Your brain is hardwired to pay attention to what we call “story loops.”
This is known as the Zeigarnik effect. The idea is that we pay close attention to things which are unresolved.
Quite simply, our brain holds onto them because it wants a resolution.
Our lives are full of open story loops. Hunger opens a loop, and a sandwich closes it. Cold opens a loop, and a warm fire closes it.
Storytellers love to open loops, too, so you keep following along. Within ten minutes of starting a movie, you’ll know what the main character wants: to find true love, to win the game, to meet his father. Now there’s an open loop. You keep watching because you want to see how it closes.
So what does that mean for your marketing?
When we don’t open loops in our customer’s minds, they have no motivation to engage us. There is no tension that demands resolution. As a result, they don’t understand why what we’re offering matters to them.
To ensure you don’t confuse customers, you need to consistently open story loops in their minds.
What does that actually look like in your marketing?
Let’s look at Domino’s Pizza, because they have been doing this well. About a decade ago, they’d earned themselves a reputation for bad-tasting pizza, and their company was faltering as a result. Their CEO, Patrick Doyle, went on the air in a multi-million dollar campaign and said, “I know you have a problem. Your problem is that our pizza tastes terrible.”
That’s a pretty bold thing to do. Yet, what does it do in your brain when the CEO of a company says, “I know that you think our pizza tastes terrible.”? You pay attention to that commercial, because you want to know if and how they’ve fixed it. That’s the open loop.
To close the loop, you’ve got to buy the pizza and see if it’s better. That resolves the question he opened up in your brain.
Now, of course, unless you’re going into bankruptcy, we don’t recommend spending a million dollars telling people how bad your products are. But we definitely recommend opening a story loop customers have to buy your products to close.
Here’s another example. It’s a tagline from a real estate agent we’ve consulted with at my company StoryBrand:
“Can You Afford The Home You’ve Dreamed About?”
If you’re a prospective customer, that tagline opens a loop by speaking to your desire for the perfect home — and it’s not the one you’re in now. To close the loop, you need to find out if you can buy the house you want, which means starting a relationship with a realtor. Better call the agent.
In their messaging, most companies fail to open up these kinds of loops and because of that, they fail to get or keep a customer’s attention. Remember, all human behaviour is motivated by the opening and closing of story loops.
1. Take a look at all your marketing material and circle any story loops you’ve opened.
2. If none, make changes immediately.
3. If you do open a few story loops, make sure you repeat those “openings” as many places as possible. For instance, open them on your website, in brochures, in your emails, on your business cards, on employee t-shirts, everywhere you can.
REALLY TAKE ACTION:
How many times have you read good business advice and not followed through? The truth is, the more complicated the challenge, the more we put it off.
If you want somebody to guide you through the simple process of revolutionizing your marketing so it gets results, take action today.
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