I often think the perfect copywriter is part researcher, part creative, part thick-skinned oddball loner, and part psychologist.
I’m not exactly sure about the ratios involved yet, but I think the categories are about right.
The last one is especially relevant as it’s crucial for anyone writing copy to understand as much as possible about what makes their target audience tick.
Otherwise, how are they going to persuade them to…ahem… (bluntly put here) buy their stuff?
So, to assist anyone looking to expand their knowledge base in the area of how the mind works, and learn some useful new copywriting hacks, here are three little known but important ideas you might be interested to hear about (and apply)!
1. Barnum Effect
This little nugget is named after the famous US showman P T Barnum (of “there’s a sucker born every minute” fame).
It is essentially the tendency people have to find personal meaning in vague ambiguous but relatable statements. It’s also called the Forer Effect (after a psychologist) but I like Barnum better!
Either way, let me give you some examples of the so called ‘effect’ at work (these were actually drafted by the late great Dr Forer himself in his experiments);
- You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.
- You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.
- At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.
- At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.
- Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your major goals in life.
- You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof.
Recognise yourself in any of them?
You may see these types of questions in certain personality tests or astrological profiles.
If you can master this type of language in your copy and thus resonate with your audience, then you can always hook a reader.
2. Progressive Disclosure
Progressive Disclosure is a method of presenting information in a way that helps maintain the focus of the reader (or user). This is achieved by reducing clutter and confusion and breaking down big tracts of writing or information into a more user friendly format.
- Using bullet points
- Numerical lists
The main thing to remember with this principle is that content is key.
This means that you don’t necessarily have to limit or reduce it, just make sure that you present it in as easy to absorb format as you can to prevent your reader becoming overwhelmed or confused – unless that’s what you are actually trying to do of course!
For example on screen, if you have a large amount of text, it is effective to make good use of the white space between paragraphs and long sentences.
Here’s a short video 😉 :
3. Hick’s Law
Named after two psychologists; William Edmund Hick and Ray Hyman, this law describes the relationship between the time it takes for a person to make a decision based on the number of choices available.
It is proven that it gets harder for us to make a decision as our options increase. In fact, there comes a point where we are so overwhelmed we literally cannot make a decision.
Think of a time you have been to a restaurant and the menu had so many choices you simply could not decide what to have.
This is useful to know when writing copy, especially if you are providing a range of offers such as a price package, and why it is often limited to just 3, i.e. Bronze, Silver and Gold!
Of course there are many other psychological concepts we can apply to our copy to make it more compelling and persuasive, and no doubt as our knowledge of psychology continues to expand there are likely to be many more.