The Persuasive Power of Specificity

The Persuasive Power of Specificity

Reader Comments (32)

  1. Chris;

    While I agree that the headline with the specific number is more compelling…

    It seems like a random number pulled out of thin air and I might be immediately skeptical.

    I’d rather read, “How a Blogger Got 6,312 Subscribers in a Single Day.”

    That sounds like a case study and would grab me more.

    My 2 cents…


  2. Interesting points Chris. However, I recently read in an article that makes me doubt specificity: people are desensitized by large numbers. The article stated that people are less likely to sympathize and care when a story mentions 300 + killed etc. and more likely to show sensitivity and empathy when 1 person’s struggle is described. This is only because people can relate to that 1 person, rather than 300. So, how does that impact your theory on specificity? Don’t you think that people will be less likely to care or take notice when it’s a number they can not relate to such as 6,312 subscribers?

  3. I think this article is even more relevant because of today’s advertising overload. The sheer amount of superfluous banter that is thrown at us every day is making it necessary to filter out more and more. Being specific and concrete will give yield a much better result than generalizing.

    Thanks for mentioning that second exception. In marketing, I think relevancy is even more important than specificity. If you are adding specifics at the cost of relevance, it just isn’t worth it.

    Great post brian, thanks.

    – Mason

  4. @Michael – Good point, do you think though an amount of trust will come from the fact it is a story by a familiar source (Brian)?

    @Ayat – Interesting, I would like to read more about the research, do you have a link? I can see how a huge number might be counteractive but in this case I think you would expect a big number?

  5. Whoops! Amend that last line to say ‘great post Chris.’

    I’m getting confused with all of the different people on Copyblogger. It’s amazing you all write so well, keep it up!

  6. Mike, this is far from scientific, but just to give some background on the performance of that post… it made the front page of Digg, Delicious popular, Delicious home page and scores of other social media sites. The post brought in over 30K unique visitors that were NOT regular Copyblogger readers, so although I don’t know if another approach to the headline would have worked better, that one worked pretty well. 🙂

  7. In your weight loss example, it’s not just about consumers getting mad…more importantly, people will say the product doesn’t work. Setting unreasonable expectations is never a good selling proposition, so your example is a good one.

  8. I am proud to say that I picked #1. It made me more curious. In example #2 (where you said over), it made the number “6000” seem like a number you wanted to sound big, but not too big.

    In #1, I felt like I was going to read an article about how someone got 6,312 subscribers.

    Well, that’s just me. 🙂

  9. Good point, Chris. I also think that specific headlines help you appear more as an authority on the subject of the article or post. That’s why using “5768” rather than “over 5000” convinces readers you know what you’re talking about.

  10. I’m surprised that so many people doubt or don’t agree with chris’ theory on specifics. Not trying to take anything away from him/you, but it’s a very fundamental copywriting principle or isn’t it?

    However, I’ve only read one book about copywriting (tested ad. methods) so I enjoy reading articles like that, because it helps me retain that knowledge and brush up on it, etc.

    I think the fact that the copy has to flow and that specifics shouldnt make the reader stop and wonder is yet another traditional copywriting principle: clever copy isn’t good (however I didnt think of it in this context before).

    To the person who said that reading about the struggles of one instead of those of 300 persons helps the reader relate better: I can see how this is logical (and am glad about reading this as Ive learned something new), but I highly doubt the headline “how to attract 1 subscriber to your blog” would help a lot hehe.

    Imho, this is about 1 person: It’s about 1 blogger who attracted xyz subscribers. If the story was about how 300 bloggers attracted xyz users that might be what you described..but in this case we do relate to that one blogger, I think..

    But on the other hand I also think that the importance of that empathy principle really depends on the type of story. If we’re talking about somebody’s death or a love story, empathy is probably important, but possibly not so important if we’re talking about attracting subscribers to your blog (we’re not really trying to evoke empathy with that type of story, I think).

  11. It seems that the larger the number, the more people read the post? heh 🙂

    • Not using powerful specifics is the one mistake that I see my clients make the most- and its fairly easy to fix.

    Good reminder Chris & Brian of how very important laser target specifics are. Thanks!

  12. On a related not, when I was an RA in college, I used to set house meetings for times like 7:04 or 8:11. People would question the weird time, but they always remembered it. Why? Because specifics work.

  13. Great post! I find that specifics (especially when dealing with numbers) adds a certain amount of authenticity to your writing. Round numbers are good, and have their place, but a specific number is more convincing and believable. Of course, it’s pretty easy to pull a random number out of thin air, but that’s besides the point! 🙂

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