4 lessons from behavioural economics that you can use in your copy

Alice Hollis

Alice Hollis Ltd. - More than words®

At last year’s CopyCon, one of the speakers, Sally Mayor, mentioned a wonderful website called 42courses. With a brain that’s always eager to learn more, I had to check it out.

And then found myself enrolled on “Behavioural Economics: learn why people do what they do and how to influence them”, led by the one and only Rory Sutherland.

The course was pitched perfectly, a beautiful blend of just enough theory, with scientific evidence, real-world application and LOTS of further reading.

I’m not here to give any spoilers, but here are 4 of the key lessons that I’ve taken away to apply to my writing.

1. Positive framing to engage the reader

Every copywriter knows that, generally speaking, everything should be written in the active voice. Positive framing is very similar.

Sally spoke about the same issue during her session at CopyCon – the idea that we have a strong bias towards statements that sound more positive, even if the outcome is the same.

For example, ‘33% chance of saving all 600 people’ is more compelling than ‘66% probability that all 600 will die’.

In relation to copywriting, it’s made me think that I need to be more mindful about how I frame the data I use to back up the opinions shared in each piece.

Traditionally I’ve tended to recite the facts ‘as is’. But I wonder whether I could have increased my copy’s conversion rate if I’d known to ensure every argument and opinion was presented in a positive light?

It will be interesting to try it out and see.

2. Nudge your customers to make them take action

And specifically the action you want them to take.

There are several ways to frame information that plays on the way our brains naturally process information and make decisions. Nudging is all about understanding this and presenting people with a choice that influences their behaviour.

I do this with my boys all the time:

For example,are you going to brush your teeth first? Or wash your hair?”

The option to ‘do nothing’ never exists, and we (generally!) end every bathtime on a happy note.

Within copywriting, I can use nudging to improve the conversion rate by thinking about how I present those end call-to-actions:

For example, “would you like to ‘Read a case study’ or ‘Download a white paper’?”

3. The critical part of the story is how it ends

You could have the worst holiday in the world where it rained for 2 weeks, your partner broke their leg and the swimming pool was out of bounds.

But if the holiday ended on a high – perhaps you were upgraded to first-class on the flight back – you’re more likely to feel positive about the holiday as a whole.

I feel like this is super important for copywriting, which is all about employing storytelling technique to hook the audience in and convert them to take action.

It makes me realise that whatever that story looks like, it always needs to end on a high, ideally exceeding their expectations, so the reader is always left feeling positive about their engagement with the brand I’m writing for.

4. The brain is like a muscle – train it!

This is more about self-improvement than actual copywriting.

In the course, Rory talks about how the brain works better with training, so you always need to push yourself to learn new things.

I know some copywriters who simply turn up and do a job. They really don’t care about self-improvement and refuse to pick up a book, listen to a podcast or attend an event.

For me, continuous professional development is everything, which is why I’ve built specific targets into my business plan and allocated an appropriate budget to ensure I continue to learn and hone my craft.

Why not learn something new yourself?

Ok, so in reality, I have about 20 pages of comprehensive notes to summarise all I’ve learned from this incredible course – but as I said at the beginning, I’m not here to spill Rory’s secrets.

If you want to know it all, you should sign up and take a look for yourself – it only took me a week’s worth of evenings to complete my studies, so well worth the investment.

For now, I’m looking forward to challenging myself to put these lessons into action and reporting back on how well they perform.

Want to know more about CopyCon? Here are 83 more takeaways that may be of interest.

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