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Dr. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA, is best known for his 7%-38%-55% Rule. It states that 55% of communication is attributable to non-verbal behaviors like body language and facial expressions; 38% of communication is attributable to voice, including volume, tone, pitch, cadence, and quality; and only 7% of communication is attributable to the words used.

Despite persuasive evidence, companies continue to pile on the Web text in the vain hope that search engines will index it and someone might actually read it, even though the reality is that 70% of Web site visitors merely scan for headlines, bulleted points, and captions.

Instead, the most effective way to deliver a marketing message is a Web video using a professional performer who knows how to use his or her voice, expression, and body language to drive the point home.

"But Wait, There's More …"

I have noticed a proliferation on the Web of the sad-old direct marketing formula that you see in sales pitches for magazine subscriptions. Can you really expect people to take you seriously when you adopt this Barnum and Bailey approach to marketing?

It is a formula that flies in the face of Dr. Mehrabian's research and every other usability study that warns against over-burdening Web site visitors with too much text. Your search engine optimizer may think it's great for driving traffic to your landing page, but I'll bet if you check your logs, 50% of that traffic disappears in under five seconds.

This format is an outdated sales technique that doesn't work in a Web environment, where people find it difficult to read large amounts of text. It is also a tactic that insults your customer's intelligence.

A Red Flag Marketing Formula

If ever there were a red flag telling people to stay away from your company, it's a Web site presentation that includes the following:

  • Huge bold headlines
  • Copious amounts of text
  • Bright yellow highlighted key phrases
  • Photos of smiling semi-ugly customers
  • Photos of smiling semi-pretty nonexistent staff
  • Lots of useless free crap
  • Loads of bulleted points with big red check marks
  • Numerous testimonials on pale yellow backgrounds and quotations in Courier with more bad photographs
  • More extra bold, underlined, red text
  • The phrase "But Wait, There's More" offering more useless free e-books you'll never read and special bonus gifts you don't want or need
  • Lots of "Click Here To Order" buttons
  • And, finally, the price buried at the bottom of over 4,689 words

The entire presentation could be made in two minutes using a cost effective video delivered by a professional, but that wouldn't be search engine friendly, would it? Never mind that it's the best way to sell your product or service.

Reducing Video Load Times

Which brings me to the issue of load times. We all know that video and audio files take longer to load than text; however, there are many ways that load times can be reduced and kept to a minimum:

  1. Adjust the size of the video.
  2. Choose an alternative codex to compress the file.
  3. Design your presentation with simple, minimalist backgrounds so the number of pixels that change from frame to frame are reduced.
  4. Decrease the frame rate.
  5. Alter the audio settings.
  6. Adjust the amount of video that is preloaded.

We also know that there is a class of Web surfer who will not wait for videos to load. This is a fact of life, I admit it, but from a marketing and sales perspective it really doesn't matter.

Here's why: Web sites visitors who will not wait a reasonable amount of time for a presentation to load will also not read your copious amounts of text. The reason is simple: They are not motivated enough by what you sell, and if they aren't motivated they're not potential customers.

If They Aren't Motivated, They're Not Customers

Two things motivate all potential customers: a feeling of dissatisfaction, and a desire for change. All good advertising creates a focused storyline with a singular message that stirs the emotional dissatisfaction in the audience and offers a solution that will initiate change.

Thank goodness people are insatiable for what's new and improved. We are a species motivated to constantly strive for more: more money, more power, more success, more stuff; and when we have more stuff, we want better stuff. We are in a constant state of desire. The advertiser's job is to access that desire and push that motivational button so that the audience takes action.

The Law of Dissatisfaction

The job of advertisers is to create dissatisfaction in its audience. If people are happy with how they look, they are not going to buy cosmetics or diet books; if people are happy with their old 20-inch tube television, they are not going to buy a sixty-inch LCD flat-screen TV. If people are happy with who they are, where they are in life, and what they got, they just aren't customer potential—that is, unless you make them unhappy.

