The unique thing about copywriting is that it is both science and art. Great copywriters understand this, which distinguishes them from mediocre ones. You don’t have to be a wordsmith to write a compelling ad copy; all you need to do is find a way to tap into your customers’ internal triggers and persuade them to respond to your ad.
To get into the mind of a prospect, you must adopt a more analytical and scientific approach. Understanding your customer’s psychology and mental triggers makes it easier to persuade them to accept your offer. Marketers, and particularly copywriters, who are aware of these mental triggers can use them to influence a potential consumer.
This guide is all about helping you know about the nine psychological phenomenons you can use in your copywriting. However, it does not mean you should trick or coerce anyone into doing something they shouldn’t. That’s not effective copywriting. For a more positive approach, instead of writing a deceiving copy, write a copy that harmonizes with your readers’ brains to deliver more engaging, enjoyable, and compelling content.
Let’s see nine psychological effects that influence consumer behavior.
The Pratfall Effect
The Pratfall Effect states that people who are considered superior are found to be more likable when they make a mistake or an everyday blunder than those who are not. Elliot Aronson, a social psychologist, was the first to investigate the effect in 1966. Aronson hypothesized that people regarded as “superior” by others might become more appealing after committing a minor pratfall.
Because these superior people were viewed as “superhuman” by others, a minor blunder would allow others to humanize them and thus like them more.
How to use the pratfall effect in copywriting?
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to make mistakes in your copywriting. This only occurs when the one making mistake is perceived as highly competent. So, you don’t make mistakes all the time, but when you do, it’s endearing.
This makes sense because we are drawn to things we can identify/relate to, and we can all relate to mistakes. Using this effect in your copywriting can help to humanize your company, position you as an approachable expert, and create emotional connections with your audience.
Too many brands and businesses strive for perfection. As a result, they waste energy and resources on finishing touches that may or may not make a difference in sales. In fact, they may impede them.
Let’s understand this with an example.
Here’s a picture of two cookies, one with rough and uneven edges and one with perfectly round edges.
Even though they’re the same cookie, two-thirds of people said they’d rather eat the one on the left with the rough-looking edges – implying that it’s our flaws that make us appealing.
But why is that?
‘It’s too good to be true,’ as the saying goes. People instinctively distrust perfection and believe that there must be a flaw somewhere.
Here’s how you can use the pratfall effect in your copywriting
Teach your audience with your mistakes as an example
If you’ve committed any mistake recently, you can use it as an example in your copywriting. You could also create a blog post based on a list of mistakes you’ve made and what you’ve learned from them. You’re not only improving your interpersonal appeal, but you’re also assisting others in avoiding the same mistakes.
Apologize when you’re wrong
It all comes down to self-assurance. Do you have the courage to admit a flaw?
If you succeed, it can be a very effective copywriting strategy.
Iain Banks’ debut novel became a best-seller because he included scathing, negative reviews at the beginning. He admitted that his writing was not for everyone. However, the publicity he received due to the negative reviews was enormously beneficial.
Again, this is a great example of how the Pratfall Effect can help your business. Making mistakes on purpose and apologizing for them is NOT a marketing strategy. However, if you have made such a blunder, come forward about it in a personal way.
The Novelty Effect
The term “novelty effect” is typically used to describe a positive effect that is entirely due to the introduction of a change, such as a new design feature, module, or process, regardless of the nature of the change. However, this effect wears off over time and is thus considered “illusory,” meaning it would be incorrect to attribute the effect to the change itself and expect it to persist after the novelty effect has worn off.
In other words, you will notice a change in your audience’s behavior with a small change you make in your copy. However, this change will wear off after a certain time.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to use the Novelty Effect in your copy. Simply change your copy. Refresh a title or headline on a specific page, for example, and keep an eye out for any spikes in website traffic. Change the copy when your traffic slows.
How to use the Novelty Effect in Copywriting?
Humans are drawn to new experiences. Dopamine is released by the brain when it is exposed to something new or unfamiliar.
Using the word “new” in your copy can instantly increase the excitement of your customers. When you mention something new, the brains of your potential customers will light up.
