Corporate Eye

5 Proven Ways Content Can Connect With An Online Audience

What’s the best way to make an audience remember your product?

Make it about them.

This may seem fairly obvious – after all, it’s common knowledge that marketing a product in ways that relate to a target audience is certainly effective marketing practice.

But why?

The explanation lies in the Self-Reference Effect. The Self–Reference Effect is the tendency for people to remember information about themselves more than information that does not pertain to their needs, interests, or goals. In other words, memories that pertain directly to a person are held the longest and recalled the easiest.[1] This has substantial implications for corporate website content.

The Layers of the Mind – The Mechanisms Of The Self-Reference Effect

The Self-Reference Effect actually has its roots in the work of researchers Craik and Tulving, who found that people remember (or don’t remember) things based upon how deeply their mind processes information. They explain that memory has layers, and people remember things longer, and recall them easier, when these things are processed at the deepest layer. In contrast, things that are remembered at a shallow level are quickly washed away and forgotten.[2]

Therefore, in order for your product to be memorable, it must be processed at a deeper level. But how can this can be accomplished through website content?

The “It’s All About Me” Effect

Building upon the work of Craik and Tulving, subsequent researchers have isolated the most effective way to present products in ways that foster deep level processing. More specifically, it seems that personally relevant information is processed at the deepest of levels. The more personally relevant a piece of information, the deeper it will be processed. And the deeper it is processed, the longer it will reside in memory.[1]

The Self-Reference Effect plays a key role in consumer attitudes toward the products and the marketing techniques that promote them. For example, research shows that an audience relates more to models that are similar in ethnicity.[3] One study showed that Asian consumers were more likely to purchase non-Asian products when it was endorsed by an Asian model.[4]

These two examples show the power of audience connection. In order to make a product memorable, then corporations must, above all things, make it relatable. And they can do so through the content of their website.

How To Use Website Content To Boost The Self-Reference Effect

Below are several guidelines that can be applied to website content to enhance the Self-Reference Effect:[5]

  1. Prompting – Prompt readers to think about themselves with statements such as: “Think back to the last time you…” Then follow it with relevant product information. This will generate a connection between product and consumer.
  2. Slice-Of-Life Statements – Discuss a problem that is common to your audience. This will pique their interest and solidify a personal connection to your product.
  3. Gender Role Portrayals – Determine which gender your product relates to and create content about your product that is tailored to their interests and reading styles.
  4. It’s All About ‘You’ – Using the word ‘you’ in online content is surprisingly powerful. Refrain from using the pronoun “I” which detracts the reader’s attention from themselves. Also, writing in second person has been found to be more effective than third-person testimonials.
  5. The Power of a Question – Ask the audience a question that links a product benefit to their needs. For example, a milk company may ask: “Are you getting enough calcium in your diet?”

Try implementing these simple techniques into your online content. This can be in the form of blogs, website content, Tweets, posts, etc. Doing so will make your product both memorable and marketable.



[1] Rogers, TP, Kuiper, NA, & Kirker, WS (1977) Self-reference and the encoding of personal information.

[2] Craik, FIM, Tulving, E (1975) Depth of processing and the retention of words

[3] Martin, Lee, & Fernandez (2002) Using self referencing to explain the effectiveness of ethnic minority models in advertising

[4] Martin, Kwai-Choi Lee, & Yang (2006) The influence of ad model ethnicity and self referencing upon attitudes: Evidence from New Zealand

[5] Debevec, K, Spotts, HE, Kernan, JB (1987) The self-reference effect in persuasion implications for marketing strategy