Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Optimise your message: how to fool the nightclub bouncers in our brains

nightclub bouncer
Want to grab people's attention with your headline? You'll need to bypass the nightclub bouncers in our brain, according to Brian Massey, a speaker at Chinwag Psych2014 last week. 

Massey’s company optimises copy for websites. It tests several versions of a headline to see what gets people clicking through and signing up.

Brain science helps the company get the text right:
“You need to get your message past the parts of the brain that act as bouncers or gatekeepers. To comprehend words, we’re using Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area of the brain. Broca’s area takes verbs and casts them into images, while Wernicke's handles nouns.

"So you need to surprise Broca and Wernicke. Use the unexpected, the unbelievable or the plain wrong," explains Massey.

Here's one I made earlier

Take this example. Which of these headlines from a rehab outfit in the US got the most sign-ups?

A.  We can help. Call now and speak with a compassionate rehab specialist.
B.   Are you ready to start healing? Call now and speak …
C.   Ready to stop lying? Call now on …

Yes, it was C, as it surprised people. 


Also, C hit the spot because it matched people's memories of lying to their partners. ("No, I haven't had a drink today!")

And B was not as effective, as people didn't have memories of 'healing' so there was nothing to latch the message onto. 

"When you're creating messages, you have to think about the kind of memories people have that we can attach our messages to," said Massey.

Credible or not?

Even if you're sceptical about the theory, playing around with words and testing several versions of your text seems like a smart idea to me.

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