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Can An Image of a Pretty Woman Boost Conversion?

Posted By Holly Buchanan On August 19, 2008 @ 9:49 am In Improving Conversion,Marketing to Women | 24 Comments

woman face question [1]Why is it that live chat icons always feature pretty girls with a headset?    Why not have a good looking guy with a headset?

Is the strategy that men will want to talk to a pretty girl?  And women may be more comfortable talking to another woman than a man?   I don’t know.   But a recent study might provide some answers.

Robert Dooley at Future Lab [2] has a great post A Pretty Woman Beats a Good Loan Deal [3].  He looks at a case study by a South African Bank trying to boost their loan business through direct mail pieces.

The experiment featured a rather dramatic range in interest rates – 3.25% to 11.75%. They also incorporated different features in the offer, including different descriptions of the loan, a comparison to competitive products, varied photos of males and females, and subtle suggestions.

There’s a lot of information in that study, but here’s the part that I found to be most startling:

“For the male customers, replacing the photo of a male with a photo of female on the offer letter statistically significantly increases takeup; the effect is about as much as dropping the interest rate 4.5 percentage points… For female customers, we find no statistically significant patterns.

Overall, these results suggest a very powerful effect on male customers of seeing a female photo on the offer letter. Standard errors however do not allow us to isolate one specific mechanism for this effect. The effect on male customers may be due to either the positive impact of a female photo or the negative impact of a male photo.”

Hmmm – interesting.  What’s going on here?   I don’t have any proof, but I’ll throw a hypothesis out there.  Male brains are still hardwired to facilitate their role as the hunter/gatherer.    They’re still programmed to compete to “get the girl.”    I don’t mean this to make men sound like cavemen.  But I suspect the subliminal message these direct mail pieces may be sending is:

“Here’s a way to get more money – and the prize is going to be this attractive woman.”

Or, maybe the photo simply got the men’s attention long enough for them to interact with the direct mail piece.

Another possibility, as the study suggested, was the possible negative impact of a male photo.  Did seeing another guy stir up feelings of competition?   I don’t know.  I hope there’ll be further research done on this topic, since, at least from this study, there could be a big effect on conversion.

So let’s turn our attention to the women.   They supposedly like “lifestyle images” and people’s faces.  Why didn’t the photo have any affect on their response rate?

I suspect it might have something to do with this important point by Roger [3]:

Will slapping a photo of a pretty woman on your direct mail piece boost response rates? If you are marketing to men, maybe. Women seem to be much less affected by irrelevant photos, according to this test. That might be good news – women shouldn’t be negatively affected if a female photo is used in an attempt to boost male response. (Note that this test did NOT evaluate the use of more extreme photos, like the bikini babes [4] I discussed a few weeks ago.)

The emphasis is mine.  Women look at things more holistically.  What is the relationship between the person in the photo and the offer?   If the picture had a loan officer’s name on it, that might be more effective since she would now have context for who the woman is.  If the image featured a woman and another person – a child or aging parent or young person getting ready to go off to college – that might have more of an impact since the image is now relevant to what she might do with the money.

Every business is different, and only testing will prove what does and doesn’t work.   But the importance of images, and how men and women may react differently to them, should be something we’re all looking at.


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URL to article: http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/08/19/can-an-image-of-a-pretty-woman-boost-conversion/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.grokdotcom.com/wp-content/uploads/Holly/19176026.jpg

[2] Future Lab: http://blog.futurelab.net/?&m_sid=44

[3] A Pretty Woman Beats a Good Loan Deal: http://blog.futurelab.net/2008/08/a_pretty_woman_beats_a_good_lo.html

[4] bikini babes: http://www.neurosciencemarketing.com/blog/articles/bikinis-babes-and-buying.htm

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