Refresh your copy regularly
Changing the copywriting style, adding a few new words, changing the keywords, and making the posts look new are all great ways to engage the audience and keep the content fresh. While the majority of the text may appear the same, changing it up has many psychological benefits that the reader may find appealing.
Change the look of your content
Another effective way to employ the Novelty Effect in copywriting is to alter the appearance of the content. Without rewriting all of the content, there are a few ways to keep readers interested in the copy. You can change the following things in your copy:
✓ Bullet points
✓ Guest posts
✓ Images/ pictures
✓ Templates and examples
✓ Catchy headlines like ‘# mistakes to avoid,’ ‘Save $ by doing (Action),’ and so on
✓ Change in the color palette
Be careful with A/B testing
A/B testing your ad copy or landing page is the best way to figure out what works, but the Novelty Effect suggests that the increase in conversions or clicks after altering your copy may not be due to the copy itself. It’s possible that people became so accustomed to seeing the original copy that the new copy piques their interest.
As Instapage suggests, if you’re doing split testing with your marketing copy, either give the experiment time to wear off or run the test to new visitors to your site. This way, you can be certain that the copy improved conversion and that the improved conversion rate will not decrease.
The Priming Effect
In marketing, priming is a subconscious reaction to stimuli that influences conscious decisions in response to new stimuli. It operates by utilizing associations formed in our subconscious that are almost always unnoticed by the subject. It is a mysterious and complex process that influences a large portion of our behavior. The subconscious mind drives a process. Without us knowing it, the first item presented influences how we respond to the second.
In other words, what you do in a given situation is influenced by what you saw or heard immediately before that situation—even if you didn’t consciously take note of those things AND without realizing you are connecting the two.
The Florida Effect is one type of priming. People who were unconsciously exposed to words signifying old age walked slower than people who were exposed to random words in this social experiment.
Let’s understand this with an example.
Another good example is television commercials or online advertisements such as those found on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Different mental pathways are activated when you watch an advertisement.
Typically, these pathways only connect to happy memories. For example, something happens in your brain the next time you visit the supermarket and see the product from the advertisement. Your brain will trigger positive memories, and you will develop a favorable attitude toward the product as a result.
How to use the priming effect in copywriting?
Before you make the request, use emotional language
If you want people to feel and act confident when they click that CTA button on your page, then you should prime them with emotional words and phrases.
If you want them to feel like an expert in the field, who deserve your product, tailor your copy to their emotions. Or perhaps you want them to be afraid of the outcome so that they will seek safety with your service. In other words, prime their behavior with emotional words.
Prime with pictures
Use images to lure your customers. Happier facial images, for example, have been shown in studies to influence subsequent behavior. A study was conducted to investigate the impact of subliminal facial expressions such as happy, neutral, or angry. They discovered that people who saw a happy face drank more lemon Kool-Aid than those who saw a neutral or angry face.
In one of their marketing campaigns, Coca-Cola recognized this concept, “Open the Happy Can.” In the advertisement, the top of a can of Coke is shown with a “smile” in the gap post opening. So every time you open a can, you’re greeted with a big, wide grin.
In your introductions, tell readers what to expect
According to another aspect of priming, starting with the purpose of a content improves comprehension of that content. It is best to let readers know what the below content is about in the introduction of the post or the subject line of an email. This gives viewers and readers a sense of direction regarding the content.
Headlines such as ’10 Best Ways to Save Money’ are self-explanatory, but informing readers that the post is about money-saving, tips, and strategies in stocks, share markets, or financial investments is a good idea. However, some readers may believe that the post is about getting the best deals on shopping. To avoid such confusion, preparing readers with successful copywriting assists in obtaining the correct target audience, ensuring conversion rates, and increasing the copy’s efficiency.
In the above picture, the reader immediately understands that the article is all about saving money while moving to a new place.
The Focusing Effect
According to the Focusing Effect, people make decisions based on the most distinct information available in their working memory, ignoring equally important information that is comparatively less prominent in their brains.
