IC Inspire #3: Persuasive Design & Sexy Chocolate

Image for IC Inspire #3: Persuasive Design & Sexy Chocolate
BurritoJoe makes his own burrito bowl.

On Friday, January 31, 2014, the IC team gathered around the tables upstairs and via Adobe Fuze Meeting (for those attending remotely) for our third Inspire Session titled, “Your Website Should Look Like Sex and Smell Like Chocolate”.  With a title like that, it wasn’t hard to pack the house. The build-your-own-burrito-bowl station from Chipotle didn’t hurt either.

This inspire session was the brain baby of Victor Yocco from the research team and Morgan Knepper from the design team. Victor brought together research on the art of persuasive design and communication, related to his dissertation work from back in his days at The Ohio State University, along with Morgan’s on-the-ground design sense. The workshop they created was awesome – and definitely inspiring.

Dr. Yocco laying down some knowledge.

Dr. Yocco took us through the paces of some research and frameworks for thinking about how we persuade people through design. We learned that it only takes 50 milliseconds for users to form an impression of your website/digital experience.1 50 milliseconds, people. In those first 50 milliseconds, we have the opportunity to draw our audiences in or watch them go somewhere else.

At its core, persuasion in design is the way we transmit messages through digital experience to either change people’s attitudes and resulting behaviors (e.g. gain trust in a company or product and become more likely to use it or buy something) or reinforce existing attitudes and behaviors (e.g. keep you coming back for more). An important distinction that was made during the workshop is that persuasion is not coercion. Tricking someone into buying or doing something they really wouldn’t want to do is not particularly ethical nor is it the kind of persuasion we’re interested in.

The very tenets of user-centered design (what we do best here at IC) align with persuasion theory. You need to know your users, design for their values and interests, and understand their context. With that in mind, we moved on to the fun part – designing things!

Group work!

Our task was simple: Victor and Morgan challenged us to design a chocolate bar wrapper for a fake company called Sexy Chocolate Bar Company that would persuade specific target audiences. Each team pulled a target audience out of a bowl. We were asked to consider the following questions in order to start thinking about how we might persuade this audience to buy our chocolate bar:

  • What does your target population value or find important?
  • What are some interests and hobbies of your target population?
  • What motivates their purchasing behaviors?
  • What are some challenges you face in persuading your target population to purchase chocolate bars?
  • What are some strategies you might consider to persuade your target population to purchase chocolate bars?

We had 20 minutes to consider these questions and design our chocolate bars. I think they are pretty persuasive, don’t you? Check ‘em out:

1) Target Audience: Men in their 50s who are addicted to gambling.

The Get Lucky Bar appeals to the dark side of this target audience’s addictions. Each chocolate bar is laced with Trump points. There’s a winner every time, but there’s always the possibility of getting more points. The shiny gold wrapper is eye catching and the group imagined potentially selling the chocolate bars in old cigarette machines to add to the thrill of not knowing exactly what you’ll get.

2) Target audience: The kids from Breakfast Club

This chocolate bar emulates the target audience’s interests and values of individuality, anti-establishment, and creative expression. Anything mainstream is consider childish to this audience. This chocolate bar sells with simplicity and snakiness.

3) Target audience: Aliens from Mars

This chocolate bar appeals to this target audience’s interests in travel, shiny things, David Bowie, and cats (a la ALF). The biggest challenge in persuading this audience to purchase chocolate bars is that they may not even be aware of what chocolate bars are. So, the shinier the better in that case.

4) Target audience: Elderly cat ladies who love knitting

This chocolate bar appeals to heritage and tradition with its motif of doilies and crocheted granny squares. The bar emphasizes the importance of chocolate that is “soft going in and soft going out” (those were Tim’s words not mine) with the addition of Metamucil.

1 Lindgaard, G., Fernandes, G., Dudek, C., & Brown, J. (2006). Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression! Behavior & Information Technology 25 (2), 115-126.

About the Author

Image of Jes Koepfler

Jes Koepfler

Managing Director

Jes has a love for studying humans and their tools. More