When my cat won’t eat the food I’ve given her, I “begrudgingly” oblige, pick up the dish, transfer said food to a different dish, and set said different dish back down. She then proceeds to gobble up said [same] food.
There’s a name for that effect. And it’s one of nine psychological phenomenons that I’m going to share with you today, that you can use in your copywriting.
But before I do, I want to make one thing clear: I’m not in the business of tricking or coercing anyone into doing something they shouldn’t. That’s not effective copywriting.
That being said, I’m going to share with you how to write not deceiving copy, but copy that harmonizes with your readers’ brains to deliver more attractive, enjoyable, and effective content.
So without further ado, read on to learn:
- Nine psychological effects that influence our behaviors.
- Over 26 ways to use them in your marketing copy.
- Tips and examples so you can make sure you’re doing it right.
Let’s do it.
The Pratfall Effect
When I first read about this one, I assumed that “Pratfall” was a social psychologist. Turns out, it’s a word that means “a fall onto one’s own buttox.”
What it is
The Pratfall Effect (aka the Blemishing Effect) says that competent individuals become more appealing to others after they make a mistake.
How to use it in copywriting
Now this doesn’t mean that you need to go around making mistakes. Our definition says that this only happens when the mistake-maker is perceived as highly competent. So you generally don’t make mistakes, but when you do, it’s endearing.
This makes sense because we are attracted to what we can identify with/relate to, and we can all identify with mistakes. So, using this effect in your copywriting can humanize your business, make you an approachable expert, and build emotional connections with your audience.
1. Teach from your own mistakes
In his post on attribution modeling, top PPC expert Mark Irvine starts off with “A Personal Case Study of Attribution Modeling Failure.” Just when you thought you couldn’t like this guy any more than you already do… ya do.
You can also write a blog post around a list of mistakes you’ve made and what you learned from them. Not only are you increasing your interpersonal appeal, but you’re helping others to avoid those mistakes themselves. For example: I Spent $4M on Google Ads – Here Were My 5 Biggest Mistakes.
This headline falls under another copywriting tactic that we’ll get to later (and when we do you’ll see the irony).
2. Apologize when you’ve made one
Back in the day when I was a fledgling content marketer for a different company, one of my coworkers made a mistake that caused a mass email to address people by the wrong first name—disgruntling our subscribers.
She was mortified. Tears were shed. Faces were palmed. But to our delightful surprise, her apology email was met with a fan-mail-like wave of positive and supporting responses.
Now obviously, intentionally making mistakes and apologizing for them is NOT a marketing strategy. But should you have yourself such a pratfall, come forward about it in a personal way.
Here’s an email I once got from Hot Pod, where the writer Nick acknowledges that he “slipped up in the newsletter production this morning; that’s my bad.”
The Novelty Effect
Remember my cat from the intro? Her finally eating the food didn’t have anything to do with the particular dish I switched to, but simply because it was a different dish from the original. In other words, it was the novelty of the dish that made the food more appealing.
What it is
The Novelty Effect refers to when there is an improvement or positive result to a change, due NOT to that specific change, but to the fact that there was any change at all. Once the novelty wears off, whatever improved will return back to its original performance.
How to use it in copywriting
Here’s how to use the Novelty Effect to your advantage and how to prevent it from messing with your A/B testing.
3. Refresh copy and creative regularly
Or maybe you take advantage of the Novelty Effect. If you find that changing a title or headline on a particular page on your site does seem to spike performance, find out when it wears off and get into the habit of changing it regularly. You could even rotate between three different versions of the same offer.
Same old offer + new copy = “new” offer
4. Change up your blog posts
It can get easy to fall into the trap of posting the same type of blog post over and over again. But this is an easy way to become wallpaper for your audience. So don’t just occasionally change it up to generate some engagement. Always be writing different types of posts so that your blog is a novelty in and of itself.
There are lots of different blog post types:
- Mistakes to avoid
- Eye-opening stats
- Ideas and strategies
- Templates and examples
- Guest posts
- Personal insights
- Tool or resource round-up
- Original data
- Success stories
5. Be careful with A/B testing
A/B testing your landing page or ad copy is the best way to find out what works, but according to the Novelty Effect, that spike in clicks or conversions after changing your copy may not be due to the copy itself. It could just be that people got so used to (and bored with) seeing the original copy that the new copy catches their attention.
As Instapage suggests, if you’re doing any sort of split testing with your marketing copy, make sure to either give the experiment time for the novelty to wear off, OR run the test to a new audience or new visitors to your site. This way, you can ensure that it really was the copy that improved conversion—and that the improved conversion rate won’t drop off.
The Priming Effect
The Priming Effect comes in handy not for your call to action copy, but for the copy preceding it.
What it is
The Priming Effect says that what we do in a particular situation is influenced by what we saw or heard directly prior to that situation—EVEN if we didn’t consciously take note of those things AND without realizing we’re connecting the two together.
One type of priming is called the Florida Effect. In this 1996 social experiment, people who were unconsciously exposed to words associated with old age actually walked slower than those who were exposed to random words.
In other words, the words they were exposed to primed their behavior.
How to use it in copywriting
This means that the words and phrases you use in your copy are priming people left and right. Heck, you’re being primed right now (for what, I don’t know; I’m not doing it on purpose). So harness the power of psychology to influence your readers’ decisions.
6. Use emotional words before you get to the ask.
If you want people to feel and act confident in clicking that CTA button on your page, well then prime them with emotional words and phrases that cause them to feel that way.
If you want them to feel like an expert in their field who is worthy of your product, cater your copy to those emotions. Or maybe you want them to feel fearful of an outcome so as to seek safety with your service. Prime their behavior with emotional words—in fact, here are 273 emotional words and phrases you can choose from.
7. Tell readers what to expect in your intros
Another aspect of priming says that leading off with the purpose of a piece of content improves comprehension and recall of that content. So let’s take a look at this introductory paragraph to a recent blog post by the fabulous Susie Marino. The title of the post is “How to Improve Google Shopping ROAS with Priority Bidding.”
Instead of leading off with a brief explanation of what priority bidding is, she leads off with a clear picture of what readers can expect from the post as a whole—what value they will get out of it.
Based on the words encased in red, readers can quickly understand that she’s going to walk them through a somewhat complex strategy that will help them save on their…