Digital communications continue to grow both by volume and channel. Yet many of today’s messages are based on predictable marketing strategies. As the awareness and avoidance of modern audiences increases, engagement will decline, unless marketers look a little deeper into the human condition…
Here are a few ideas for increasing engagement, regardless of demographics, culture and geography.
SECRET 1# – Think Negative
These days, businesses are constantly pushing the benefits of their products and services. But, how much better can a seven-blade razor really be? How much mintier the toothpaste, whiter the wash? Instead of competing over positives, try turning the conversation around and talk about things your product/service isn’t: slow, complex, costly; or what it doesn’t need: new software, more staff, more investment. You’ll soon discover that people frequently respond to the things they know they don’t want – as opposed to things they never knew they did.
SECRET 2# – Use your head
Research shows that whenever we are faced with portraits of other people, we subconsciously make connections based on perceived similarity, attraction, capability etc. However, recent findings show this only works where the whole head and face is showing. Crop a picture too tightly and our subconscious judgment mimics the reaction we form when faced with dolls and mannequins, resulting in less assured, even negative feelings.
SECRET 3# – Real Value
What does a million look like, how big’s a billion and how many of us will ever experience either? When using numbers, put them in context. Abstract figures (anything beyond a tangible total for your audience) are impossible to evaluate. Context allows you to grasp the scale of value – or loss at hand. So, state how many schools; how many haircuts; how many hamburgers; how much petrol that might fund. Tangible figures mean far more.
SECRET 4# – The Power of 10
Humans are lazy. Offered a choice between an unknown experience and the known, we almost always choose the devil we know (Brexit you have been warned!) This is why we stay with the same bank years after our accounts stop working for us; and why we remain married decades after we fall out of love. To shift behavior, you have to make the unknown feel ten times more appealing – or the known look ten times more appalling. Anything less will fail.
SECRET 5# – The Halo Effect
Things don’t have to be good, for people to desire them – remember butter, sports cars, and smoking? To produce the right impression, you simply have to create a positive halo around your product or service – in this way recommendations work so well for Amazon, AirBnB etc. As a bonus, you don’t even need to dig out independent comments to achieve the effect. Have your staff talk positively about their own actions and your audience will still experience a subconscious impression of worth.
SECRET 6# – Over Exposure
The more we’re exposed to something – products, words, faces – the more positive or in the case of politicians, less negative our impressions become. Unlike the power of product placement (all about being front of mind at the right time), the regular presence of something/someone makes us more likely to expect it, to accept it, and ultimately to admit it. Positivity stems from simply being there not by doing anything.
SECRET 7# – Average Not Expert
In spite of empiric evidence, we often believe the opinions of people we perceive to be like us, rather than experts in the field. Conspiracy theories and urban myths feed of this, quickly attracting interest and remaining sticky for generations. If you want to increase the reputation of a product or service, spend less time gaining the validation of bow-tied scientists and more on the applause of the man in the street.
SECRET 8# – Work Harder!
Being inherently lazy, we will usually take the path of least resistance. Yet, despite our aversion, hard work can also be used to your advantage. When you want people to remember a specific fact, or series of points, you can employ visual, verbal and physical cues that make the audience’s subconscious work harder. Try reducing the size of your text, or changing font for example – or introduce a picture with no immediate visual connection. The extra effort required to make sense of the content can embed your message more powerfully and more efficiently.
SECRET 9# – Secret Links
Humans love to make connections between things: bright lights = aliens; electricity pylons = cancer. But our belief system doesn’t mean any such connection actually exists. However, we can use this psychological reality to direct our assumptions and drive behavioural response. Try linking a desired action or thought process with a specific colour (blue lights = emergency) or a character (hero = Superman). Any such association can provoke beliefs in ways that are almost impossible to ignore.
SECRET 10# – E Pluribus Unum
We all like to think of ourselves as high functioning, logical individuals. And we like the world to see us that way too. In truth, we’re far more biological and biologically driven than we dare admit. Emotion isn’t an unnecessary influence that gets in the way of our everyday functionality. It’s a force majeure shaping every decision we ever make. I would go as far as to argue all human action comes as a result of only three emotional responses – but that’s a different article!
Every once in a while something taps into our base instincts and we unconditionally respond. This response mechanism has worked for certain brands of chocolate bar, jewellery, nappies and once in a while even on the biggest of all stages … So, if you really want to persuade people, try telling a story that’s rich with emotion.
If you’re interested in more secret tips and practical ways to influence your audience, why not get in touch? firstname.lastname@example.org
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