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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

sex…Sex…SEX! Now I Have Your Attention.

17 Feb 2009

written by Karlyn Borysenko

sex…Sex…SEX!  Now I Have Your Attention.

A while back I did a book review of the book Neuromarketing, a great book about how our brains process information, and how marketers can use that knowledge to hone their strategy and their message.  Last week, I was turned on (no pun intended) to a book that brought these concepts to the web.  Neuro Web Design takes Neuromarketing one step further by discussing psychological concepts, which can then be applied to your website.  It’s a fascinating (and quick!) read that I recommend for anyone working on the web in any capacity.

9780321603609 232x300 sex...Sex...SEX!  Now I Have Your Attention.The book starts off by discussing the three different brains:

  1. The old brain – Concerned with survival.  Appeal to it by indicating danger, food or sex.
  2. The mid brain – Where emotions are processed.  The root of impulse buying.
  3. The new brain – Where language is processed.

These distinctions are important, since the only part of the brain that we are conscious of at any given moment is the new brain.

“The estimate from neuroscientists is that our five senses are taking in 11 million pieces of information every second.  And how many of those are we processing consciously?  A mere 40!”

This means that, while we think we make decisions based on careful thought, most decisions actually come from the unconscious.  Here are some of the ways that you can subconsciously reach to your audience by appealing to the old and mid brain:

  • Use the word “you” – The old brain is all about YOU and will unconsciously tell YOU that a school is better for YOU if that school’s website uses the word YOU more on its pages than its competitors.
  • Use hot people – Since one of the major things our old brain is concerned with is our ability to reproduce, even subtle implications of sex can grab our attention.  Think about this when you’re selecting the photos for your website.  Which is going to help you more – a picture of the library or a picture of a hot girl walking out of the library?  Attractiveness also bleeds over into the product the person is associated with, meaning in this case that the hot girl is going to be associated with the library, which means the library is going to be more appealing to your user than if it were just a picture of the building alone.
  • Use people like your audience - People are more likely to buy from people who are “like them”, so you have to make sure you know your audience and feature imagery on your site of people that look and dress like them.  You can also use this if you feature reviews or comments on your site – people need social validation, and that validation will be even stronger if it comes from “people like them”.  Have your users fill in a few optional fields when they submit their review, like what type of user they are, how frequently they use the product, their occupation and gender and display that info alongside their comments.
  • Give things away for free, no strings attached – When we’re given something, we feel an emotional need to pay that gift back.  You can encourage people to purchase your product by offering free shipping on everything (ala Zappos).  What can you offer your users to make them feel indebted to your institution?
  • Scarcity makes a difference – If something is limited or hard to come by, we automatically want it more.  Are you having an event on campus and want to encourage online registrations for it?  Consider putting a sentence on your website about the limited number of seats available.  Better yet, say there are only one or two slots left.  That makes it more valuable and increases the likelihood of your users registering since (as far as they are concerned), they might not be able to tomorrow.
  • Limit Choices - People like to think that they want a lot of choices, but the truth is they clam up when they have too many.  Don’t overwhelm your users with options or you’ll risk driving them away from your site entirely.
  • Order matters - If you want your users to visit a specific page on your site, list it first.  I can’t tell you how many admissions pages have “Meet the Staff” listed as one of the first links in their navigation – is that REALLY the more important thing you want your users clicking on? Even more important than, say, APPLY ONLINE?

The book is filled with all this and more.  It should be on every web (and marketing) person’s required reading list.

The content of this post is licensed: The post is released under a Creative Commons by-nc-nd 3.0 license


About the author

Karlyn Borysenko

Karlyn is loving life as the marketing manager for Eduventures and as a staff writer for .eduGuru. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Boston University, a Master of Business Administration from Norwich University, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Psychology from Capella University.

To quote a friend of hers: "Karlyn is a super rad ninja marketing genius who will make your target demographic submit to your every whim through sheer willpower. Oh, and she's smarter than you."  We're not sure about the smarter part, but "super rad ninja" is true enough.

Compulsory disclaimer: The views expressed in Karlyn's posts are hers and hers alone, and do not represent those of anyone she earns a paycheck from. Yes, it's true - the girl has a mind of her own. 

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This post was written by - who has written 60 posts on .eduGuru


  • http://universitiesandcolleges.org John

    Very interesting overview. I guess I was never conscious of it, but after reading this I can easily see how those factors trigger instant engagement with content. Guess it’s biological…

  • Mike Henderson

    Thanks Karlyn,

    I was looking for an article like this last week to justify some I the things I was suggesting on marketing ideas.

  • http://insidetimshead.wordpress.com TimN

    Oh sure … you couldn’t have recommended this closer to Christmas or my birthday? But seriously, it sounds great. Many thanks!

  • http://highered.prblogs.org/ Andrew Careaga

    Sounds like a good read. Anyone interested in the subjects of neuroscience, evolutionary psychology and music, I highly recommend you read “This Is Your Brain on Music,” by Daniel Levitin. It won’t stop those annoying songs from sticking in your head, but it will help you better understand why. And if you’re a Ramones fan, this book will help you understand that the lyric “Now I guess I’ll have to tell ‘em/that I’ve got no cerebellum,” while clever, is scientifically incorrect.

  • http://jesskrywosa.wordpress.com Jess

    Great post! Love the quick tips and take-aways from the book. Sounds like a good one to pick up.

  • http://rush.edu/ Chicago hospital

    Excellent post! Neuro Web Design definitely looks like a book everyone, especially marketers, should read.

    In regards to using subtle implications of sex, YOU (learning already!) must make sure that the implication is in fact subtle. “Sex sells” web design strategies can bring your traffic up temporarily but your conversion rates will suffer. Market to your target market and not to get mass attention.

  • http://www.karlynmorissette.com Karlyn

    I think that’s a really good point, about making sure your implications of sex are subtle. For me, it’s as simple has making sure photos contain pictures of attractive (but realistic looking) people so that the implication is that sex is available.

  • http://www.colewire.com/ High Temperature Wire

    Now, there isn’t a coincidence between these strategies and your choice of avatar is there?

  • http://www.karlynmorissette.com Karlyn

    hahaha! i wish i had been that strategic. my avatar is one of the few pictures out there of me that i actually like :-)

  • http://howardkang.com Howard

    Sounds interesting. Definitely have to look into this!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/Pay-Per-Click-Programs1 Rico

    Never heard of that book.

    Will put it on my Amazon ‘wish list.’

    Awesome find…

  • http://wilhb81ez.blogspot.com wilhb81

    WoW, I loved your article, Karyn. You’ve speaking straight to the points! By the way, I’m agreed that no one will ever resist free stuffs, as long as it doesn’t has any additional cost!

  • http://www.agramycity.com The Agra Indian

    If you are selling a physical product, free shipping is a very good idea and trusts me it works. It doesn’t mean that you are making a loss for you, if you want you can take this money from the same customer but there should be a different way, and that too should not bother you customer.

  • http://loversheartsuk.blogspot.com digitalproevolution

    geat reading karlyn intresting indeed looks like anouther book i must read the great thing is that this is a great knowlage to have if you ever plan on providing information to a audience young and old

  • http://www.myfreakbook.com freakbook

    Yes, thats right, sex does grab peoples attention, hence the success of online porno and dating lol!

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