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Book Review: About Face by Dan Hill

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What are the 12 most persuasive words in the English language? According to a Yale University study, they are: you, money, save, new, results, easy, health, safety, love, discovery, proven, and guarantee.

What’s the difference between genuine and “social” smiles? Fake smiles last longer; they “don’t know when to end;” their timing is “odd;” and they are often “asymmetrical, or lopsided.”

What is the importance of this information? According to Dan Hill in his new book About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising, understanding these factors and moving away from “on-message” to “on-emotion” communications can substantially increase the effectiveness of advertising.

It’s not revolutionary to declare “emotion sells,” since the standard for decades, “sex sells,” is based on emotional (that sometimes result in physical) responses. Hill explores brain functions and explains how different stimuli (words, visuals) affect the brain which thereby produces the emotional response.

Most people are aware that there is a world of difference between seeing the word “bread” and seeing a warm loaf of bread taken from the oven, sliced, and buttered (mmmmm, melting butter). Hill explains why there is a difference. For advertising to be successful it must evoke perceptions, which is not always the same as reality, except that what a person perceives to be reality is his reality.

About Face is divided into ten chapters, each of which is a principle of effective “on-emotion” advertising:  Get Physical; Keep It Simple; Keep It Close to Home; Focus on Faces; Make It Memorable; Relevancy Drives Connection; Always Sell Hope; Don’t Lead with Price; Mirror the Target Market’s Values; and Believability Sticks.

Hill illustrates many of his points with a variety of advertisements, and quotes from a number of sources about advertising and its effect on them are peppered throughout the book. He bases his research and suggestions on “recent breakthroughs in neuro-science.”

Advertising is designed to elicit a response, but the response is not to purchase an item or use a service. The response should be emotional, and well-crafted advertising will elicit emotional responses that do the work of convincing the consumer he or she needs a particular product or service. If this all sounds like advertisers should try to manipulate consumers…well, duh!

The information that Hill provides is of special interest to those selling something, but aren’t we all? Isn’t making an attempt to “put your best foot forward” a technique of selling an image of ourselves? When we appeal to someone’s sense of responsibility in order to get something done (take out the trash, tithe, vote, stop littering) aren’t we trying to manipulate behavior?

Hill’s suggestions, while applying to product advertising, could well be incorporated into designing one’s own web site or blog, interviewing for a position, or designing a winning term paper. They emphasize appealing to emotions rather than logic or rational thinking to effectively reach one’s target.

About Face is an informative guide to better advertising as well as a fascinating look into human emotion, motivation, and thought processes.

Bottom Line: Would I buy About Face? Yes, my interest in psychology and brain studies makes this a must have in my personal library. Release date: October 28.

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