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Barnum Effect in Marketing
Today’s newsletter is only for you. Yes, you with such beautiful eyes! Through a big round crystal ball, I can see that -
- You will find love in the upcoming year.
- There will be conflicts in one of your relationships next month.
- If you wear blue on Wednesdays, you will have a good day at work
No silly, I don’t really have a crystal ball. I don’t need them, I have the art of making Barnum statements.
Barnum statements or Barnum effect unfortunately doesn’t help me look into the future. It’s just a simple effect which occurs when people believe that personality descriptions apply specifically to them. This can be seen even when descriptions are filled with statements that apply to almost everyone.
If you look at the statements I have used, they are very generic statements but can seem extremely personalized at the same time. This is what I call the art of making Barnum statements.
This art has a great deal of science behind it. Bertram Forer, a Psychologist was the first one to study this effect. He was the first one to realise that it is very easy to fool people with vague positive descriptions about them and their personality.
To master this art, you need to focus on two things -
(a) The statement needs to be positive in nature.
(b) It should be complementary, even a small amount of criticism will throw people off.
The major reason for these statements to work is because they directly feed our ego. One of the best examples of this effect is our daily horoscopes. Next time you read your horoscope, be cognizant of this effect.
Why am I telling you about the Barnum Effect?
It might seem like this effect is only applicable for psychics, fortune tellers or astrologers but that’s not true. The implications of the Barnum Effect can be seen everywhere, especially in the product and marketing world.
Before you go around making generalised and irrelevant statements as a part of your marketing strategy, stop! Look at how you can use this effect to completely change your own fortune -
(a) Personalization - Do you feel special when Spotify gives you personalized suggestions for playlists and songs? You should, personalized services or products showcase loyalty and exclusivity. It can be as difficult as building a personalized algorithm or as simple as changing the language for different countries.
(b) The right content - If personalization is too much for you, you can start simple. Just get your content right, make it specific yet generic. Use sentences like “just for you”, “curated for you” or “you are…”.
(c) Block Personalization -Sometimes personalization can take too much effort. Instead, you can try putting customers into groups and then can personalize for the group. This will do two things for you - (1) It will make customers feel like they are a part of a group. (2) The barnum effect can be then used to address the group in the right way.
Don’t forget the key will always be to make your customers feel reassured and happy about themselves.
Quick takeaways -
- The Barnum effect is when people feel that personality descriptions apply specifically to them.
- The effect only works when the statements are positive and complimentary.
- Barnum effect can be used to revamp your marketing strategy to make it more customer centric.
One last thought…
Satisfying your customer’s ego is not always the easiest task. Different customers have different ego stages therefore they require different interventions. For example,
A parent - Looks for a voice of authority and logical explanations. Generally, already established brands or big brands do very well with parents.
A child - Children are impulsive and seek affectional support. Brands with good social media presence and fancy ads do well with kids.
An adult - Adults look for knowledge rich brands. They look for logic and relevance. Adults do well with brands that have a robust customer care service and have different platforms for Q&A.
When you aim to improve your customer satisfaction game, make sure you start by understanding your customers and their mindset.
That’s it for today. Please don’t forget to wear blue on Wednesdays ;)