How Smiles Elicit Action From Consumers in Online Marketing Ads

Your Smile Matters in Online Marketing Ads

A new study revealed the impact of one’s smile in online marketing ads and crowd-funding websites.

According to Jessica Li, the head author of the study and assistant professor of marketing in the School of Business at the University of Kansas, the level of smile intensity in marketing photos influences how consumers perceive the marketer’s competence and warmth.

Li said, “We found that broad smiles lead people to be perceived as warmer but less competent.”

How about smiling slightly in profile post?

The researcher has interesting answer to this query.

Li said slight smile in online marketing ads is more perceived as more competent.

Project creators with a slight smile are perceived as more competent. More people wanted to donate to their project because they believe this competent person is able to deliver the product.”

The study by Li and her co-authors was published online recently and will be in the January issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, one of the leading journals on marketing academic research.

Your smile says a lot in online marketing ads.
Your smile says a lot in online marketing ads.

How a Smile Elicits Action From a consumer

According to the researchers, the intensity of someone’s smile in a marketing image elicits two fundamental dimensions of social judgements – warmth and competence.

Li said broader smiles that tend to elicit more warmth seem to be more effective in promotional ads. But photos with a slight smile are effective in marketing scenarios where services were higher risk, such as a medical procedure, legal representation or investment in a startup company.

If I see an ad with a heart surgeon who smiles really broadly at me, I might think she is really warm, but not choose her to be my doctor because she seems less competent than a surgeon with a slight smile.”

However, a more intense smile creates more buzz on social media. Profile photos with a broader smile received twice as many Facebook shares than someone with a slight smile. But there’ a downside attached to it.

Li explained, “It’s intuitive that if you seem to be friendly but not competent, people will want to help you in low-cost ways but not necessarily be willing to give you a lot of money.”

The Study

The researchers conducted a content analysis of postings on a crowdfunding website,, where people commonly seek donations for causes or business ventures.

Here are the results!

The researchers found out that when the page creator’s profile photo exhibited a broad smile that tended to elicit perceptions of warmth, the total amount of money pledged decreased by more than 50 percent, and the average contribution per backer was 30 percent less than when the creator’s photo included only a slight smile.

Mina Fabulous

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.