Why Lists Work
It’s human nature to look for proof and reassurance. We want information, but don’t want to exert too much effort in obtaining it. The use of statistics in marketing facilitates both goals. Bite-sized chunks of data can be quickly processed and absorbed by consumers, to motivate and justify an opinion or action. Statistics do the discovery work and thinking process for us. Also, they cut right to the chase.
From a company’s perspective, it enables them to support claims. By presenting statistics, they’re demonstrating that they’ve done the research for consumers and have the evidence to prove their case. If 9/10 people found x-product better than y-product, there must be a reason that x-product is the preferred choice.
Of course, statistics can be skewed and frequently are. Results can be manipulated to exemplify just about anything and support any argument. A quick Google search on ads by toothpaste companies will show that most brands state that 80-90% of the Dentists would recommend their products over those of their competitors. Each company has analytically manipulated their figures because, well, it’s simply numerically impossible for them all to be true.
One technique is to stage the messaging in a listicle format. Our era operates on a fast-food information diet and list marketing satisfies our cerebral taste buds. In a piece for Fast Company, Jane Porter states, "Lists are soothing. They’re simple. They provide instant gratification and purpose...Lists gel well with the brain’s cognitive penchant for categorization. They minimize choice and make it easy to process data."
Presenting key messaging points in a spatially-organized fashion is appealing to advertisers who aim to scale their material, and to consumers who want the information delivered in snackable morsels - but expect it to be simultaneously filling none the less. Maria Konnikova writes in an article for The New Yorker, "In the current media environment, a list is perfectly designed for our brain. We are drawn to it intuitively, we process it more efficiently, and we retain it with little effort."
Online, lists are considered click-bait. Advertisers exploit the curiosity of its audience by luring them in with the promise of succinct revelations of grandeur. Lists are magnets that lead to high traffic and a low bounce rate. People get drawn in and want to find out how it ends. And capturing and maintaining that attention is unquestionably the bridge to the sale.
Marketers have a responsibility to ensure that content is curated effectively. Brevity is the currency of modern times. Using statistics (the authentic kind), and stacking information in a list, are persuasive tools that increase marketing success. That's why we use Brandable Chunks. But I've already written about that.