I'm a big fan of Ed Sheeran. I listened to every song he releases. When he performed in KL, I immediately bought a ticket.

But when Ed Sheeran released Bad Habits (video below), I didn't like it! And I'm not the only one. It was different from his usual style.

But of course, the radio kept playing the song. I kept hearing it everywhere – radio, online, in public places.

Until finally, I began to enjoy listening to it. How could that be? How could I enjoy something I initially hated?

The answer is "Processing fluency" – a cognitive bias where our opinion of something is influenced by how easily our brain processes and understands it. Simply put, we like and believe things that are easy to understand.

Real-life examples:

Writing a blog

You sit down to write a blog and hated your writing. After a while, you begin to love your writing. The next day you review your post and find it awful again!

Ever experienced this? Why?

As you wrote, your processing fluency increased and you misattributed the ease of processing your writing, thinking its a masterpiece. The next day your processing fluency resetted.

Stock picking

Psychologists have found that during the week following their IPO, stocks tend to perform better when their ticker symbols are easier to pronounce. (Example: KAG vs. "AUY" which is harder to pronounce.

The reason I began to enjoy listening to Bad Habits, was because of repetitions.

Each time I listened to the song, I was able to process it better. So while I initially disliked the song, it became more familiar and I misattributed my liking of the song with the ease of processing it.

Processing fluency in marketing.

So how does my little story relate to marketing? Well, processing fluency is everywhere!

When we're deciding between two brands, we tend to choose the one that comes into our minds easily. That's why marketers spend so much on ads to force repetition onto us!

You might laugh at a radio or billboard ad – "Haha! Why is this brand spending so much money putting up stupid ads? I'll never fall for their tricks!"

But even so, if you're a Malaysian you can probably hear the "Yusof Taiyoob" whisper in your head. And many of us would tend to choose the brand if we're buying dates, just because we can process the brand more easily!

Ideas to increase processing fluency.

Processing fluency is a tool you can use. But remember to use it ethically, and not to get a target audience to buy something that doesn't benefit himself.

Simplify marketing content.

Cut down the complexity of your ad or website. Your audience will misattribute that ease of processing with a desire to comply with your request.

Publish consistently.

The more familiar (and easy to process) your brand is in the mind of your audience, the more they'll lean on to choose your brand.

Repeat your call to action

On a website, repeat your call to action buttons all over, but not to the extent your audience sees what you're trying to do. The effect of processing fluency works better when we're subconsciously exposed it.

Use familiarity.

To help your audience experience high processing fluency, use familiar concepts and ideas in your marketing to help them connect with the information easily.

I might not know what a 48MP camera does. But I'm familiar with breathtaking, smile-making pictures.

Always be marketing.

The more familiar your audience is with your brand, the more they'll be inclined to choose it. That's why the biggest brands are always actively marketing.

They reach their audience through every possible channel – influencer marketing, brand placements, events, ads everywhere,  emails, and more.

The effect of processing fluency works better when we don't know we're being exposed to it. Just like how I began to build my liking for Ed Sheeran's song – I was unconsciously being exposed to the song again and again.

Use repetition.

Now that you understand processing fluency, you'll see why it's not surprising for music artists to use repetitive lyrics.

Daft Punk repeated the phrase "around the world" 144 times (80 times in the version below) and went on to turn their song into a platinum record and #1 hit in 6 countries.

Repetition is powerful because it increases processing fluency.

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