Content marketers are being accused of patronising audiences with cheap psychological tricks:

  • Stop using ‘power numbers’ in your blog headlines:
    I know specifics always outperform generalities in headlines. But please do something original.
  • Stop telling me that your e-book is FREE and that I should get it NOW:
    I know you aren’t going to charge me for your content so why remind me that it is free.
  • Stop explaining that you have practical ‘how-to’ information:
    If it’s an abstract piece of rambling nonsense then you ain’t getting my email address as the cover price.

Content marketers get a lot of criticism for being over formulaic and unoriginal. That’s fair comment. You rarely see a reinvention of the wheel.

If everyone is working with the same playbook of proven principles and techniques, then the victim is creativity and a tiresome user experience.

But is that really true?

In other marketing arenas, I’m sick and tired too.

Retailers annoy me with their cheap psychological tricks and formulas.

When they charge £9.99 rather than £10 – do they think I’m stupid and going to fall for that one?

When they always put the milk at the back of the store, do they really think I have no self-discipline? That I can’t resist the urge to grab a six pack of Hula Hoops on impulse as I wander through the store?

Yep, I’ll fall for it every time.

Aldi use the same formulas as Waitrose. But both very different customer experiences.

Formulas work

Look at the proportion of ‘fear Vs gain’ headlines that the tabloid newspapers pump out. They know fear trumps gain every time –our brains are hardwired to be alert to danger. And they play on it. And yes, it’s sometimes the worse kind of scaremongering – but it sells newspapers.

Formulas are good for everyone

If the world becomes formulaic then it is good thing. It establishes protocols that everyone understands.
Let’s stick with newspapers, if a new newspaper were to launch they could confuse everyone by ‘being creative’ and put the sports section on page three and not on the back page.

Changing tried and tested helps no one. People don’t like to think, they like mental short cuts.

Your audiences like the familiarity that formulas create. They know what they are getting. By sticking to the tried and tested you are providing a comfort blanket.

When you click on an ad and then go to a promotional landing page to give away your contact details, how many times have you diligently read the full promo copy? Or did you quickly and instinctively give away your email address.

You just felt comfortable doing it.

Was the comfort factor anything to do with the fact that you felt like you had been there before?

Formulas create a powerful déjà vu.
By all means shift the paradigm, mix it up and get jiggy with it all.
But don’t be afraid of the formula.

“There are only 3 colours, 10 digits, and 7 notes; it’s what we do with them that’s important.”

Jim Rohn