a bit of a cliffhanger. Or more precisely, in Dr. Zeigarnik’s experience, an unfinished task.
You see, back 1927, Russian psychologist Dr. Bluma Zeigarnik noticed that waiters seemed to remember orders only long enough to submit them to the kitchen and then serve them to the customers. Once they were done, the orders were forgotten.
Curious, she conducted experiments to support her observations. What she discovered: the human mind doesn’t like unfinished tasks.
In fact, during her research, she not only discovered that a mind interrupted is more likely to remember more details about the task it was performing than the mind of someone allowed to finish their task undeterred, but she also discovered that tasks that were interrupted in the middle or near the end were more likely to be recalled than those tasks that were interrupted near the beginning.
The moral of the story for marketers is this: Keep your customers on their toes. Engage their minds without giving away too much information at once. Lay before them a breadcrumb trail that satisfies their appetites but also leaves them wanting more.
Accomplishing this is easier than you think. Here’s how:
Start sentences but don’t finish them on the same page. This technique is good for e-mail subject lines, teaser copy on envelopes, brochure covers, etc.
Break instructions or points up in segments. Let your readers know there are more steps or bullets to address, but break them up into distinguishable, manageable chunks.
Foreshadow more must-have information. Hint to customers that more vital information or a key product will be included or revealed in the next newsletter, the next email, the next catalog, etc. You’ll create anticipation and a feeling of “unfinishedness” that will keep your company or brand top-of-mind.
You don’t have to memorize your customers’ orders to successfully employ the Zeigarnik effect. You just have to lead readers down the communication path to them.