Processing Fluency – how easy it is to understand what you’re saying – directly affects your audience’s ability to remember and repeat it.
Let’s ruin some great work
Allow me: “America Runs on Dunkin’”. Beautiful, portable, rhyming, simple.
Consider a less gifted copywriting team on the job:
- More Americans eat Dunkin’ Donuts than any other donut brand every day.
- Dunkin’ Donuts are America’s favourite donuts
- For when you need your favourite cake-like pick-me-up
None of these are terrible, but none have the processing fluency of the original. Later today you’re quite likely to recall “America Runs on Dunkin”, but your brain will almost certainly have filed all the other alternatives into the must-try-harder bucket.
We recently worked on a key messaging project for a wealth management company in the US. It’s a difficult, regulated industry that makes b2b copywriting a challenge. This is a typical paragraph from that sector (not one we’ve written or from our client!):
“Your Relationship Manager is supported by a dedicated Wealth Management relationship team and customer service experts who specialise in helping clients with larger portfolios. They’re able to help you with day-to-day queries and help you arrange a meeting with your Relationship Manager.”
Now think of a gigantic pink cartoon piglet standing on two legs and wearing a red top hat for a second…
OK now recall anything other than “relationship manager” from the paragraph above. Tricky huh?
Just spitballin’ – what if we re-wrote that paragraph from the angle of what (I think) it’s trying to say: “Our guy supports you. We support our guy.” Or “Big portfolio? We have teams to support our teams for you.” Disclaimer: we aren’t suggesting this would work for a wealth management company, read below:
Big Happy or Big Reward?
This post is specifically about memory and recall, but those delivering the message can manipulate processing fluency through different means – both visual and semantic. Very simply:
- Fluent: the easier it is to process and understand language, the more favourable the attitude to the brand or message and the better chance of recall.
- Disfluent: the harder it is to process and understand language, or the more time it takes to read an advert or message, the more the consumer will value the offer. “Effort investment theory” says we put higher value on things that require extra effort because they should result in greater reward.
In other words – keep it simple if you want them to like you right away and remember you. Make it tougher if you want them to value you. Now the long-form sales letter for high value sales makes sense, right?
So to return to our poor wealth management company above – perhaps they are writing to convince a reader of their value as a provider, rather than to have people like them.
Ask yourself – is your Key Messaging fluent, or disfluent? Can your reader easily understand and repeat it? Or, is there a reason to add disfluency to it as a cognitive roadblock that slows processing and invites more considered reading?
Feel good about what you do, or appreciate the value in what you do?
Tough choice. That’s why people pay us 🙂