So we know what it means to be “top-of-mind.” This is why we run advertisements, write articles, share them on social media, and send emails. However, “top-of-mind” does not imply “pronounced and distinct.” And it’s not your company in general that you want to be at the forefront of your readers’ minds here, but rather specific to the decision you want them to make.
The “focusing effect,” for example, can be used just before your call to action. You’ve probably seen this a zillion times because it’s very popular among companies promoting corporate social responsibility initiatives. For example, assume an eco-friendly company selling metal straws. If they want to use the “focus effect,” their copy could mention how much plastic waste can be reduced by using reusable straws just before the call to action. This copywriting technique is especially effective when the information you present as a focus has an ethical or moral benefit to society.
How to use Focusing Effect in your copywriting?
Place the information before your CTA
Here’s an example from Grove Collaborative’s email copy. Before you even read the entire thing, the copy will tell you that the brand has kept 5.3 million pounds of plastic out of waterways.
So, even though the audience is aware that GC offers environmentally friendly products, this specific fact gives much more meaning to the plastic-free bottle they are offering. There’s no need for persuasion tricks here—just plain facts.
Make the unique selling proposition large and obvious
In simple terms, your unique selling proposition is what distinguishes your company from the competition in your market. A strong, unique selling proposition can assist you in attracting and retaining customers, as well as reducing client churn.
The Focusing Effect is also why you need a powerful, unique selling proposition—not only for your company as a whole but also for each of your offerings. The goal is to make the ultimate benefit clear and obvious to readers before they read anything else on your page. Then, they’ll read everything else through the lens of that one benefit.
This advertisement from Colgate claims better dental health in just 2 weeks. After reading the tagline, the consumer will now read everything through the lens of improving oral health in 2 weeks.
The “But You are Free” Effect
The “But You Are Free” effect is a prime example of reverse psychology. Reverse psychology is a style or strategy used to persuade people to do the opposite of what is said. As a result, you usually get readers or audiences to do precisely what you want while making them believe the decision is theirs.
Using reverse psychology in your copywriting usually increases the likelihood that people will do the opposite of what you asked them not to do. According to Jonathan Becher, telling people, they don’t have to do something increases their likelihood of doing it anyway. Excellent copy ensures that readers maintain a sense of autonomy in their decision-making process while being compelled to take action.
How to use the But You are Free Effect in copywriting?
Use the phrases directly
Here are some examples of recommending a package or resource, requesting a review, or acquiring and retaining email subscribers.
- ✓ We would appreciate it if you could leave us a review, but you are also free to pass!
- ✓ We believe this resource would be a good fit, but you are free to make your own decision.
- ✓ This package has proven to be the most successful for our clients, but you are free to choose.
- ✓ Do you really want to unsubscribe? We’re sorry to see you go, but you can do whatever makes your inbox happy!
- ✓ We think you’ll enjoy our newsletter, but you’re welcome to just look around our site.
Try other ways without being very obvious
And you don’t have to use those exact words every time you use this persuasion technique. Among the alternatives are:
- ✓ But you are under no obligation!
- ✓ You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time if you ever feel like it.
- ✓ But the choice is entirely yours. We have a favor to ask (but only if you want to!)
The Primacy/Recency Effect
Remember when you were in a classroom, and your teacher began reading a list of about 20 words, instructing you to memorize as many as you could. How many words do you think you’d be able to recall?
Most people, it turns out, can only recall four or five words. The phenomenon is known as the serial positioning effect by scientists, but it is also known as the primacy and recency effect by the general public.
According to the primacy and recency effect, when people are given a list of words to remember, the words at the beginning and end of the list are remembered the most.
When creating emails, social posts, landing pages, or any other type of marketing material, marketers and copywriters must keep this psychological principle in mind. Because, at the end of the day, people will only remember your marketing messages if they can remember them.
Instead of cramming all of your company’s services into a single email, consider how you can craft your message so that it doesn’t get lost among the 20 other words on the teacher’s list.
How to Use the Serial Positioning Effect in Copywriting?
Your introductions and conclusions should convey clear value
Write attention-grabbing introductions that convey what the reader will gain from the post, and then conclude with a numbered or bulleted list that summarises what you covered and reinforces the ultimate benefit. This way, even if they don’t remember the specifics of the post, they will remember your company’s association with the ultimate benefit.
