Marketing / Business marketing

Cool hack: 4 ways to write numbers for maximum impact

The way you write numbers in your marketing changes how they are perceived by people’s brains and the results you achieve. Here are four writing hacks to help you present numbers for stronger results.

10 May 2017 by

If you have ever peered through the gloom at the menu in an ultra-hip restaurant and wondered why the prices for each dish are presented in such a strange way, the mystery will soon be revealed.

Humans like to think that we are logical creatures. The trouble is, our brain takes shortcuts with the information it reads without telling us, which results in totally illogical answers.

The way you write numbers in your marketing changes how they are perceived by people’s brains and the results you achieve.

This is the bit where you stick your hand over your heart and promise that you will use the information you are about to receive for good and not evil.

"That’s why hipster restaurants remove the $ symbol from their menu prices"

Tip 1: Lose your $ signs

Not surprisingly, people associate the symbol $ with money. If you pop people into a handy brain scanner (we all have these laying around the office, right), and show them the $ symbol, the same parts of the brain that light up when you are in pain turn on a light show. Yes, money = pain! By removing the $ symbol, you remove the pain association.

That’s why hipster restaurants remove the $ symbol from their menu prices. Smart ones who have read a few neuromarketing texts, also remove numbers to make it look even less like a price. So, a dish priced at $38.50 suddenly looks like 38.5 on the menu. The mystery has finally been revealed! If you are trying to save money, take a little pencil and fill in the missing bits in the menu to help you make more financially savvy choices.

Tip 2: Use your zeros carefully

Remember we talked about brains taking strange shortcuts? This tip is a classic example.

Brains register $150.00 as being bigger than $150. Of course, it is the same number, but whether you add in the zeros impacts on whether someone clicks to buy your product.

If you want to show the low price of just $150 (aka – make the price seem small), then lose the zeros.

If you want to show the massive savings of $150.00 you make if you buy now (aka – make the savings seem big), then add the zeros.

Tip 3: Separate out shipping and GST

This tip follows on from Tip 2. If you want a price to seem smaller, then list the price + GST and not all rolled up. $216.70 (inclusive of GST) appears larger than $197 plus GST.

Tip 4: Pick the outcome you want your percent to achieve

Ask any kid at primary school – percentages are hard! Our brains struggle with converting percentages into tangible items.

Ask someone to hold up one finger, and you will usually get given one middle finger on one hand within a split second. Ask someone to hold up 10% of their fingers, and you get puzzled looks as the cogs in their brain whirl around for a few seconds trying to grasp how to do that.

The problem with percentages flows into your marketing. Whether you use them, depends on whether you want people’s brains actually to engage with the number. Remember, a confused mind says no!

So, if you want to share good news then use numbers and not percentages. For example, “9 out of 10 dentists recommend us”, is more effective than “90% of dentists recommend us”.

If you want to share bad news, then use percentages and not numbers. “We have a 1% error rate” is more effective than “1 in 100 products are returned”.

Like all things, there are exceptions. The closer a percentage is to 100, the less impact it has. 99.97% looks good to the brain either way.

One last tip. If your doctor uses percentages to tell you about your prognosis, convert it into numbers in your head before deciding about your treatment.

An experiment showed that when comparing “Cancer kills 1286 out of every 10,000 people” to “Cancer kills 12.68% of people”, people believed cancer 32% riskier in the first scenario.

I told you our brains are wonderfully unique and totally irrational things!

Have you ever been taken in by numbers written in a tricky way?

Ingrid Moyle

from Heart Harmony Communications is a copywriter who works with small business owners struggling to find the time and the right words to market their business, and who feel stuck and frustrated (… and tempted to go get a J-O-B).

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