grab our attention faster than almost anything else. It draws us in even more when it is a well-known face, such as a celebrity’s.
Faces are the most important visual stimuli we perceive and the brain can identify a known face within a fraction of a second. Research studies suggest the brain has a separate area, called the Fusiform Face Area (FFA), to recognize faces above all other objects. Fusiform regions respond more strongly to faces than to letter strings and textures (Puce et al. 1996), flowers (McCarthy et al. 1997a) and other stimuli, including a mix of everyday objects, houses, and hands (Kanwisher et al. 1997).
In a websites/advertisements, human faces attract the attention of visitors more than anything else, which is why marketers need to utilize this human behavior wisely in order to maximize desired outcomes.
Eye Movement for mango.com
Human Faces for Brand Recognition
If you need to improve brand recognition, the human face is the best tool to use. The human brain can identify the brand ambassador (or model) and link it to the brand, even before recognizing the logo. If a human face is used consistently in ads for a brand, it can transfer in to the long-term memory of your audience, which is important for capitalizing on every cent you spend on advertising.
Real Life Case: Kelly Felder is a famous fashion brand in Sri Lanka and people can recognize the model before anything else. When people surf Facebook, they will come across a few dozen images, brands, and videos, so the image of the model plays a vital role in getting their attention and triggering an emotional response.
Kelly Felder Facebook Image
Human Faces can cause Friction
Sometimes, human faces on a website may cause friction for a visitor as they scan faces before anything else. Because of this behavior, visitors’ cognitive load (the total amount of mental effort being used in the working memory) may increase and they leave the website without completing the desired outcome. User attention is a precious resource and should be allocated accordingly.
Hubspot ran a test with a human face to improve their lead conversion rate. It didn’t work probably because it increased the cognitive load.
Human Faces as a Slider
Sometimes, human faces on a website may act positively and increase conversion rates. We had the same experience with our tech support brand, 24/7 Techies.
24/7 Techies Website
ReapDigital Fact: We did several tests with our tech support brand website to understand the influence of a human image on our customers. Multiple tests were conducted with male, female, young and old human images, with all the variations winning against a landing page with no human images. Based on multiple tests and our data analysis effort, we came to the following conclusion:
In the tech support industry, people fear being scammed so their conscious mind (conscious mind is your thinking mind or the logical part) actively participates in rationalizing the services. If the conscious mind is unable to rationalize our service as a legitimate business, they leave the website without taking further action. The conscious mind requires a lot more effort and evidence so it can be easily overloaded. By having a human face on the website, it gets a visitor’s initial attention, which reduces the effectiveness of the conscious mind while the subconscious mind (involved in emotional decisions) comes into play. Also, human faces can have a close relationship with visitors’ subconscious mind and motivates him/her to take a decision based on emotions, which want to immediately get support so their computer can be fixed.
Bart Schutz (Psychologist) mentioned that “wish list” on an eCommerce site may not have any real value to the customer but it may reduce the participation of the conscious mind thus increasing conversion rates.
@Jtrondeau presented the below AB test case study. Variations with the social share buttons won with a 5.7% improvement. Someone can think that large social buttons may act as a friction, but in this case, those buttons may reduce the participation of the conscious mind.
There is no correct or wrong answer for the use of human faces on a website so you need to test and understand the customer’s mind and act accordingly.