Why words matter in marketing

How to use psychology to engage your audience

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What makes us engaged?

Feelings have always been the secret sauce of engagement — we need to feel to care. Most marketers and click bate news outlets are talking about sensations and emotions in every second sentence. But the truth is: engagement doesn’t have to come from conscious feelings. We can game a large part of how someone feels about something by understanding the brain.

The important things to understand before you keep reading are:

  1. Our brain works partly by associating things with one another
  2. This is an unconscious process

Why are networks of associations relevant in marketing?

Getting people to feel used to be about making them upset or happy or sad. Now you might start to realise there’s another very effective way. You can make your audience feel in line with your goals without them even knowing — only because of how you package your message. If you create your message with the brain in mind, you can piggyback on neuroscience to get people engaged.

  • Or compare your thoughts about the unemployed with your thoughts about the people who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Any difference?

Some cases where the network of association matter

The fact that someone named “network neutrality” and tried to get people excited is, therefore, a little bit sad. Few people will be enthusiastic by the neutral. When we talk about network neutrality, the patterns activated in our neural networks are very similar to when we are talking about vanilla ice cream or a boring car. It’s the same with something like gay rights, no one gets excited by “rights”.

There are two lessons to learn in this — one about net-neutrality and one about engagement.

Lesson 1. When we talk about network neutrality, we must stop talking about the importance of a neutral internet, and start talking about the importance of the free internet. Because that is the core idea in net-neutrality. (Your internet service provider should not be allowed to choose which traffic is prioritised, or charge different rates on traffic to different websites.)

How do you find out what the networks of your audience look like?

I usually start by looking at social media behaviour. Tweets, Instagram hashtags, Reddit content and Facebook groups are a variety of sources to mine. If I’m lucky, I can add focus groups to the mix, having the opportunity to listen to people talk about a topic uncovers a lot of the underlying emotions and associations.


Don’t serve vanilla. And if vanilla is the only ice-cream you’ve got, at least add some topping.

Written by

Digital strategist and behavioural scientist. Fascinated by humans online. Currently consulting for @hm. Previously at @spotify.

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