7 min read

The Psychology Behind Content

Psychology behind content thumb
Caution! This article is 4 years old, and our opinions may have changed.

Whatever marketing you’re creating, a tweet, blog or brochure, psychology plays a HUGE part in whether the audience read it, share it or act upon it. The colours you choose to use, the layout, the font and imagery, all dictate how long someone will pay attention and make a conscious decision about their opinion and likelihood of purchasing.

So, it’s not OTT to say psychology is the backbone of marketing (aka all content).

The trick to the successful use of psychology within marketing is to interpret theories and action them in a way that will drive ‘real-world’ results. You’re not trying to be overtly persuasive, or the next Freud, but by understanding psychology and the way our minds decipher marketing messages you will likely see conversions increase.

In this post we hope to share some nuggets of knowledge you can use to improve your marketing offering, bore your spouse or perhaps win your local pub quiz. Whichever eventuality it is, it’ll be useful, nonetheless.

1. Persuasive Language

When crafting your content, the headline or title is the biggest hurdle. Nail it and you’ve bought yourself a few more seconds of attention, otherwise, prepare to be scrolled past. The so-called ‘trigger’ words are the ones that grab the reader’s attention, but they need some well-considered neighbouring words to be fully effective. A recent study by BuzzFeed showed that the titles of theirs that were most successful were the ones featuring a number, for example ‘20 Most Important…’ or ‘5 Signs You…’ so suggest there is a magic formula for headline writing which is as follows…

Number + Trigger Word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise

In practice…

12 Unbelievable Things the Guys at Shape Can Do with a Glittery Strawberry Donut.

C’mon, you would absolutely click on that beauty.

Taking a side wards step to breakdown language even further, did you realise that certain groups of words will resonate with different personality traits? So personalisation needn’t just mean sending an email that autofill’s the receivers name, and contains items you know will interest them, oh no. It should also be written using terms that will engage their specific traits.

For example, an extrovert requires excitement and social rewards from their marketing which be totally different to a person that values emotional stability who are looking for safe and reliable communications from brands they use. Using data you probably already have, why not try taking some personality tests (as though you were the target customer) to understand the various sections of your audience, as this will result in you being able to create content your audience will find irresistible. We recommend this website to find various tests, which are also great for understanding more about yourself and your team if you’re in need of ultimate procrastination.

2.Elaboration Likelihood Model

Persuasion affects all areas of our lives, from voting (sore subject I know), to businesses wanting us to buy their products and new people we meet wanting us to like them. This is also true of apps, content, websites and other marketing collateral. ELM can also relate to design. For example, clever design encourages viewers to engage with your content in the way you want them to, which steers them towards your desired outcome.

User experience can reinforce your audiences’ attitudes and a poor digital experience can equally dissuade visitors. Consideration needs to be given to seemingly small experiential factors such as load speeds, pop-ups and disclaimers, all of which can result in a user clicking back to search results before they’ve even seen the website you spent thousands on. In the same vein, a physical leaflet with a spelling mistake on it could really p*ss off your audience (who mostly are perfectionists with impeccable attention to detail) and again, you have lost your shot at being their go-to brand.

Distractions are the devil in terms of content psychology. Whether physical, visual or completely intangible they can ruin the ‘buy-in’ process between brand and consumer in one fell swoop.

One of the predominant concepts within ELM theory is discussed in our next point…

3.Central & Peripheral Route Processing

If you were thinking about buying a new computer you would need to perform a certain amount of research to influence your purchase. You might search on Google, speak to friends and family or visit shops to speak to experts, essentially elaborating on the information you find. This is what ELM theory is based upon. You’re going to need to take time to consider your options and form an opinion, but the question mark hangs over how much we are required to elaborate. How much we need to sort of ‘fill in the blanks’ dictates which route we take, central or peripheral (as marketers we are looking to push our audience into the central route).

In short, the central route means your audience cares more about the message. They are giving you a high level of attention so will scrutinise your argument or sales pitch with a fine-tooth comb, but they’re very engaged to do so. The opinions formed in the central route are hard to change, therefore the positive impact you make, will stick around and you have your ideal brand advocates right there.

The peripheral route requires much less attention so is quite a superficial opinion base. They will be souly influenced by the model or location you used for your shoot and care less about the brand, the message and whether they’re motivated to invest (time, attention or money). This route is risky as it is easily altered and needs to be regularly reinforced, so is the less preferred route.

The crux of this model is how the eff do marketers encourage audiences to the central route? Research shows two main considerations.

Motivation and ability.

To feel motivated a reader has to feel the information is entirely relevant to them. If your audience feels directly impacted by a message, they are much more inclined to process through the central route. Similarly, is ability, or capability in this case. Your message must align with your customers thinking power, for example, a high brow strapline to sell a budget product is probably going to be a flop as the demographic won’t resonate or identify with it. If they can’t engage, they might comment on the font or freebie you’re offering but not process your message enough to act upon it. Flaky af you might say.

If you have the resources and budget, test multiple methods of communication on your target personas to see what sticks, it’s massively important.

4.The Idea of Reciprocity

This is a concept used widely across all industries and is a simple one to understand. The idea is that you do something for consumers that will in turn win their loyalty or respect. This could mean becoming more environmentally aware, donating time or products to charity or running promotions and competitions- anything really where your customer feels valued and appreciated for interacting with your brand. Even offering access to whitepapers or webinars can help to get people on board.

5.Formatting Hacks

May sound obvious but there are ways to grab your audience and make them want more, purely through layout and formatting.

Bold headlines with plenty of sub-headers to punctate works brilliantly, remember you don’t have long and web users in particular are adept at skim reading, these headers are a change for you to draw their attention to key sections. Use bold sparingly throughout the body text, but if there’s something impressive or shocking you wish to highlight, go for it.

Bullet points are another tactic often used to appeal to audiences. They offer a visual break but also allow you to present multiple points.

Images are stored by the brain quicker than text so adding diagrams, graphics and pull out statistics are all going to be remembered longer than a witty, but lengthy, paragraph of copy. If you are including buttons, especially the one’s containing the calls to action, remember they should be in a contrasting colour to everything else on the page. Deep captions are also being widely used, especially by the conglomerates we know and love, like Apple and Sony. Deep captions combine a very strong, good quality image with a caption that is two or three sentences long, and studies show this is often the most-read content on any given page.

Creating credibility is another way to persuade people you are the very best at what you do. Social proof is the simplest way to do this. Testimonials, ratings, Instagram photos shared by influencers, they will all add authority and position you as trustworthy, aspirational and popular.

Once you’ve completed the piece of content re-read it and try to be objective. Will the reader get the idea from the title, sub-headers, bullets and images alone? Does it look appealing? If yes, then happy posting!

Let us know if you found this post useful, there’s so much to say on this subject we could honestly write for days but there may be a follow up on this coming soon…

As always chat with us, anytime, on our socials Twitter , Instagram or Facebook.

Helloooooo. I am the content writer and strategist for Shape. Oh, and I also love dogs.