Faces, Brains and B2B Marketing – A Digital Agency’s Perspective
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Faces play a central role in human cognition and culture. We see faces everywhere – even in inanimate objects – They captivate us and capture our gaze almost against our will.
But what lies at the source of this fascination?
How do we understand facial data?
What opportunities exist for marketers in this process?
These questions, and more, are the topic of the article below.
But to begin we need to introduce the Fusiform Face Area…
The Fusiform Face Area – What is it?
The fusiform face area (FFA) is a specialized region located in the fusiform gyrus of the brain. It’s roughly the size of your thumb, and as its name indicates it’s responsible for processing and recognizing faces:
- It aids in detecting facial features, such as eyes, nose, and mouth, and integrating them into a coherent facial representation.
- It’s central to differentiating and categorizing faces, allowing us to recognize familiar faces and distinguish between different people.
But most importantly for our purposes, the FFA has a central role in extracting emotional information from facial expressions. It’s the FFA that enables us to interpret others’ emotions, and as such it has a huge role in facilitating our social interactions.
B2B Marketing and the FFA
Leveraging this face-specific response can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your marketing strategies – Incorporating human faces in your marcomm is proven to command more attention and foster more memorable impressions. Furthermore, showing facial expressions triggers greater emotional responses in viewers, which is key to persuasion and trust-building. Both these factors are closely related to the success rates of B2B sales interactions. But before we dive into the pragmatics, let’s review the history for a moment…
The FFA – A brief history
The fusiform face area (FFA) was first identified in 1997 by a team of neuroscientists that included Dr. Nancy Kanwisher, Dr. Josh McDermott, and Dr. Marvin Chun. The trio used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI to uncover this particular specialized brain region. By analyzing brain activity, they established the FFA exhibited notably heightened activation when individuals viewed faces in contrast to other objects, suggesting its fundamental role in face recognition.
This groundbreaking revelation sparked a wave of subsequent research into the functions and implications of the FFA resulting in a clearer path to understanding conditions like prosopagnosia and autism, which are characterized by a difficulty in recognizing faces (prosopagnosia), and challenges in understanding facial expressions, and the appropriate social interactions associated with them (autism).
Subsequent exploration of the FFA has played a crucial role in deepening our understanding of face perception, unraveling the intricate workings of the human brain and its intricate connection to facial recognition abilities and related conditions.
How To Leverage The FFA in B2B Marketing
Given the FFA’s role in face recognition, emotional processing, and fostering connection between people it’s easy to understand that personalizing your brand with human faces, whether through website images or social media profiles, can provide a competitive edge. It’s a strategy that can be implemented easily and offers a great opportunity for brands seeking to improve their marketing performance. A couple of easy-to-adopt pragmatic tips are:
1. Including faces in banner ads
A 2014 study by Dr. Pitch Sajjacholapunt of the Department of Psychology, Lancaster University, and Dr. Linden J. Ball of the School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, found that banner advertisements with human faces, particularly with averted gazes, can increase attention to the information they contain. This attention enhances the memorability of the brand and advertising message. Interestingly, when the faces depicted in the ads shared a mutual gaze with viewers, they drew so much attention, they impeded the memorability of the ad content and the brand.
2. Camera on vs. Camera off for video chat?
Because we register so much of our understanding of others’ emotions from their facial expression, the FFA plays a major role in enhancing empathy and rapport. That said, recent research shows that adopting a strategy of “always-on” insofar as camera use is concerned is actually detrimental to performance. This is hypothesized as being due to the fact that allocating our focus, during a video call, to reading facial cues and maintaining our own expression, is extremely fatiguing. It follows that to optimize relations with stakeholders we must aim for interactions that are primarily face-to-face, or video enabled, however we must be careful not to overdo our on-time, and show our face primarily in meetings where a primary goal is trust building (e.g. introductory calls, and early on sales conversations)
Cultural differences mediate how faces impact marketing
The FFA is a region of the brain common to all humans, and studies have shown that much of our understanding of facial expressions is universal across cultures, however culture does mediate the effects viewing faces has on us.
