Ever noticed how the slogans that work best tend to be short and sweet? Every little helps has been one of the most successful tagline in Tesco history, for instance, while Because you’re worth it has certainly stood the test of time for L’Oreal. Notice too that many of these also tend to rhyme. For those of us of a certain age, it’s definitely the case that Beanz Meanz Heinz while we’ve needed little reminding of late that Coughs and sneezes spread diseases. There are very good reasons why these simple slogans stick with us for years and why those that wax lyrical tend to stimulate the most extra sales.
It’s all to do with the way the brain processes information. We have evolved to favour quick-and-dirty ways of acquiring and retaining useful details about the world around us and for very good survival-related reasons. The brain is a wonderful computer but, like any other computer, it has a finite process capacity. Monitoring a harsh complex environment, full of natural predators and man-made perils, is a heavy-duty task for the brain to perform, one that requires a considerable amount of available processing capacity. So, to ease the cognitive load, our brains undertake a lot of this processing at an unconscious level, freeing capacity for more important things.
The key to maximising this unconscious processing ability is to rely on a phenomenon psychologists call cognitive fluency. This simply means paying particular attention to information that is short-and-to-the-point and is easy to both understand and, if necessary, recall from memory at a later date. Short catchy phrases achieve fluency very well, while those that rhyme do so considerably better still. And it’s not just about ease of acquiring and/or recalling relevant information either. A number of studies over the past twenty years have found that the extent to which we view information as being credible is also a function of processing fluency. In other words, where a product or brand has a catchy tagline – and even more so when that tagline rhymes – we actually believe the information to be more credible and accurate, increasing the likelihood we will buy that product/brand.
So, next time you are drafting an ad or simply creating some quick point-of-sale materials, remember the golden rule of cognitive fluency if you want to maximise sales: When Ads Rhyme, Sales Climb!