How to message to lazy brains (that is, to humans)!

Your brain is lazy.

Wait—don’t click away! That’s not an insult; it’s just a fact. My brain is lazy (especially before coffee), your brain is lazy, and the brains of your consumers are lazy. That’s not just me saying that, either. That’s the assertion of Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman… so if you’re going to be mad at anyone, be mad at him.  Beyond being an excellent hook for this article (if I say so myself), this fact has wide-reaching implications for how we communicate with our audiences; how we create effective messages. (And how we research customers).

Not only is your brain lazy, but you are also cursed!  A bit more on that in a sec.

Sometimes, your copy and marketing will have to pick up the slack for this lazy brain.  It doesn’t like to work.  Our brain does not analyze all the choices.  And it is certainly not rational.  We have to connect the dots between features and benefits for our audience. Even though the connection between a feature and a benefit might seem obvious – you are relying on a lazy brain to make that connection.

Make that connection for them.

Check out our newsletter titled “How To Create Effective Messages” for more on connecting the dots between features and benefits.

Here’s an example.  Which do you think is more motivating?

“Earn 1.26 APR up to $25,000 balances”


“We will give you up to $315 for purchases up to $25,000 that you can use however you’d like.”

The first is standard financial industry language and focuses on the feature.  The second makes the connection for the reader as to why they should care.

I’m frequently met with pushback. “But the benefit is obvious,” they’ll remind me. Usually, I agree with them… but it doesn’t matter.  In addition to a lazy brain, we are cursed.

Surprise! You’re cursed.

I know, I know. I’m probably on thin ice right now. I began this piece by acknowledging the psychological laziness of your brain, and now I’m once again the bearer of bad news. As a marketer, you’re cursed.

In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath outline a phenomenon known as “the curse of knowledge.” Its lore goes something like this.

As a marketer, advertiser, or entrepreneur, you know everything there is to know about the product you’re promoting. You’re keenly aware of its benefits, why it’s incredible, and what value it could bring to consumers. You’re already fully convinced of the quality you deliver; that’s why you do what you do.

Unfortunately, this wealth of knowledge can often create a blind spot as we create our messaging. We lose perspective of how much your audience would understand about our products, services, or industries. The result? We’re not telling the consumers nearly enough of the information they need to know. We are assuming too much.

So what does all of this mean for creating messages

This means we need to understand how your audience might view a message.  It may be harder than you think to put ourselves into the shoes of our audience.  Here are a few rules to consider when creating messages:

  • Don’t assume your audience understands your message. Unfortunately, we have tested too many messages that our client thought were clear, but the audience did not understand.
  • Make sure you connect the dots between your feature and benefit. Even if you think it’s clear, help your clients’ lazy brains connect the dots for them.

Here’s another example.  Notice how the second option connects the dots between features and benefits and does so in a way that adds more clarity and meaning. (Hopefully, this makes up for the earlier roasts.)

“We are fee-based advisers.”


“We don’t make money unless you make money—that means we’re always working hard for you!”

Alright, now give your lazy brain a break.