Leveraging Faces in B2B Marketing for Collectivist Societies
In countries like Thailand, and in ASEAN in general, where the cultural norm promotes Collectivist ideals, relationships and trust within a group are seen as paramount values.
B2B marketing strategies can take advantage of the fusiform face area (FFA) by using team photos or company-wide testimonials to visually represent a collective identity. This approach aligns with the societal emphasis on group cohesion and collaboration. A campaign might highlight the collective effort behind a product or service, showing faces of the team to foster a sense of connection and trust.
Leveraging Faces in B2B Marketing for Individualist Societies
In the individualist societies common to “the West”, personal achievement and differentiation are valued. Thus B2B marketing strategies attempting to leverage the FFA will typically focus on highlighting the individual (think about our obsession with super-heroes…) In these cultures some effective tactics for leveraging the FFA’s role in face recognition to foster a sense of personal connection and trust are:
- Testimonials from opinion leaders.
- Highlighting key team members and showcasing their unique expertise
- Emphasizing the benefits customer’s stakeholders can expect to gain as individuals, rather than as a group.
In both cases, understanding the societal context is crucial. Faces humanize a company and foster trust, but the framing should respect and align with societal norms for maximum effectiveness. Be aware that leveraging the FFA isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, but a tool that can be adapted to fit different cultural contexts.
Leveraging the Fusiform Face Area for Marketing FAQs
1. How can understanding the fusiform face area improve our marketing strategies?
The fusiform face area (FFA) plays a critical role in face recognition, and therefore, emotional connection and trust-building. Utilizing faces in your marketing materials (e.g., photos or videos of your team, customer testimonials) can leverage the FFA to foster these connections more quickly. Remember, people prefer doing business with people, not faceless entities.
2. Can the fusiform face area help improve our webinars or virtual meetings?
Absolutely. When hosting webinars or virtual meetings, having your camera on engages your viewers’ FFA, which provides a sense of social presence and aids in reading emotional cues. It promotes better communication and can lead to stronger relationships and improved collaborations.
The down-side is that running video meetings with your camera on is proven to lead to enhanced fatigue and reduced productivity, so be sure to keep your camera on only for the meetings that matter the most.
3. How does the FFA relate to how we should design our logo?
Including recognisable, face-like elements in your logo or branding might help capture attention and build brand familiarity. However, balance is key. Too literal interpretation may not be appropriate for all businesses and could detract from your brand’s professionalism.
The Fusiform Face Area (FFA), despite being a neurological concept, holds tremendous potential in shaping how we engage and connect in the B2B marketing sphere. Recognizing its power can steer the course of your digital marketing strategies towards greater authenticity and deeper relational connections.
Whether it’s through a professional profile picture on LinkedIn, a personalized video email, or face-to-face meetings over Zoom, triggering the FFA can cultivate familiarity and trust, key elements in the decision-making process.
The FFA is central to understanding our innately social nature and the importance of human connection. As marketers in B2B, industrial, and manufacturing sectors, leveraging the FFA can facilitate a more personable, trustworthy, and ultimately successful approach to building and nurturing business relationships. Consider these insights as you refine your marketing strategies, making them not just business-friendly, but brain-friendly too.
In conclusion, the fusiform face area (FFA) plays a crucial role in face recognition and emotional processing. By leveraging the FFA in B2B marketing strategies, businesses can enhance the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. Incorporating human faces in marketing materials, such as banner ads or testimonials, can command attention, foster trust, and leave memorable impressions. Face-to-face or video interactions, enabling the activation of the FFA, are key to building empathy and rapport. However, it is important to strike a balance, as excessive camera use can lead to fatigue and reduced performance. Cultural differences also influence how faces impact marketing, and understanding societal norms is essential for maximum effectiveness. By understanding and harnessing the power of the FFA, businesses can create authentic connections, build trust, and achieve success in B2B, industrial, and manufacturing sectors.
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