Smokers face a tough choice: give up cigarettes, improve their health and save money – or – avoid the battle of dealing with a strong addiction by carrying on smoking. For decades health professionals have struggled to ensure that smokers give up. Indeed, many people who smoke want to stop doing it, but the addiction is just too strong for them to be able to cope with life without a cigarette. In spite of several high-profile anti-smoking campaigns, millions of people still light up each day, inhaling life-threatening poison into their lungs.
New research from the University of Michigan looked at the success rates of anti-smoking campaigns and compared them with brain scan information of the participants. What the study showed was giving up smoking was more successful when centres of the brain relating to the self were triggered in advance by the anti-smoking messages. It seems that the more personalised the anti-smoking message, the more these “self-rating” centres of the brain were triggered and the more likely was it that the individuals gave up cigarettes. In other words, when the information was truly, deeply personal, it was acted upon. But when the anti-smoking message was generic or vaguely personal, the key “self” regions of the brain were not triggered and the result was that people were not successful in giving up cigarettes.
This is powerful research as it shows that people act on information when it is really, really personal. When the message is personalised, when it is so focused on them as an individual then it appears to trigger the right parts of the brain to make action much more likely.
The Internet is full of personal stuff – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – to name but a few. But the web is also full of generic drivel. Stuff that is supposed to get us to “buy something” or “sign up” for something, yet is so impersonal we don’t care. All across the Internet you can find advice on how to increase your conversion rates, for instance from a dismal 1% to an equally dismal 2%. You can find information on how to get more “sign ups” by using fancy graphics with arrows pointing to the boxes. Whoopeedoo!
Yet the truly successful websites – like Amazon – tap into personalisation in a big way. This latest research confirms that when a message is truly personal, it has significantly more impact because it triggers the “self” parts of the brain. And there is nothing more important to each of us than ourselves.
So, if you want much more success online, you need to tailor your website towards individuals. Make your website personal, really personal, and it will become much more engaging. Indeed, my task now is to find tools which will personalise this site to make it an individual experience for you in the future. Watch this space…! You too could do the same for your website right now – unless of course you need to nip outside for a quick smoke first…!
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+