The Barnum effect says that individuals generally listen to and accept statements which describes their personality, provided that they feel that the message is tailored for them. It is somewhat (though not completely) meant for them.
The Barnum Effect happens because people generally look for hits, rather than misses because it is easier to notice when something is present than when it is absent.
The scientific name for this is called the “positive test strategy.”
Let’s look at an example:
If I ask you if you are happy about your business what comes to mind?
What about if I ask you if you are unhappy about your business?
A Canadian social science team tried a similar experiment where they asked people if they were happy or unhappy with their social lives.
Those who were asked if they were unhappy, were 375% times more likely to declare themselves unhappy as the other group!
The reason for this discrepancy is that the initial question channelled their attention towards things that made them unhappy!
What does the Barnum Effect do?
What the Barnum Effect does is
- It makes an immediate connect with the individual.
- It makes them listen to the one passing on the message
- Once the belief is created, the person passing the message can pass more messages, whether honest or scrupulous.
The Barnum Effect was proved by pioneering research done by Betram Forer in 1949, and it stands true to date and is being used even today.
Can this help coversion?
Though most applicable for activities like fortune-telling or horoscopes, elements of the Barnum Effect can be useful in online CRO strategies.
Personalization campaigns, for example, can use ‘generalities’ (messaging to audience segments) to make individual customers feel like they’re being interacted with on a one-to-one basis.
Think about product recommendations made ‘just for you,’ or personalization campaigns that rely on user behavioural triggers or in-depth demographic data.
A perfect example is a personalized discount banner just to loyalty card holders.
Lastly, using a client’s first name, birth date, or other personal information is another way of using generic information in the spirit of the Barnum Effect, to make browsers feel interacted with on a one-to-one level.
A great example is when you send out an abandon cart message personalised to YOU.
“Lesley, your shopping cart misses you. Complete this purchase and we will give you an extra 10% off for being a loyal customer.”
Even Spotify with their offerings of “Your Daily Mixes”.
Give it a try in your next offerings.