Obama wins – but so can you if you use “contextual priming” on your web site

Congratulations to President-Elect Obama – an historic victory. But part of his success may be down to a psychological phenomenon known as “contextual priming”. A study performed last year revealed that the building you vote in has an effect on who you decide to vote for.

In essence, the context of our surroundings affects our thinking. People voting in schools, for instance, are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports extra school spending – no matter what their political allegiance. Previous research has shown that the context of advertising also matters. Both the words and the visual images in advertisements have greater effect if they are in context.

Obama’s team are well organised, efficient and effective; be in no doubt – they will have campaigned contextually, honing individual messages to specific communities so that the likelihood of achieving votes was raised. This clearly happened, because previously republican areas voted for Obama – and for Democratic Senators in the Senate elections.

So what does this all mean online – and how can it help you sell more from your web site? It means that you need to consider the context of your audience and provide contextual cues in your writing and in your visuals. For instance, if you are targeting home-based businesses, using words in your text which reflect their situation would provide that “contextual priming”. So drop in words like “kitchen”, “dining room”, “family”, “children”, and other “home” words to emphasise the context of being a home-based business and you will attract more attention and support. Similarly, if you are targeting people in big business make sure your images emphasise that by including pictures of big office buildings, open plan offices, and the other trappings of large companies.

The words and images you use in your web pages provide subtle clues as to your precise audience. When your target audience sees those clues, they see that what you say is “in context” and this makes it much more likely they will accept what you say. And if you are trying to sell them something, it increases the chances of purchase.

In short, it means much more attention to detail in terms of the copy-writing you do – and much more careful selection of the images you use on your web site. And if you think that Obama’s team didn’t pay attention to the details of their messages you must be living in a parallel universe. It’s the relentless focus on details and the context of those details that was significant in Obama’s success.

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