“Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetick.”
Samuel Johnson wrote this quote about advertising in 1759. And since right around that time(!), I’ve been using this quote to make a point to entrepreneurs, executives and marketers: that customer and employee disengagement is not a digital problem. It’s a human problem.
I believe the solution to this disengagement dilemma will also be human. Understanding and serving people’s deep, undying human needs is the only real way to connect with customers over time and get them to care about your content and products. I’ve long recommended companies deprioritize digital, big data and AI, at least for awhile, to focus on understanding the undying aspirations and real world real journeys of their customers.
tly that inspired me to change my tune a tad bit. It opened my eyes to the power of digital and AI to help us understand—not trick or manipulate—our own humanity, aspirations and the resistance that often pops up when we try to make a change.
Marketing tech firm Unbounce had their AI machine review the behavior of over 74 milllion visitors to over 64,000 landing pages published by over 2,500 brands across 10 industries. They paid particular attention to the rate at which visitors signed up to download content or connect with the brand that published the page. (Marketers call this a conversion rate.)
But from my point of view, the data on what does and doesn’t inspire people to enter their email surfaces insights into our aspirations, emotions and the actions we’re taking online as we try to get healthier, wealthier and wiser. A few takeaways you might find helpful to know about yourself, if you’re on any sort of transformational journey of your own:
- You desire help making complex transformation topic simple. In 6 out of the 10 industries Unbounce looked at, people were much more likely to enter their email address to download something if the content on the page was at a 9th grade reading level or lower.
By itself, that sounds like Marketing 101. What is interesting is that these 6 industries were ones in which our questions and challenges are likely to be relatively complex: real estate, business consulting, credit and lending, health and home improvement.
Upshot: when you have a goal or want to make a life change in one of these areas, you’ll set yourself up for success if you can distill your vision down to a super simple statement or objective. And it might be to your advantage to forego even trying to understand every complex layer of the subject or set goals with lots of steps and layers to them. Think: “get to bed by 10”, “rewrite website copy” or “unclutter kitchen drawers” vs. “go Paleo” or “get organized”.
- You know you need help with your “wealthy” goals. Out of the 10 industries covered, people were most likely to engage with pages offering content about business consulting, credit and lending and vocational studies/job training pages. (Travel was up there, too.)
- But you believe “healthy” is something you have to do on your own. You go online to learn about what it takes to get healthy and what new knowledge or fresh approaches might be out there. You may know you need some help getting yourself to make the behavior changes involved in living a healthier life. But you’re skeptical about whether anyone else can really, truly help you make these shifts. Visitors only engaged with 12% of health pages published, one of the lowest rates of all the industries analyzed.
There are so many products and people making wild health claims in the world, this skepticism seems wise. But this is also true: seeking help making changes you’ve tried forever to make on your own is a pro level move. So is experimenting with different approaches until you find something that works for your personal body and lifestyle and mindset.As someone who lost 60 pounds over 20 years ago, though, there’s another shift I recommend to almost anyone who has ever tried and failed to change their health habits. Here it is:
- You can’t scare, hate or disgust yourself into action. As the former chief marketer for the world’s largest fitness app, I’ve said this sentence, over and over again: “You can’t hate yourself skinny.” It doesn’t work. If it did, America would not have an obesity epidemic, and yo-yo dieting would not be a thing.
Fear and disgust are very low vibration, low energy emotions, and shifting your habits for the healthier, wealthier and wiser requires significant energy over a sustained period of time. You can stare at your cellulite in the mirror all you want or click on a million of those creepy belly fat ads, but feeling fear or hate or disgust will never be a powerful motivator for the lasting changes you want to make.
This report adds a new layer of insight: fear and disgust aren’t even that effective at motivating very short term transformational behavior, like entering your email address to get more information or download a resource guide. In all but one of the ten industries examined, the Unbounce AI machine found that where even 1-2% of the words on a landing page evoked negative emotions like fear and disgust, people were significantly less likely to seek further interaction with the brand.
Just this morning, Facebook reported having “killed” two AI-powered chatbots because they developed their own untranslatable, non-human language. This was particularly salient for me, as I was still processing a talk I’d had with Carl Schmidt, Co-Founder and CEO of Unbounce, when this report came out.
As Carl talked me through this report, he explained how their “machine” focuses for the time being on copy, meaning, sentiment: the power of the word.
This is a very human thing. And so is the tendency to try to use your own inner dialogue, your own words, to scare or shame yourself into making hard changes. This data is valuable in proving what many transformation teachers have long known: it just doesn’t work.
Rewire yourself to use the power of your own words, the words you speak or think to yourself, in favor of yourself. Fear doesn’t motivate, it disengages. Love, and in particular, self-love, can spark and fuel any transformation you ever want to make, over the long run.