What Newt Gingrich’s Website Can Teach You About Influence

Not too long ago I noticed something intriguing about the State of the Union speech. For the second year in a row the Republicans and Democrats were spread throughout the room together instead of split to opposing sides of the room. I posted:

 

You have to admit, that’s pretty clever. It made wonder what other ways each of the candidates were utilizing similar strategies, if any, to build their own campaign momentum and establish their brands.

During the 2012 Republican Presidential Primaries and Presidential election I will break down the web branding for Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Barack Obama.

I will only focus on the brand psychology, color theory, and nonverbal communication techniques being used on his website. If you would like to know about his political beliefs, please visit his website.

Newt.org – 2012 Campaign

First impression: A very traditional, conservative approach to web design. It’s easy to navigate.

Main colors: Dark Blue (trust) and Red (power)

Let’s dig deeper and break down the psychology of his website’s design.

Section 1: Hero Image

Studies show that the first things we analyze are facial features. So, focus is naturally drawn to Newt. Instinctively, we see that his eyes are focused on something to the right side of our screen. This makes us subconsciously follow his gaze; which leads us to the main call to action buttons (which I break down in Section 2).

Also note that his much smaller photograph, located just below Section 1, is looking in the same direction. That doesn’t happen by chance.

A single exposure to the American flag shifts support toward Republicanism.

His featured image represents two-thirds of the main content area of his landing page, falling in line with the golden ratio in web design, but he himself only covers about 30% of that image.

In the background a strong presence of the American flag. Which may seem commonplace to you for a Presidential candidate, but it’s actually much more psychological than that.

According to a study done by Travis J. Carter at the Center for Decision Research, a single exposure to the American flag shifts support toward Republicanism up to 8 months later.

Seem unreasonable and far-fetched? Take a moment to click on the thumbnail of Barack Obama’s website.

Look how small the flag is. If you’re not looking for it, it’s pretty easy to miss. Coincidence?

Ok, back to Newt’s website. Back to his photograph.

Look at the perspective of the photograph itself. He is above the assumed eye-level of the audience and by implication, us. But he isn’t looking down on us.

He stands broad-shouldered with open palms and arms outward from his body. The direction of his arms are pulling focus to his vital organs: the heart, and his stomach. He is telling you through nonverbal communication that he sees you as a friend and is not concerned about you attacking him. In turn, it triggers a response in your own mind that he is not a threat to you.

His choice of tie color is also very interesting…the color itself represents royalty

Without you realizing it, your brain analyzes this body language and categorizes it influencing your perception of him.

This is a reason that most politicians, and public speakers, have very similar hand gestures while pushing main talking points.

His choice of tie color is also very interesting. What color is it? Purple. Not only is it an amalgamation of red and blue, which is a direct reflection of both Republican and Democratic symbolism, but the color itself represents royalty. Not only did he break the boundary between party lines, in a very subtle way he told your brain to see him in higher office.

Next time you are influenced by someone, take a look at what they are wearing. You  may be surprised.

Now, the badge he has created states “21st Century contract with America”. Without knowing anything about the political purpose, the most common approach would be to relate the word contract with jobs.

The dominant color of his website is blue, the color of trust.

Although the core take-away from the word contract may imply corporate involvement, contract does represent work for those involved. It’s a dual statement that aims to get the interest of the CEOs or investors, as well as the working middle-class.

The red element below “America” suggests that we are moving from the background, a confined past, toward the foreground, a more wide-open future.

Section 2: Calls to Action

It’s very clear what the goal of this website is: donate money. This is a great priority action item and serves his needs effectively.

The “Donate Today” button’s red color and slightly larger design in relation to the other navigation draws your immediate attention.  Even more oversized are the “Join Now”, “Donate” again, “Get Gear”, and “Learn More” tertiary, vertical buttons below it.

People need to know what the end result of their purchase is before they can realistically finalize any sale. You should never confuse customers.

