Smiling happy faces are fairly common in the marketing context, like an unspoken consensus among marketers. Of course, it seems like the most obvious thing to do; you want the person associated with your product to at least look like they're enjoying it, right?
But, is there more to it? What is the science behind the smile? Or, is it as simple as the audience responding to it subconsciously in the hopes of becoming more like the person in the picture?
Why Does The Smile Sell?
The appeal of a smile works, because of a phenomenon known as emotional contagion. In healthy bodied people, our mirror neurons work when we're exposed to a recognizable facial expression. If that facial expression is happy, our mirror neurons make us brighten up automatically.
It works, because we simply feel better when we see other people happy That's how we're wired. Therefore, a smile on a models face has the ability to ignite consumer joy and improve our attitude.
Genuine vs Fake Smiles
Unsurprisingly, smiles can be broken down into genuine and fake.
This distinction has been of interest to researchers for quite some time. In fact, the genuine smile has a name. It's called the "Duchenne smile", named after French physician Guillaume Duchenne, who studied facial expressions in the nineteenth century.
The Duchenne smile involves voluntary and involuntary contractions of the zygomatic major (raising the corners of the mouth) and the orbicularis oculi (raising the cheeks and producing crow's feet around the eyes).
A fake smile, on the other hand, involves the contraction of the zygomatic major only since we cannot voluntarily contract the orbicularis oculi muscle.
Do Duchenne Smiles Matter In Marketing?
Good question. A recent eye-tracking study examined whether the Duchenne smile really mattered; specifically on e-commerce sites. This study investigated the effect of a model’s smile type and intensity on consumers’ attention and purchase intention.
A 2 (Duchenne smile vs. fake smile) × 2 (smile intensity high vs. low) eye-tracking experiment was conducted to collect data on the eye movements of female participants and their purchase intentions.
Results showed that the product paired with a Duchenne smile drew more attention from the participants with stronger purchase intentions than a non-Duchenne smile. In addition, smile intensity moderated the effects of smile type on the participants’ attention to the product picture and description.
Specifically, when the smile intensity was low, a Duchenne smile drew more attention to the product picture and description than a non-Duchenne smile did. However, the effect was reversed for a smile with strong intensity.
Conclusion: Some Key Takeaways For Brands
A smile is a powerful and incredibly simple tool to include in your advertising arsenal. With a proven track record, a smiling face has the ability to enhance consumer joy and increase brand appeal.
Every emotion we see is contagious (thanks to mirror neurons) so make sure that when experimenting with emotional advertising, you do so cautiously.
Work on advertising your brand's "true" smile. A Duchenne smile has proven to be more effective. Use models who are smiling with their whole face and that are experiencing the emotions you are trying to convey, otherwise the smile may have an undesired effect.
If you are concerned whether your advertisements are eliciting the desired results, consider acquiring the services of a Neuromarketing team like Neural Sense. By gathering biometric data from Electroencephalography systems, Eye-Tracking technologies and Facial Coding software, they can help you build more effective advertising campaigns with proven results. If you’re interested in such services, get in touch.