Most cosmetic advertisements feature beautiful woman, igniting the promise that you too can look like a drop-dead glorious model if only you use the product. This approach is based on showing an ideal that the audience will undoubtedly be unable to stack up against. The audience, after seeing what they could look like, is no longer happy with what they do look like, and they are now motivated to buy into the promise of change.

The Psychology of Contrary Thinking

Anyone who is interested in marketing and the Web is most likely aware of the brilliant Dove Self-Esteem campaign. For those who want to excise all video from the Web in favor of search engine optimization tactics to drive traffic, it should be noted that the original Dove Web-video has been viewed by over 3.3 million viewers and has driven huge numbers of traffic to the Dove Web site, not to mention an incredible amount of free publicity.

On the surface it may seem that the Dove campaign is an example of the opposite of the law of dissatisfaction. The series of campaign videos show real people with all their flaws and the message that people should be happy with who they are, and how they look. But what's the real underlying message of advertising videos that show slightly overweight, somewhat wrinkled, and aging women?

If ever there was a case of reverse psychology, this is it. Women may initially be attracted by the sentiment expressed, and it certainly generated a lot of media coverage, but when all is said and done, women will look at these ads and say, "Hell no, I don't want to be fat, wrinkled and old, and I'm going to do whatever I can to avoid it."

Dove has masterfully managed to create a positive campaign that still remains true to the law of dissatisfaction. Whether that was Dove's intent doesn't matter: The psychology of contrary thinking works.

Creating Successful Dissatisfaction

To implement a Web-video marketing campaign that motivates action, you must present a storyline that accesses the emotional and psychological subtext of desire. Your campaign is based on this defining underlying message.

To create this underlying communication, we must first decide at whom the campaign is aimed. We each have a self image; in fact, we each have four self-images. We must figure out which self our product or service serves:

  1. The Public Self is the self we present to the world. If we sell high-priced luxury goods or services that appeal to status, we are probably aiming our presentation at the public self, the one we display to others.
  2. The Private Self is the self we hide from the world. If we sell a hidden-pleasure product or service, we should probably direct our presentation to the private self, the one we keep locked away and hidden.
  3. The Ideal Self defines who we wish we were. If we sell a self-improvement or motivational product or service, we want to access the ideal self, the self we desperately wish to become.
  4. And the Actual Self defines who we really are. If we sell a product or service that justifies our real behavior, then it's the actual self we want to target.

The dissatisfaction we are accessing may be active or inactive:

  • Active dissatisfaction—like having acne, being overweight, or worrying about a dysfunctional Web site—is a concern that the audience is aware of.
  • Inactive dissatisfaction like halitosis, body odor, or ineffective marketing is a problem that the audience is unaware of.

To what degrees is our audience able to acknowledge a problem exists even after we make it active? Do our audience members acknowledge they are overweight, have halitosis, or need a new marketing strategy or do they deny or fail to recognize the existence of the problem?

Next we need to decide whether the essence of dissatisfaction is general or specific. Will our audience accept with any solution that comes along, or does satisfaction depend on fulfilling a specific requirement.

Last, we must determine whether the dissatisfaction is based on a desire for something or on the avoidance of something. We may desire an exotic sports car to show off our wealth and status to friends and colleagues, or we may avoid driving a flashy car no matter how rich we are to avoid showing up our friends and colleagues.

Once we have analyzed the nature of our audience's dissatisfaction and the ability of our product or service to effect change, we can create an effective Web-video marketing campaign. If your Web site content doesn't connect with your audience's desire for change, if you're Web site traffic is not motivated by dissatisfaction, then that traffic is just congestion, not prospects. 

Continue reading "The Law of Dissatisfaction: How to Motivate Prospects (or the 7%-38%-55% Rule)" ... Read the full article

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Jerry Bader is senior partner in MRPwebmedia (, a website-design firm that specializes in Web audio and video. Contact him via or (905) 764-1246.