Strategically bullet out features
Make sure the most important items are at the top and bottom of the list. This applies to product descriptions, feature/benefit lists, listicles, and other similar content.
The Cognitive Fluency Effect
Cognitive Fluency refers to how well your brain understands something. Copy that is easier to understand is more cognitively fluent than copy that is harder to relate to. You are more likely to believe something if your brain understands it rather than if you cannot decipher its meaning.
Try to write in the way that people think. Use UX copywriting skills to ease up the technical terms for easier comprehension, and make a clear distinction between confusing jargon and industry-related phrases in your copy. Remember that more clarity equals more persuasion.
How to use the cognitive fluency effect in copywriting?
Make it simple to read (be familiar, not fancy)
It’s advisable to use simple words in your copy that is easily understood by the audience. Above all, avoid jargon-laced phrases and generic buzzwords. Remember that your customers want things to be simple. Easy is credible and credible prompt your customer to take the desired action.
For example, the following landing page (from a content tool called Crawly) does an excellent job of balancing technical terms with soft language to achieve the optimal level of cognitive Fluency.
Use a conversational tone when writing
This one is self-evident. Write your blog posts, emails, and other website copy as if you’re having a conversation with your audience rather than giving a course lecture.
It’s easier to understand and trust the information when it’s presented in such a straightforward manner.
Another aspect of the cognitive fluency effect
Here’s another aspect of cognitive Fluency in which the difficulty of reading or absorbing the information is transferred to the process it describes. To put it another way, it’s not just about the words you use in your copy, but also about how that copy appears to the eye.
How to use it in copywriting?
These tips, unsurprisingly, are more focused on design.
Clearly present information
The more difficult it is to obtain the information to make a decision, the more difficult the decision appears to be. This explains why pricing pages and cognitive Fluency have a rocky relationship. Therefore, it’s critical that your copy is simple to understand and visually organized that encourages decision-making.
The Illusory Truth Effect
According to the Illusory Truth Effect, the more we are exposed to a message, the more critical our brain perceives it to be, and the more true it becomes.
This psychological strategy lends weight to concepts and ideas that we hear repeatedly. As a result, repeated ideas equal greater accuracy and truth.
Researchers conducted a survey in which participants were asked to rate their level of trust in a statement. A few statements were repeated several times, while others were only stated once. The study discovered that people rated repeated statements as more trustworthy than unrepeated statements.
How to use the Illusory truth effect in your copywriting?
We are more likely to believe a statement the more we hear or read it, even if it is repeated by a single person or business. The Illusory Truth Effect is the subconscious belief that repetition correlates with accuracy.
By writing copy that repeats specific claims, such as “the most popular SaaS product” or “the B2B marketer’s favorite SaaS tool,” you encourage your audience to believe and trust subjective data.
While this technique will never have the same impact as genuine social proof, it can be useful for encouraging trust in industries where social proof is scarce, such as white-label businesses.
You also don’t have to say the same thing over and over. Instead, you can convey the same message repeatedly by using different words and phrases.
The Open Loop Effect
In storytelling, an open loop is a concept that drives our brains to seek some sort of conclusion naturally.
As previously stated, today’s TV writers are experts in open-loop storytelling.
They’ll introduce a character or a group of characters, develop them so that the audience feels connected and emotionally invested in them, and then throw them into a conflict.
How to use the open-loop effect in copywriting?
Open loops are essentially teasers in copywriting, and there are numerous ways to incorporate them into your content. The goal is to provide just enough information to pique interest while not closing the loop.
Use the word “one” in your titles
✓ Know this “One” Reason You Aren’t Getting Hired
✓ Our conversion rate increased by 20%, thanks to this “one” simple strategy.
✓ Do you want to put on the best event possible? Avoid Making This “One” Mistake
Of course, you’ll also want the outcome to be compelling. What’s great about this type of title is that you won’t have to concentrate on a single topic in your video or blog post. For example, you could present one error and then provide X tips on how to avoid it.
