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One-Minute MarketerYou’ll Look at this Blog Differently After You Read It

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Gazing woman

You’ll Look at this Blog Differently After You Read It

New research has blown my mind: “POOF.”

When I was but a wee lad at university, my design professor, Kay Amert, suggested that we follow the eye flow of the person on the page. If they are looking left, we will look left first. If they are looking off the page, we will naturally look off. So we assumed that the gaze of our subjects should always be into the copy or their eyes should be pointed at the headline.

Gazing woman

Do you feel more emotion or information from this model’s gaze?

The prevailing design thought (and supported by research from Roper/Starch Worldwide) was that direct eye contact is preferable. A new paper from Vanessa Patrick, associate dean for research and professor of marketing at the University of Houston’s CT Bauer College of Business (wow, what a title), found that an “averted gaze” might be more effective to convey emotion or how someone feels about a product. The direct gaze works better when you want to inform someone.

The people in ads do influence viewers in subtle ways, including changing gaze direction. I still believe that we take clues from the people in ads. If they are looking out into the sunset, you might get a different emotion than if they are looking right at you. But that comes from knowing the product or service and the target audience. A direct gaze can muster thoughts of confidence, knowledge and connection. If they were talking to you and they kept looking away (or off page), what would you think?

The problem I see with the new research is that the researchers used a newspaper-style ad, not a digital ad or an ad in a newsfeed that may not have copy left or right, but above and below the model. The real value of this research is to remind us that the gaze of a model in our marketing materials is another important element to consider as we craft our messaging.

I think Kay had it right. We tend to follow the eye flow of the person. Start with that and see where it leads you.

Mark Mathis III is chief creative & strategy officer, partner and cofounder of AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising.

Written by:

Mark wrote his first direct-mail fundraising letter in 1981 for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. The effort raised a few million dollars in undiscovered wills and legacy gifts. From that day forward Mark discovered a love of the big idea that moves the needle. After 12 years at KWWL, Mark became a business owner as a co-founder of ME&V — rebranded as AMPERAGE in 2015. After 25 years of leading creative teams in video production, graphic design, PR, writing and web development, Mark transitioned out of ownership in 2021. Today he serves in an employee role as special projects consultant. He is creatively ambidextrous — son of an artist and engineer — and famous for distilling complex ideas down to a few words and a few visuals. Mark is a writer. When he found that many nonprofits struggled with complex branding puzzles, he wrote the book, “NonProfit-NonMarketing .” He also wrote a novel called “Reenactment.” Mark is an active blogger OneMinuteMarketer® with nearly 1,000 readers each week on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. One of his most popular YouTube videos is on “How to Look Good on Zoom.” One of Mark’s fondest business memories was being named to INC 500 two times and attending the INC 500 conference with other winners. Mark is considered by some a Civil War expert (and that explains his novel). Mark also served as an adjunct professor in the business and in the communications departments at Wartburg College. Mark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is currently vice president of the University of Iowa Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board. Mark is married to state Sen. Liz Mathis, and the two love to travel, even when it means being trapped by a volcano in the Czech Republic for three weeks.