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How To Write Headlines That Surprise The Brain

Roger Dooley over at Neuroscience Marketing wrote a fascinating piece on writing headlines that contain a clever word play on a cliché or otherwise well-known saying. In it, he points to research that shows the human brain's hippocampus acts as a prediction engine. When an expected word in a familiar phrase is instead substituted with another, it triggers unusual activity and causes our brains to notice the message more intensely that we otherwise might. Dooley's summary comes from a paper entitled, An Unexpected Sequence of Events: Mismatch Detection in the Human Hippocampus.

Dooley uses an example from Patrón, a tequila brand, which we feature below:

patron word play

We could imagine some plays on other well-known phrases:

To market high-end ties or scarves:
"Don't cry over spilt silk"

Or perhaps an attempt to sell a French cheese:
"Barking up the wrong Brie"

Or maybe even one for us to sell more printing:
"All's well that sends mail"

You get the idea. To read the entire article, which includes references to the actual brain research with MRIs and more, just visit Neuroscience Marketing. You can read the original research paper here: An Unexpected Sequence of Events: Mismatch Detection in the Human Hippocampus from the Plos Biology website.

           


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