How congruence impacts conversion

An ad that always grabs my attention when flicking through in-flight magazines is one for men’s elevator shoes.

While I am not their target market I always find myself looking twice. Why? Partly because it’s like one of those ‘spot the difference’ cartoons, where the pictures are similar at a glance but then different the more you look. But more importantly, it’s because theirs is an example of a cleverly congruent communication.

Engaging the customer

Recognising that some men may feel embarrassed, this ad uses a few techniques to de-stigmatise the purchase of shoes with lifts. To start with, the models look directly at the reader, engaging them but also inferring that there is no shame in wearing elevator shoes. Further, they normalise the shoes by citing the 50,000 men who already use them and demonstrate how the hidden heel means it looks like a regular shoe so no one will ever know.

Bri Williams 4 June

But what I most love is the height scale they use. The model’s “before” height is a rather tall 185cm (6’1), with his “after” clocking in at a towering 191cm (6’3). Two things about this. First, they are suggesting that elevator shoes are not just for shorter men, thereby removing any stigma about their purchase. Shorter guys don’t have to feel that they are buying the shoes because they are short, in other words.

Second, notice how the model’s head is breaking through the blue height line? This signals that he is now so tall and wonderful that he cannot be contained by average measurement. Furthermore, the models are positioned closer to the top than the bottom of the page, again supporting the inference of height.

This ad is a great reminder of how visual design needs to be congruent with the substance of your message. To sell a product that makes you look tall, you need to represent tall!

Make your message congruent

The ease with which your customer relates the story you are trying to tell with how you tell it can have a significant impact on your conversion. Known as the size-congruency effect, researchers across a range of domains have tested how elements such as font size and word placement change recall and comprehension. For example:

  • In one study, price markdowns where the original price was represented in a larger font than the discounted value outperformed ads where the original price was smaller. Why? The discounted price was literally smaller than the original;
  • In another, people were asked whether particular words were related. Swapping the vertical position of the words “attic” and “basement” so they were no longer congruent caused people to be slower in their processing of the task; and
  • Faster responses have also been received when powerful words are written in larger rather than smaller font.

How does size-congruency look in the real world? Here’s an example of two financial institutions trying to market low interest rates. The one on the right with the smaller font will have much more luck engaging its audience because the image, font and rate are sending the same message.

Bri Williams 4 June image 2

The upshot is when it comes to the visual design of your ad, collateral or website, size-congruency means being deliberate about where things are positioned and on what scale. Make the message congruent and you vastly improve your odds of success.

NOW READ: Four easy behavioural techniques to apply to your pricing


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