Issue 10 of Hacking Human Nature for Good
Language that engages the emotions and paints a clear picture in the reader’s mind can be a very powerful tool. Concreteness is also of vital importance when giving people action plans, specific instructions for what they should do.
To clarify this, let’s look at a study done by Howard Leventhal, Robert Singer and Susan Jones of Yale University. They wanted to see what effect specific instructions would have on the performance of a simple, yet somewhat time-consuming, behavior -- getting a tetanus shot.
In this study, some of the participants (Yale students) were given a pamphlet with specific instructions on what to do, where to go, and a detailed map of the campus health center. Others were given most of the same information, but without specific instructions about what to do and where to go, etc. In the end, the study found that being given concrete instructions substantially increased the number of students who got tetanus shots, but only when the students were scared enough by the consequences of not getting shots (13). This goes to show that specific instructions are quite powerful when paired with emotional arousal.
So, in our quest to get our audience to perform the behaviors we want, we need to couple concrete, emotional language with clear instructions — clear calls to action (CTAs).
When choosing our wording, we need think about two things:
1. Fitting into the user’s frame of mind.
2. Expressing the result of the call-to-action button clearly, i.e. what happens when you click on it.
For example, let’s look at the two buttons below. Which one is more concrete?
The “Read Full Essay Now” button is clearer, because it tells the users what happens when you click on it. The “Get Instant Access Now” option is less clear and reduced conversion by 34% (14).
With the two items listed above in mind, head on over to your website or the marketing material for your product. Could you add some concreteness/actionable language to your CTAs?
(13) Leventhal, H., Singer, R., & Jones, S. (1965). Effects of fear and specificity of recommendation upon attitudes and behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2(1), 20-29. doi:10.1037/h0022089
(14) A Weber. “ 10 Case Studies To Help You Get More Clicks.” https://blog.aweber.com/email-marketing/10-case-studies-more-clicks.htm