Include a favorite
Include your favorite in the title when sharing a list of tips, examples, strategies, or mistakes.
✓ 8 Free Investment Resources (#6 is Our Favorite!)
✓ 15 Common Developer Mistakes (Be Prepared for #4)
✓ 12 Yoga Poses for Better Sleep (#7 is a Game Changer)
Insert some loops into the beginnings of your blog posts
As demonstrated in this post, you can use open loops to keep readers interested in the current piece of content. Use phrases such as:
✓ But we’ll get to that later
✓ Which will turn out to be a huge mistake.
Alternatively, you could begin your blog post in a novel-style opener.
✓ So there I was
✓ I never meant to
✓ And that’s when I realized I
These are the nine psychological effects you can implement in your copywriting. However, here are some bonus tips for you.
Focus on their pain points
Every customer wants to purchase a product for one specific reason – to solve a problem.
And there are signs of a problem. For instance, if you’re writing for a hair care product aimed at curing hair fall, you can focus on mentioning symptoms of hair fall.
You can mention a number of symptoms that the customer may be experiencing, including:
- Hair thinning
- Hair thinning
- Faded luster
- Weak or brittle hair.
A customer who reads this copy will be able to relate to the writing and will be more likely to take action. This is due not only to the fact that the product is clearly appropriate for them but also that it elicits emotion.
Create Social Proof
Have you ever purchased something or done something in general after witnessing someone else do it? You are not alone here.
Most people do this because of social pressure. It’s also referred to as groupthink. Both of these are evolutionary mechanisms that keep us safe while also saving us time. What person wouldn’t want that? Copywriters use this psychological trigger to put customers at ease, knowing they’re purchasing a product that others enjoy from a reputable brand.
Customers are more likely to believe persuasive claims if credibility is associated with them. When discussing how good your product is or attempting to gain consumer trust, back up your claims with supporting evidence to give yourself credibility. If your copy is lengthy, you can include testimonials, case studies, and reviews to back up your claim. A shorter copy should include data/numbers from happy customers, trusted icons, opinion leaders, and the like to establish reliability and authority.
Create a sense of urgency
Assume you want to buy a product. But here’s the catch – A countdown clock is ticking until the product is no longer available. So now, you’d have to be as quick as lightning to check out on time.
That’s what “urgency” is. Another strong psychological trigger for copywriting.
Customers feel compelled to act because they are afraid of missing out on a good deal.
Use Active voice in your copy
Replacing passive voice with active voice is one of the simplest wins in copywriting. It’s because the verb acts on the subject in the passive voice, whereas the subject acts in the active voice.
As an example, consider the following:
Active voice: She created fantastic sales copy that wowed the client.
Passive voice: The client was impressed by the sales copy she wrote.
According to a 2002 study, passive sentences reduce persuasion while active sentences increase processing fluency. This means that readers will be able to process your sales copy, offer, and message, resulting in more action and conversions. It’s a minor psychological trigger for copywriting, but it’s one of the simplest to implement.
Emphasize the benefits of the products rather than their features
Many copywriters fall into the trap of describing the product, not realizing that what they say about the product can also be said about four or five other products in the same category! You don’t have to explain what your product does. Instead, you must convey to the consumer what the product does for them. A consumer is more likely to buy a product based on the value it promises to add to its life than on its features.
You have a good command over words, but the reader may not
In order to increase the credibility of a product, copywriters may stuff the ad copy with intimidating and often useless jargon that confuses and deter the prospective consumer. In your headlines, use simple, easy-to-understand language. Don’t put off prospects before you’ve even begun talking to them.
The Bottom Line
Copywriting is a combination of art and psychology. You must use both, or your words will lose their impact. It takes skill to use certain words, phrases, and strategies strategically. First, however, you must understand what makes customers tick and why. Don’t reinvent the wheel; instead, look to previous studies that have revealed what works and what doesn’t in terms of persuasion, memory, and conversion. Who knows? You might discover that something as simple as inserting a single word can significantly boost the success of your written content.
So, what are you waiting for? Try putting the copywriting sales triggers you learned today to use.