Tactic #99 - Leverage the power of visual cues such as imagery to focus attention towards your call-to-action

Tactic_Leverage the power of visual cues such as imagery to focus attention towards your call-to-action


Using clean, clear imagery is a great way to draw attention to your Call-to-Action (CTA). As in the example above, adding an additional simple visual stimulus that stands out through colour or another visual difference (shape, size etc.) will help ensure the customer's eye is drawn to the desired place.

Equally, making sure there isn't an excess of information or an overload of visual stimuli will help keep the CTA as the primary focus.


  • Von Restorff Effect (Von Restorff, 1933; Gardner, 1983; Taylor & Fiske, 1978)
  • Processing Efficacy (Jacoby & Dallas, 1981)
  • Recency Effect (Ebbinghaus, 1913; Miller & Campbell, 1959; Murdock, 1962; Glanzer & Cunitz, 1966)

The Research

Von Restorff Effect

The Von Restorff Effect (named after the psychiatrist who first studied it, Hedwig von Restorff) describes our tendency to remember things that stand out or, in other words, that we are more likely to remember the unusual. For example, in a list of words that are all written out in the same way (same size, colour, font, etc.) except for one that is notably different (for instance the only one that is in red), we will obviously notice this one and remember it more clearly. This principle can be applied to all manner of things: words, products, images, communication messages, an unexpected happening during a course of standard events, etc.

This effect manifests itself due to the contrast evoked between one element and the others which causes our brains to wake up and pay more attention, meaning that this different element will not only be noticed in the present moment but stick in our brains for longer. Von Restorff showed in her studies how our eyes and brains are constantly on the lookout for things that disrupt the norm, meaning we are constantly waiting to have our attention seized by anything out of the ordinary. This principle is also known as the Isolation, Prominence or Distinction effect as it is the very fact of being presented with an element that is at odds with everything else.

This principle is often used in the world of marketing and advertising to engage a target audience and is particularly effective in this age of multiple communication platforms. An advert that stands out from the rest (be that through its tone, visuals used, unique message, or other mode of distinction) will be noticed and remembered more clearly than those that are more similar to each other.

Processing Efficacy

Processing efficacy is based on the idea that objects differ in the fluency with which they can be processed. Our judgement of something can be dramatically altered by how fluent it seems to process it and we engage more positively with high fluency experiences. Fluent processing can be facilitated by several variables such as repeated exposure to a stimulus, aesthetic attractiveness of the object, expressions that rhyme, and so on. By contrast, low processing efficacy occurs when we find something difficult to interact with or understand and so it requires more cognitive effort and strain, which results in a negative feeling towards it.

For example, several experiments have revealed that people are more likely to react positively towards, and agree with, statements that are easier to read: the lack of cognitive strain involved with comprehending the statement results in an intrinsic positive feeling towards it and simplicity is also translated as beauty in the human mind and we often judge something we perceive to be more beautiful as more positive and truthful.

Processing efficacy has multiple applications in web-marketing, especially with regards to website design: the aesthetic attractiveness, the page speed load time or the ease of interaction of your website are all factors that will affect whether your visitors enjoy using your website and therefore engage and interact with it, complete actions, share it on social media, recommend it, etc.

Recency Effect

Recency Effect is a cognitive bias which explains the way in which we always remember first the most recent pieces of information we’ve taken in. Of course, information that we read or heard last will be most freshly inscribed on our short-term memories and so come back to us more quickly when we’re trying to remember. For example, if you ask someone to complete a list of tasks for you, they’re more likely to remember and be able to complete well the last thing on your list than those that came at the beginning or in the middle.

We also give immediate significance to the most recent pieces of information, subconsciously preferring them over anything that came before, which explains our relationship with “novelty” items. The result of this is the Novelty Effect: the way that anything new has a short-term advantage over more established things because of the very fact that we lend precedence to something simply because it is new and different. Looking at this in terms of a website perhaps, if a new function/page/tab is created, visitors are more likely to click on it or interact with it as required - and also to view it in a favourable light - simply due to the fact that it is new and is therefore inciting the “Novelty Effect”.

Many marketing strategies play up to this by updating their products regularly in order to benefit from the Recency and Novelty effects on a constant basis, one prime example being the way that Apple releases new iPhones on a regular basis, being fully aware that – even if the new model doesn’t include many different features – it will generate excitement simply because of the fact that it is new.

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