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Visualization in Marketing 💭
Make people imagine themselves using your product (or clicking your button), and they will be more likely to do so
Here’s a simple psychological trick:
Self-Reference Effect = People are more likely to act when they can vividly imagine themselves doing it. By giving them a mental preview of completing an action, like using our product, we can trigger desire.
Promoting a book? Don't just show the cover on the website — show a hand holding it. Preferably, a right hand (for 90% of humans). This simple tweak allows potential buyers to easily visualize themselves as owners.
The idea is to visualize & show what it’s like to be a user, before the acquisition.
🕹️ What should we visualize, exactly?
Here are 3 things we should always visualize in our website’s texts & images:
1. User Point of View (POV)
The user is the hero of the story, so we must visualize everything from their point of view. In practice, that means we should use a first-person perspective in our images (and not a boring screenshot or mockup):
Physical product? Show a hand holding it 🤳
Mobile app? Display a thumb interacting with the app 👍
Desktop/web app? Show a mouse cursor navigating it 💻
Very few marketers do this, yet this simple nuance is very powerful.
For example: Check out this In a Nutshell (Kurzgesagt) influencer campaign for Brilliant (GIF below). It’s 100% made of mouse cursor navigations on Brilliant’s platform, simulating as if the viewer is already using the product. I love it.
Are we showing our product from the user's perspective?
Can we add visuals that immerse the user in the action, like a cursor on our product screenshots on the website?
2. 🌱 Easiness of Action
We want people to think that completing an action is super easy.
It doesn’t matter if that action is to fill out a form, click a button, or put CC details. We can visualize the easiness of action with smart UX tweaks (removing friction) or clever copy (e.g., ‘Just 1 minute away’ / ‘Click to get instant access’).
To remove friction, we want users to feel like they're “already there”. Apple nails this by placing the buy button right within thumb's reach on iPhones.
Another trick to make it seem super easy?
Visualize the result of the action before it happens — to make people feel like they’re almost there. One way to do it is to overlay our signup form on top of a blurred / dimmed UI. This taps into the Zeigarnik effect: Incomplete tasks annoy us, so we want to unlock this UI that we cannot see.
Can we optimize the UX to eliminate any obstacles that may block or slow down the action, thereby making it feel simpler for the user?
Can we add text around the CTA to simplify the action or make it seem easier?
Can we visualize what happens right after the action to invoke a sense of “almost there” (e.g., blurred UI before and clarity after)?
3. 🖥️ Environment Simulation
The last piece of the puzzle: We should let users see themselves in the context where they'd use our product.
For example: The environment of SaaS products is usually a web browser. So instead of a simple screenshot of the software UI, we should put it inside a minimal mockup of a browser.
The trick here is to visualize the surroundings:
Web app? Show the entire browser with the tab open. 🗂️
Mac app? Display the app icon in the dock. 🖥️
Chrome extension? Show the icon in the browser extensions bar (next to the URL). ⌨️
Physical product? Show it in real-life settings like a table or next to a cup of coffee. ☕️
What does the user's environment look like when they use our product? Can we visualize it too?
Can the environment help users imagine a more satisfying life once they have our product? (Make sure the simulation is authentic here)
🧠 The psychology behind it
Visualization is a practical quick win. By allowing our audience to see themselves taking that next step, we’re setting the stage for them to actually do it. In addition to the Self-Reference Effect (which initially focuses on processing information), this trick works because of other cognitive biases, too: Ownership Bias, Endowed Progress Effect, and FOMO.
Read further research:
Remember the TL;DR of the checklist: (1) put users in the driver’s seat of the action, (2) make it seem effortless, and (3) create an atmosphere that feels real.
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P.S. It’s generally a good idea to leverage every little detail of the customer experience for visualization. As an example, take a look at the menu of this pizza restaurant.
See you next Friday ✌️