Beauty is in the eyes of the beerholder.
166 million daily users, on average. Hard to believe that Snapchat is only 4 years old. No need to say that one of the ingredients of that spectacular growth are their popular filters.
So I asked myself: what make Snapchat filters so special ?
It’s not about the flower crown. Filters are funny OK, but a lot of other apps are funny and don’t stick as a habit. It goes deeper than that.
Actually, Instagram already allowed people to play with their filters. They definitely make the world looks more beautiful. But Snapchat came into the game, and went even further .. by playing on people’s faces, in a way that they enhance girls attractiveness.
Their feat is all about melting Augmented Reality with Neuroscience. To understand that mecanism, lets dive into our genetics :
Wired to follow rules
Nikolaas Tinbergen was a dutch biologist, Nobel prize of Physiology. He studied animal behavior for years and made some interesting discoveries. Some of them became the foundations of behavioural psychology.
In his book The study of Instinct (1951), he tried to control animal behavior by playing on visual stimulus. The experience called Supernormal stimulus speaks for itself :
- He placed false eggs that ressembled Herring Hull’s ones but way bigger than average. The marking was exagerrated (marks are a sign of healthiness for the mother). As a result, the bird forgot her own eggs and gave all her attention to the false one.
- Nikolaas constructed false females dummy butterflies. Painted with brighter colours and more defined markings than usual. The males would always select the false ones to mate with, in preference to real females.
Nowadays, the science of playing with animal visual instincts is known as Neuroesthetics. And if it works on other animals, it works on us. We follow the rules of our own genetic system.
We like them BIG
I talked about girls attractiveness, remember ? Its not that women are not selective. Actually its the opposite. But cool fact, they consider physical traits less important. As they value others aspects like social skills for example. ;)
So what about men ?
The ideal face of an attractive woman, according to experiments, has high cheek bones, big eyes and a thin jaw. Males usually select features that are characteristic of a woman of 24 years. It is related to the perceived age of optimal fertility.
Some men prefer even younger proportions, because these child-like faces stimulate emotions of caring and protection. These emotions seem to be more significant than sexual urges and procreation in some men. If you want to go further, check Neuoteny principles: the evolutionary mecanism behind why we like and trust baby faces.
When it comes to body proportions, most men usually like big breasts and hips (surprised ?). Estrogen, the hormone associated with female fertility, encourages fat deposits in that parts of the body. Good for survival, back then.
Now lets get back to Snapchat. How can filters make you more attractive ?
- Eyes: The filters make your eyes bigger. Because eyes convey information. Big baby-like eyes suggest spontaneity, innocence, vulnerability. The white part of the eyes communicates trust. But this criterias apply mostly for men. Indeed, women can prefer small eyes as a mark of maturity.
- Cheeks: Same principle, Snapchat colours them slightly in pink. On the other hand, women don’t seem to like underdeveloped, baby-like jaws and chins. “Jaws convey age, but also strength,” studies says. It signals that a man has gone through puberty.
- Lips: You can see how pink women lips are on filters, compared to their skin, made clearer and brighter. It enhances the contrast to make sure you cannot miss it.
- Nose: the filter try to enhance its shape while making it appear thinner. This may be more cultural, and related to the occidental “ideal of beauty”.
Snapchat creates a more pleasant face of girls using Augmented Reality. It is an innovation, nobody did that before using that technology. And it definitely works as girls seem to LOVE that filters. Thats said, guys too ..
We live in a world full of temptations, some of us know the rules, consciously or not, and try to take advantage of it.
This mecanism works thanks to something that happens in evolution, called Fisherian runaway selection. It suggests that, when one sex prefers mates with certain genetic traits, then, through the process of sexual selection, the other sex will come to possess the trait in increasingly exaggerated forms.
Applied to Marketing
The same rules, applied to other markets can lead to junk food’s creation (we naturally crave for sugar and salt). And it explains why porn is so effective. There is a funny passage of Kurt Vonnegut novel, where a man shows another man a photo of a woman in a bikini:
— “Like that Harry? That girl there.”
— “That’s not a girl. That’s a piece of paper.”
With bad intentions, it can be used to drive addictive, unhealthy behaviours. But always keep in mind that Marketing is a tool, not an end. Up to you to sell purposeful products. I’m not trying to change the world but explain it.
Now, how can you apply this insights to your own products ?
Our principal sense is vision. That’s why UX designers are, in a sense, also marketers. For example take a look at what Photoshop can do to our perception of a girl’s attractiveness :
Why playing with attractiveness to sell a product if it has nothing to do with the porn industry ? You may ask. Let’s be brutally honest: customer don’t care about you. They don’t care about your product. They care about themselves. Sounds legit.
That’s why, as a marketer I don’t sell the features of my product. I only sell its benefits. In other words, I’m always trying to make the customer picture a better version of himself. For that reason, ads often show beautiful or famous people. To sell a story, a dream.
But I’m not telling you to show beautiful people on your ads. Definitely not. When you think about choosing the good visuals, these are some practical insights you can take :
- Show faces in your advertisings. Happy faces enjoying the experience your product provides. Make people picture themselves in that moment. It is not all about sex here, but about captivating the attention. Its subtile.
- Look especially at the eyes. When we look at a face, we always try to look at the same direction of its eyes. You can, for example, make it look at a defined direction to give more importance to a certain part of your ad.
- Play with the attractiveness of the person in your photography in function of who you are selling to. Think about the tiny, medium-sized breasts of Victoria Secret’s models. Now compare them to the ones in car exhibitions or beer advertisements ..
- This is not an exhaustive list. If you got other ideas, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to discuss them with you :)
Talking about beers.. drunk guys tends to be an easier target for that type of “hormonal content”. No need to explain why, now you know the rules:
Beauty is in the eyes of the beerholder ;)
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Thanks for reading !