His statement, “Join Now to save America” on the first call to action is semantically bold. It triggers a sense of urgency. As if America is on the verge of total destruction and it’s up to you to save it.

It’s a great call to action, but I have to wonder why they didn’t use “to save America” under the “Donate today” heading to read: Donate today to save America.

Clicking on the button to “save America” only takes you to a basic newsletter sign-up page. “Donate today” encourages you to contribute to his campaign and sign-up for his newsletter. That seems like a waste of an incredibly strong call to action.

Also, when you do actually click to donate you are presented with an introductory sentence that states, “Please consider a secure contribution to the campaign to help guarantee that Newt has the resources to spread his vision for America. Victory begins with you!”

Again, his bold statement of saving America is pushed aside for a more conservative, “Please consider a secure contribution to…spread his vision for America.”

The power behind words is uneven from one page to the next. Sometimes aggressive. Sometimes passive. It’s not consistent and makes me wonder which version he actually is; which is a problem.

People need to know what the end result of their purchase is before they can realistically finalize any sale. You should never confuse customers.

Wait a minute…customer?

Whether you choose to accept it or not, you are about to potentially pay the brand of Newt to provide you with a service. The Presidency.

Your money (customer) + his service (provider) = a transaction

How to Build Trust with Your Website

It’s clear that Newt has a team of digital marketers that at least understand the importance of standard web structure and an appropriate level of visual appeal.

In a study done by Gitte Lindgaard et al, it was determined your brain creates strong correlations between visual appeal and trustworthiness of the brand within the first 50 milliseconds of landing on a website.

You can influence an incredible amount of action once you have established an initial amount of trust. Once your brain makes a decision, you subjectively look for information that supports it.

How did Newt build upon that initial trust?

  1. The dominant color of his website is blue, the color of trust. Many financial institutions and social networks like Facebook use blue as a primary brand color. It subconsciously suggests that we can trust them with our money or private information.
  2. The main photograph on the website showcases him with open arms revealing his vulnerable chest, and stomach area. This establishes an instinctive response showing you that not only is he not a threat to you, but he doesn’t view you as a threat to him either. By doing this he influences your brain to categorize him as a friend instead of an enemy.
  3. He encourages you to “save America” by joining his campaign, which makes you feel part of a larger tribe. Like animals, we instinctively go through life looking to be stronger as a group. If we know others are involved, we are much more likely to join them instead of taking more time to make our own decisions.
  4. Social sharing also piggy-backs on the concept of group mentality. That’s why he shows you that 275,000 other people have liked this campaign page before you. This also implies that 275,000 people value what he can provide you as part of a group.
  5. Without scrolling down on his website, you do not see him use his last name. Not even in his logo. This is an attempt to show you he has a personal relationship with you. Through that it’s easy to infer that he cares about your needs and will listen to your concerns.

If you can distill three of those examples into your own website, you have successfully supported your visitor’s first impression.

With that trust you have established they will let down their defenses and begin to browse to find more detailed supporting evidence.

Capitalize on each page by repeating three different trust triggers and one call to action.

What design strategies are you using to build trust in your brand?

Do you want me to help you and evaluate the design psychology behind your website? Learn about UX Triggers

  • Scott

    Another great post, Josh.  Looking forward to your take on the other candidates’ sites.

  • http://www.joshuagarity.com/ Joshua Garity

    Glad you enjoyed the blog post, Scott! 

  • Ryan Webb

    Excellent!  Not much I didn’t already know – but extremely well written.  Your explanations are thorough and insightful.   I’ve bookmarked your site and will be returning.

  • http://www.joshuagarity.com/ Joshua Garity

    Thank you, Ryan! I may do a current version of both the Obama and Romney website in July and then revisit them in mid-to-late October to do a comparison on what they changed leading into the election.
    I appreciate your kind words and bookmarking kind sir. Thanks again.

  • http://www.techvowel.com/ Rohit Agarwal

    Thanks For Info… :-)