Why Copywriters Should Think Like a Librarian
Learn about the overlapping skills that support excellence in information science and copywriting.
As you write ads, craft messaging and tell your story, do you ever wish you had a crystal ball to predict how it will be perceived? I suspect many of us feel it the moment before we hit "confirm" on a pricey PPC or social ad. I know I do. That dread of, if this ends up costing like $70 a lead I'm going to be so annoyed.
Is there a way to improve your understanding of consumer behaviors to more accurately predict success? Maybe not every time. But there are ways to gain better insight into what customers are thinking and how a customer will behave.
It feels like a long time ago that Freud and his lineage were vocally shaping our understanding of human behavior. While remnants of their approach persist, they feel almost foundational enough to ignore. Interestingly, a significant school of thought that began in the early 1900s is being revisited in ways that are revolutionizing marketing today.
Freud was all about psychoanalysis: diving into the animal impulses and "whys" behind human behavior. It stands to reason that knowledge of this would help anyone understand and predict people's choices. Freud's nephew, Edward L. Bernays, took it even one step further. In many circles, he's considered the "father of public relations." Bernays wrote a book called Propaganda. Here are some little gems from that book:
“Men are rarely aware of the real reasons which motivate their actions.”
“Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse. It must understand the changes in the public mind and be prepared to interpret itself fairly and eloquently to changing opinion.”
“We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”
Edward Bernays, Propaganda
Essentially, Bernays explained that understanding group think can allow you to manipulate people's behaviors. He tested it with the goal of convincing females to smoke.
Maybe not a worthy goal to our modern minds, but he pulled it off in a way that proved some giant theories about consumer behaviors. He started a campaign that equated smoking to defying male power. He used the brand Lucky Strike, calling their cigarettes "Torches of Freedom." By soliciting the help of debutantes (the 1900s equivalent to influencer marketing), he convinced them to smoke publicly on Fifth Avenue. Making cigarettes a symbol of feminism and freedom worked.
This theory has been tested over and over again. I would argue that it's being leveraged heavily in marketing efforts right now. "Marketing with a cause" is a powerful method. Here are some examples we've seen in the last couple of years:
Canva has a cool list of vintage ads illustrating this approach. There is variety in these examples. Propaganda can have a decidedly political bent. Cause-based marketing can also be highly philanthropic or charitable. Other ad strategies steeped in psychology are aspirational, guilt-inducing or community-oriented ("everyone's doing it").
So, if this idea has been around for 120 years, why are we talking about it? Because there is one giant difference: data. The sheer volume of consumer data that the average marketer has access to right now is staggering. And, it's not just actual buying trends: we have access to social behaviors, habits, hobbies, family systems and more.
We know where people go, what they do, at what point they stop reading something, at what point they decide to buy, what they return and why, how they feel about pretty much everything they do and a host of other things that are relevant to predicting buyer behavior. If you don't use this data, you are missing out. You need to collect it, organize it and learn from it. It will revolutionize your ROI when it comes to marketing.
There are some core data points to consider when you want to analyze and predict consumer behavior. The data on almost any platform you use is sophisticated enough to give you this information. If you use it wisely, you can transform your business. Among other things, you want to look at and learn from:
You can find this information on many platforms you use. For instance, your Google Ads dashboard, Facebook Ad Managers and any SMMS you use will have this info front and center. I would also say that if you aren't actively soliciting customer feedback, you are missing a significant set of data. Zappos, for instance, found that customers who have a bad experience with them end up spending more in the future. But, of course, Zappos is special.
It really is a psychology. Professional marketers use it in school. This is why a hierarchy still exists. This kind of knowledge is the difference between your nephew posting on IG for your company and a CMO who makes millions of dollars a year. The ability to analyze data in a way that predicts buyer behavior, the ability to truly understand buyer behavior, is what separates the minnows from the whales in this industry.
Generally, people buy for a huge variety of reasons:
I wasn't really trying to do the seven deadly sins, there. So, there are these general reasons people buy anything. Brilliant marketers then get really clear: why do your people buy from you?
Marketing is the activity of using that essential information to present the right message to the right people at the right time. Bernays launched his groundbreaking female smoking campaign on Easter Sunday on Fifth Avenue. He had a fully intact message and knew exactly who he was pitching to. He artfully associated his product with the female empowerment that was the battle cry of the day.
His is an example of how to use a better understanding of human psychology and behaviors to sell something.
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