Peacocking your marketplace (how to harness the science of attraction)

Written by Simon Jack (guest contributor)

If you’re anything like me (which I hope you’re not for your sake), you’ve probably dabbled in a bit of peacocking at some point in your life. Here’s me dressed as Batman.


This is the definition of peacocking:

Like a male peacock uses its feathers to attract a mate, peacocking involves dressing and behaving in an over-the-top and flashy manner, for the purpose of attracting someone.

But is that the real reason male peacocks are so attractive to their lady peahens?

Face Facts

The peacocks’s real secret is the eyes. All those eye-like patterns adorning the tail are practically screaming “LOOK AT ME!”. 

Eyes are our first focal point. They are how we connect with other human beings. 

That means eyes can also be used to direct your attention. If they are looking at something, you’re going to be curious. The marketing translation of this = if you want to draw attention to something important, show someone staring right at it.

Side note: I discovered this trick a number of years ago. You know those situations where you are passing someone in the street but you don’t know which direction each of you is going to go- left or right? Then you end up doing some kind of funny dance. You can avoid stranger-bumping entirely just by looking pointedly in the direction you are going. Your intent is then clearly signalled, cueing them up for a sidestep in the opposite direction. So rather becoming a pawn of the pavement, step up to become King. Checkmate you wayward pedestrians! 

Zooming out from the eyes and we move the entire face into focus. Facial expressions speak volumes. We take these cues very much on board. Facial expressions in marketing should match how you want to feel. 

Imagine if you swapped the faces around in these two following ads. My desire to become a smouldering, pungent aroma’d sex god wouldn’t quite ignite. Likewise, never should I have to think about enjoying my holiday with such intense puzzlement.


We’re not talking about just matching emotions in people. Cars have faces too. Think about it; it doesn’t take much imagination to see the headlights are eyes and the grill is a nice wide mouth. As the eyes become more narrow and the mouth opens into a grimace, the angrier the car becomes. It’s the alpha dog on the road, with the driver at the reins of the beast.

Let’s play a game. Guess which person would drive which car…


We often choose a car (and a whole multitude of products and services) that outwardly reflects our inner personality. Don’t believe me? Then every car on the road would be completely practical and economical. But cars bring out the emotions in us. We make choices and act in ways that make us feel better about ourselves. This is our ego buckled-up in the driving seat.

You know what else has a face? A clock. Now surely a clock has no emotion? Well, prepare yourself for the 10.08 rule of advertising. 

Whenever you see an ad for a clock, you’d be hard pushed to find one that doesn’t have hands in and around the 10.08 position (or around 1.50).


Why? Well, this clock is a smiley face. It’s little cues like this that enter our subconscious pattern recognition and trigger a more positive response. Who in their right mind would want to buy a frowny-face clock!?

Side note (again): As I write this, I glance across at the time and realise it’s 8.20am. Obviously my clock is showing me it’s not a morning person either.

Some advertisers however, take this rule as gospel. HTC even seem to be literally stuck in time...


You Get What You Project

If you want people to feel downbeat and distressed, by all means go ahead. All you need to do is  focus on the negative aspects of what you do and bog people down in the reality of problems that haunt them.

Remember people act in ways that make them feel better about themselves. And they feel even better when they can share that feeling by passing it on to others. Be positive and the message will spread far easier.

There’s always a positive angle you can find. See problems as opportunities and you’ll be able to pass that mindset on and make people feel the anticipation of new possibilities.

Just think about the emotions brands like Nike,Disney and Apple portray. They want to help you focus on being happy and achieving awesome things. They fired Negative Nancy from their marketing department a long time ago.

Which leads us on to something that gets touted about all the time. Storytelling.

The truth of storytelling for business is that people want to be the hero. They aren’t really interested in your story unless they see how it affects them. 

An effective story makes it real for someone, not just an abstract experience. It’s a scenario that enables someone to put themselves in the picture and imagine how it feels. When our minds are influenced by a story, our behaviours change in accordance.

Now here’s some neuroscience to make your storytelling even more powerful. It’s a fancy phrase called mimetic desire (mimetic simply coming from the word mimic). In simple terms it means we only really desire what other people have. We’ve all been there. As a kid we might have complete and utter disinterest in a toy, until that is, we see another kid start playing with it. In the blink of an eye, the toy then becomes our preeeeciiiiouussss.

When we see someone else performing an action in a way that makes us feel good, our brains release oxytocin, often dubbed the ‘trust hormone’. Don't just take my word for it. Let me hand over to Rick and Morty to explain more...

Therefore, by showing people taking actions in a story, you are basically hacking into people’s herding mentality and encouraging them to take the same action.

This is also why it’s important to consider who is communicating the message. We are only going to form this sense of trust if the person we are observing is on our same level and share our sense of identity. You always know when celebs endorse products just for the money and not because they really share the values. An apology from a CEO is going to be trusted far more than that of the PR person. And imagine instead of a respected world leader giving the keynote at the conference, you get Donald Trump.

Don’t forget design and presentation in how you get your message across… ever. Design is the outward reflection of your inner qualities and personality. It’s the basis of how people buy into what you’ve got to offer.

Take supermarket value ranges as an example. Tesco used to be all red, white and blue. Morissons bright yellow. Basically if you’re shopping in their stores on a budget, you’re broadcasting this to your fellow shoppers. 


Both supermarkets realised this and took steps to give a much more diversified and friendly look, whilst still signalling value i.e. much less of the ‘pikey’ vibe!


So even if you’re cheap, you can still really up the ante on cheerful.

The Desire Equation

Desire = what could be - what is now

The bigger the difference between the current situation and the attractive future you can paint, the bigger the desire.

This stops thinking getting bogged down in the functional here and now and makes an emotional connection to what could be. As soon as our minds can recognise a better future, we are going to be compelled to understand how to get there.

Even the most mundane of objects can be desirable.

Take door handles. A door handle is a very functional object. It’s a metal lever. How can you make this desirable?

Well, it’s not about what it does, but why you would want it (beyond the ability to pass from one room to another of course). A door handle can be seen as an object of sculpture. It’s something that everyone will encounter when they see your home. It’s the interface between you and how you and others move around in your space. Therefore, surely it’s one of the most important style choices you can make in your home?!

I may not have given much though to my door handles before, but now I’m scanning the room wondering how I’ve existing living in such a utilitarian environment (ok bit over the top?).

But the same applies to everything. Go beyond function and find the emotion. It’s the product of the product, not the item itself which is where desire can be found.

A final point to ponder… I wonder if it’s any coincidence that door handles all too often resemble faces???