I am PSYCHED (get it – lol) for you to meet today’s guest, Richard Shotton.

Richard is a Marketer at heart, author, and psychology-obsessed (just like me).

I was lucky enough to have Richard on The Marketing Millennials Podcast, where he let me in on the secret to cracking consumer psychology.

Here’s what he had to say in his own liiiightly edited words.

1. Increasing Brand Retention:

There’s an eternal battle between concreteness and abstraction. Which should you use in your Marketing? 

Psychologist Ian Begg ran a study in 1972 where he read a list of 22 phrases to people. Some of those phrases were concrete phrases, able to be visualized. For example, the word white.

Other words were abstract, things that you can’t picture. What Begg found was that when he asked people later how many of the phrases they remembered on average, people remembered 9% of the abstract phrases and 36% of the concrete phrases (INTERESTING).

So he explains this by highlighting that the most powerful sense we have is vision.

If you use language people can visualize, it will be more memorable. If you use language that people can’t picture, it’s easily forgettable. 

A large proportion of Marketers today talk in very abstract terms. They talk about their quality and trustworthiness. That’s too abstract for most people to visualize. (I love learning Psychological secrets from smart people like Richard, I feel 10x smarter after meeting them.)

What you need to do as a Marketer is take those abstract objectives and translate them into something very concrete that people can picture. 

The classic Apple example is when they launched the iPad, every other brand tried to communicate the abstract benefit of memory by talking about 126 or 250 megabytes of memory. 

That’s poor because it’s hard to visualize 250MB. What Apple did was reference the 1,000 songs in your pocket.

You can visualize a pocket. That makes it much more sticky. This is a broader strategy that far more marketers can harness. (YESS.)

2. Rhyming in Ads:

Another very interesting study involved rhyming’s impact on credibility. This study recruited loads of people and gave them a list of fake proverbs. 

Half the group was told the proverb: “woes unite enemies”. A non-rhyming proverb. 

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The other half was told: “woes unite foes”. The participants were then asked how believable they thought the proverbs were.

The statements that rhymed were judged to be 30% more believable than the non-rhyming statement, even though both phrases had the same message (I need to grab some popcorn, this is SO interesting).

It’s very easy for us to mentally process rhymes, it’s essentially a shortcut to that ease of processing and therefore it gets disguised as truth. A colleague and I then did a fast rerun of that study interested in memorability.

We gave people the fake proverbs at the beginning of the day, half rhyming, half non-rhyming. Then at the end of the day we asked them what they could remember. People were 2x as likely to remember the rhyming phrases vs the non-rhyming phrases.

So rhyming is shown to be capable of boosting credibility and memorability, yet the industry has begun to ignore rhyming as a strategy (*takes notes*). 

What happened is the division of interests between the agency creating the ads and the end brand because anyone who acts as a consultant is under pressure to make their recommendations look complicated because it justifies their fees.

It’s the appearance of sophistication that people are often rewarded for, rather than the simple techniques that are effective.

3. Marketers, Don’t Make This Mistake:

The issue with results-driven marketing is you have to be equally influenced in the long and the short term to be effective. 

The danger is the short term is very easy to monitor and the longer term metrics can be a bit more complicated.

People overemphasize that short term metric, which can take you down an overly price and promotional focused approach. 

The price and promotional approach is brilliant for a short period of time, but eventually trains the end user that you’re not a particularly valuable product (screaming this from the rooftops!!!).

4. The Power Imbalance:

A study was done at the University of Texas (ily Austin, TX) where two types of signs were put on.

One that politely asked  “please don’t graffiti” and another that demanded in big letters with exclamation points, “do not graffiti”.

The study then monitored how much graffiti there was when each sign was up. They found 2x as much graffiti when the less polite sign was up.

The discovery was that people value a sense of control in their life, a sense of agency. If that feels restricted, people will push back and the message you have will backfire. (I don’t have a kid yet but I feel like this might be helpful in parenthood too LOL.)

If someone of higher authority is over authoritarian in their request, people will often look at ways to passively or actively resist. That’s the broad principle of reactants. 

What’s interesting for Marketers is there are some very simple techniques that you can apply in your communications to get around that. 

There was a French psychologist who completed a similar study where he went up to people on the street and asked “Please, can I have some coins? I need to take the bus.”

Other times he went up to people and asked “Please may have some coins. I need to take the bus, but you are free to refuse or accept.” 

What he found is that people are significantly more likely to give him money in the second condition and they are likely to give more money in the second condition.

This is a reflection of reactions. If you remind people of the fact that they’re in control, they’re more likely to agree to do what you’re asking (genius). 

Now, what’s particularly fascinating about that study is you could say from a logical perspective, everyone always had that right to say no. If a beggar comes up to us, you don’t have to give the money.

But what the study shows is it’s not whether or not that right exists, it’s if you draw attention to it as a requester. 

When we are negotiating or trying to change behavior, we try to make our argument as convincingly as possible. We don’t want to draw attention to the fact that someone can walk away.

But in reality when you tell the other person they’re free to accept an offer or not, that makes them feel less pressured, and it can often lead to a positive result. 

5. The Power of Precision:

There’s a study done with a fake deodorant ad, one claim within the ad is how much it reduces perspiration.

Half the people shown the ad are told that it reduces perspiration by 50%. The other half are shown it reduces perspiration by 53%. 

The participants are then asked how accurate and credible they think the claim is. What was seen was a 5% improvement in credibility and a 10% improvement in accuracy when a precise number was used. (Not me being as PRECISE as I can be in this email LOL.)

The argument is that people learn over time that if someone speaks in vague terms, they tend to be unsure of themselves. If people know what they’re talking about, they tend to be much more precise. 

So humans then assume, if someone is talking those precise numbers, they’re likely to be more accurate, more credible. 

6. Harnessing Behavioral Science:

Richard Thaler, who won the Nobel Prize in 2017 was asked what the single biggest thing that he’s learned about behavioral science from all the experiments he has run.

What he said was “make it easy”. He made the argument that people trying to change the behavior of others, often make a mistake thinking they need to motivate the other party to want to change. 

But experiment after experiment shows often the biggest way to change behavior is to think about the small barriers that are stopping the person from behaving the way you want.

And put more effort into removing those little hurdles, because even seemingly inconsequential hurdles can have a big effect on behavior (THIS). 

Thaler argues it’s often more effective to change behavior by removing friction. 

Amazon is the poster child for removing friction. Their one click purchasing is phenomenally effective.

As a marketer, the key point here would be to go through your customer journey. Think of all the different blockages along the way and then put a larger proportion of your time, energy, and budget into removing them.”

(I love that, it’s really a simple way of harnessing behavioral science as a Marketer.)

Daniel Murray
Daniel Murray
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