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Richard Jaggs

MD | Resolution Design

  • January 12, 2021
  • 6 minute read

It’s not merely what you say that matters; it’s the way you say it. (We’re sure there’s a Shakespeare quote about that somewhere.)

Whether you’re tweeting, blogging, or writing a PPC ad, the words you use wield significant influence over the customer’s decision-making process. Cat got your tongue? Enter language psychology: an effective yet often overlooked component of powerful marketing.


In this piece, we examine six psychological principles and outline how you can apply them to create content that increases clickthroughs and conversions.

1. The Serial Position Effect

We’re more likely to retain the first and final nuggets of knowledge we encounter in a body of information.


Thoughtfully order your content

It’s always worth strategically ordering the information you deliver – doesn’t matter if you’re writing a long-form blog post, landing page, or email.

Focus on the customer’s problem at the start of your copy and finish with your solution (using keywords, if possible): this is a simple language psychology template that improves your chances of engaging the most relevant market segments.

2. Chunking

Our brains clump similar scraps of information into groups to aid recollection – helpful, right?

Language psychology in action: to-do lists

Take, for example, a to-do list: most of us would silo thematically linked jobs into specific categories (kitchen, garden, shopping). This is known as Chunking.


Structure information for memorability

You can work with the grain of this neural habit in almost any type of info-heavy content; for example, blog posts, whitepapers, email newsletters, and landing pages. In other words, you can do the heavy lifting.

Try dividing information into distinct sections determined by topic or theme, utilising well-crafted headlines, headers, lists, and images to give readers even greater clarity. The result? Less white noise. Data that is more retainable and more search-friendly.

3. Narcissism

The majority of us sit somewhere on the spectrum of narcissism – in fact, it’s healthy. Consequently, the words you use need to tune into our inward-looking inclinations – they should act as a figurative mirror.


Let emotion colour your communications

Whatever your product or service is, it’s good to employ emotive language that conveys how your offering will improve the target individual’s quality of life.

Mirror image

Who’s ‘she’, the cat’s mother? To reach customers on a more personal level, try addressing them in the first or second person (‘we’, ‘us’, ‘you’ ‘your’) within your content, and put to work power words that tap into their needs and desires.

Power words are words that strongly engage our emotions. For example: ‘exclusive’, ’emerging’, ‘proven’, ‘best’. They might trigger a sense of trust, excitement, outrage – the list goes on. Including these in your headlines can help foster connection and signal a worthwhile emotional payoff to the customer, encouraging clickthroughs, and, later, loyalty.

4. The Buffering Effect

Research has shown that social support boosts our health, wellbeing, and ability to combat stress: this principle is known as The Buffering Effect.


Be a world-class listener

Most of us would agree: spending time with someone who’s only interested in themselves is rather alienating.

It’s vital to ensure that the language you use makes the customer feel consistently seen and heard: this associates your brand with positive experiences and support.

To better understand customer’s pain points, try asking for feedback, performing regular keyword research, and analysing the oppo’s online reviews: you then can recognise and articulate your findings within targeted ads, blog posts, and email marketing workflows.

5. Scarcity

‘Few items left’… you know the feeling you get when that message appears alongside something you’re interested in. Urgency! Desire! FOMO! You’re experiencing a psychological principle known as Scarcity.

Bakery display

In basic terms, the more limited the availability of a service, experience or product seems, the more our perceptions of its value are skewed in its favour.


Don’t be too modest.

If stocks are selling fast or your services are in high demand, why not tell people?

By informing your audience that the window is rapidly closing, you can use language psychology to instil a sense of urgency and encourage purchasing.

From promotions to online product listings, try coupling quantitive descriptions – ‘selling fast’, ‘two days left’ – with a compelling call to action that clearly details the next step your customers should take.

6. The Framing Effect

The Framing Effect also demonstrates how our response to a situation can differ according to our perception of a resulting gain or loss.

Researchers Tversky and Kahneman posed two different life or death situations to two different groups: in both cases, the group selected the option that implied the smallest loss of life.


Make your purpose known

The Framing Effect beautifully complements the public’s emerging drive to shop with ethical, purpose-led brands.

Plastic collection

If you can, let your customer know the positive impact their purchase will have (in addition to getting your fantastic product or service). You could do this through the brand story you tell on your About page and blog, or via a thoughtfully crafted email sent post-purchase – whichever medium best suits you.

We hope you enjoyed our thoughts on the basics of language psychology. Over and out.

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