Science says words are things — what that means for fundraising

by guest blogger George Crankovic, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing.

When it comes to writing — and especially copywriting for fundraising — vague and abstract are bad, while concrete and specific are good.

We know this. Now science explains why.

In one study called Reading cinnamon activates olfactory brain regions, researchers had their subjects rate words according to the association with smell, ranging on a scale from no association to a strong association. Words like “turpentine” and “cinnamon” with strong associations to smell were tested against words with no association.

The upshot is that, amazingly, when you read a word like “garlic,” it lights up the same area of the brain as actually smelling garlic. Apparently, your brain thinks that reading the word is essentially the same experience as the thing itself.

The reason is equally amazing. Words are usually used together with the experience of the actual object, so the neurons relating to the word and the neurons relating to the actual thing start firing together. Then they’re wired together.

It makes sense. If you come across a fetid pile of garbage rotting in the sun, you’d probably say to yourself, “Wow, that garbage stinks!” Or, when you smell coffee brewing in the morning, you think, “Oh yeah, coffee!” Your brain links word and experience together, so that they’re virtually one and the same.

The word-reality connection isn’t limited to the sense of smell. Reading the words, “to kick,” for example, will activate the language areas of the brain, naturally. But it also activates the motor regions of the brain involved in leg and foot movement. Once again, your brain sees the word and the thing as one and the same.

What all this comes down to is that fundraising copy that’s concrete and specific isn’t just better. It engages donors, literally lighting up their brains. And that’s not opinion. It’s science.


Comments

2 responses to “Science says words are things — what that means for fundraising”

  1. Good piece! (If the word fetid doesn’t bring up a smell to you, don’t know what will).
    You might also like this study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2819196/) that shows how strong narrative can active motor and visual centers.

  2. Good piece! (If the word fetid doesn’t bring up a smell to you, don’t know what will).
    You might also like this study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2819196/) that shows how strong narrative can active motor and visual centers.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.