Photos Make a Difference

futurelab default header

by: Roger Dooley

In Mirrors and Images, I speculated that the presence of images such as a picture of Christ in a church or those omnipresent portraits of the leaders of totalitarian states might influence the behavior of people in their presence. Now, the New York Times reports that photos have been shown to influence the behavior of radiologists:

Dr. Turner’s hunch turned into an unusual medical study. Its preliminary findings, presented in Chicago last December at a conference of the Radiological Society of North America, suggested that when a digital photograph was attached to a patient’s file, radiologists provided longer, more meticulous reports. And they said they felt more connected to the patients, whom they seldom meet face to face. [From New York Times – Radiologist Adds a Human Touch: Photos by Dina Kraft.]

So, the mere inclusion of a patient photo altered the behavior of these medical professionals, presumably without their awareness that they were treating the patients differently. This might have implications for how medical records are kept and transmitted, but what are the neuromarketing implications?

It would seem that including a photo with other information makes the communication more personal or at least attracts the attention of the reader in a way that is more involving. We already know that a photo of an attractive woman had a profound effect on how males responded to a loan offer (see A Pretty Woman Beats a Good Loan Deal). But this seems to be a different phenomenon, unrelated to the viewer being attracted, consciously or not, by a photo of an attractive member of the opposite sex. Rather, it seems that the photo establishes a more personal connection.

Non-Profit Marketers. Fundraisers already understand the power of personal photos. Savvy nonprofit marketers include photos, names, and often detailed biographies of the recipients of their charity. Rather than exhorting donors to “wipe out hunger” in general terms, a mailer may show a photo of a child made even more specific by including her name and specific circumstances. Colleges soliciting donations take a similar approach by including the photos and stories of individual students who benefit from the funds.

Photo Business Cards? Except in real estate and a few other fields, photo business cards and letterhead aren’t common, and might even seem a bit unprofessional. You certainly wouldn’t expect to find the business card of a Fortune 500 CEO emblazoned with a grinning photo. Nevertheless, marketers might well want to look for ways to build photos into their efforts. Not random photos, of course, but photos of the individuals in actual contact with the customer. It might result in that salesperson, for example, being accorded a little more attention when she calls to schedule an appointment.

The evidence that photos of people DO alter behavior is mounting – the challenge for marketers is to determine what works in their particular situation. Have you found a clever way to build photos into your advertising campaigns or marketing materials? Let us know how…

Original Post: