Nobody wants to feel like they’re sitting alone in a corner wearing a dunce hat.
But that’s exactly how prospects and clients feel when your messages fail to explain concepts in clear, easy-to-understand terms.
You never want to make people interested in your product or service have to think too hard about the offer. They work their day and use a lot of brain power at their job. To use more of it when they read your writing feels like forced overtime.
That’s why effective marketing messages should always use simple, concrete language when explaining a concept to your audience.
Tell Me More
Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Made to Stick explores the art of writing to explain. According to the Heath brothers, memory is kind of like Velcro:
Memory, then, is not like a single filing cabinet. It is more like Velcro. If you look at the two sides of Velcro material, you’ll see that one is covered with thousands of tiny hooks and the other is covered with thousands of tiny loops. When you press the two sides together, a huge number of hooks get snagged inside of the loops, and that’s what causes Velcro to seal.
So if the writing on your website, your products, or advertising is complicated, the less chance it has to hook on the memory’s Velcro and stick. But what does memory have to do with writing effective messages?
A lot, actually, especially when you’re explaining complicated concepts in a story. Marketers use stories to explain complex lessons about marketing their business without getting lost in the weeds of jargon. Find more writing resources like this in our “52 Things I Discovered Reading the Best Copywriting Books” blog article.
Look to Bill Schick’s LinkedIn feed for confirmation of the importance of simple explanations.
That’s Fine, But Where Does Concreteness Fit In?
It’s not enough to use simple language when telling a story; it should also be concrete–easy to visualize or imagine. You choose concrete ideas or experiences in examples and stories because they are easy to remember and explain. Research on word recollection confirms this.
In one experiment, 40 English speakers were asked two sets of questions about concrete words; one set involved concrete aspects of the word, the second set, abstract. An example of such questions would look like:
- For the concrete group, they might be asked, ‘“Is it round?’”
- For the abstract group, they might be asked, ‘“Is it living?’”
Researchers found that the perirhinal cortex of the brain, responsible for memory and recognition, responded to both tasks, while other areas lit up for the second one.
This means that concrete words engage your brain differently than abstract ones.
In a specific B2B example, say you’re describing a cybersecurity solution marketed towards businesses. When writing copy about such a complex subject, there’s a good chance you may unintentionally bog your content down with industry mumbo-jumbo.
Naturally, when describing something as complicated as an IT solution, there are just some terms that can’t be done without. In that case, include those words.
But don’t include them without any context to understand them. This is where concreteness comes into play. You can contextualize an abstract concept like cybersecurity by anchoring it in a concrete example.
For instance, you might say:
Having a password to protect your computer is a lot like locking the door to your home. Without a password, you might as well leave the door wide open.
Notice what I did there. Not only did I use a concrete example—locking the entrance to your home—but I also used a common experience. The cybersecurity company could develop this into an effective marketing message for prospective customers.
Concrete examples are not all created equal. Some are easier to visualize than others.
So something can be simple and concrete, but if it’s not rooted in a common experience, the example may fall flat.
Why is This?
Dan and Chip Heath explain this “common experience” as a schema, which is a psychological term. It’s basically more or less is a stand-in for what a preconception is. If I mention a familiar idea, let’s say a dog, your mind automatically goes to an image of what a dog looks like.
Dogs are common. Owning one is common. You have the schema of what a dog is and looks like. As such, you can easily imagine a message about a dog because the idea and words supporting it are concrete.
Concrete words make it easier to create effective marketing messages that hook onto your client’s memory Velcro and stick.
What tips and tricks have you explored for creating marketing messages prospects will relate to and remember? Drop us a chat to begin a conversation and share experiences of what you’ve seen work and also what hasn’t worked so well.