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Nancy Harhut: The Behavioral Science Behind Words (Podcast)

By Elisa Silverman on July 4, 2017

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s time for another Pagewiz podcast! This episode’s guest is international speaker and award-winning marketing creative, Nancy Harhut.

Nancy specializes in using behavioral science to develop digital and direct marketing content that influences people to act. In particular, she focuses on how words persuade.

In this episode, Nancy addresses:

  • Why our brains are hardwired to use decision-making shortcuts without us even being aware of them.
  • 3 reasons why a validated behavioral trigger isn’t working for you.
  • What “magnet words” are, how to use them; and how certain linguistic devices can make content more memorable.
  • What cognitive fluency means, and how you can use it to establish authenticity and create transparency with your market.
  • Where and how direct marketing, including print, integrates with digital marketing, improving the results for both methodologies.

Among other behavioral triggers and marketing language insights.

Some sneak-peek quotes from Nancy:

On picking the right behavioral trigger to get results:
“Part of applying behavioral triggers properly is really understanding the market situation and the audience that you’re trying to convince, and what the various barriers are to buying. We need to take a step back and say, ‘ Let’s think about the best human behavior triggers and the best behavioral science principles that we can apply in order to move the needle.’ “

On why simple English is more persuasive than breaking out the SAT words:
“A lot of times, marketers or writers think, ‘Oh, this makes me sound really smart, really educated. It makes me sound like I’ve got this command of the subject matter,’ but really, straying too heavily into the land of jargon can in fact turn people off, and you can end up losing customers to people who just put it out there in plain English.”

On why print direct mail is making a comeback:
“Right now, there’s a lot of talk about digital, but actually, if you start to follow the trades, you’re going to see that more and more writers are saying that offline is starting to swing back. There have been a couple studies that show the millennials are particularly interested in receiving physical mail, perhaps because it’s a bit of a novelty for them. But it also gives a marketer a little bit more real estate to tell their story. There’s a whole tactile experience, when you’re holding something in your hand, there’s a whole science around something known as ‘haptics,’ which basically documents what happens when you’re holding the piece in your hand, when you’re feeling it, there’s a whole other sense involved.”

Want to hear more from Nancy? Listen to the podcast. You can follow Nancy on Twitter [@NHarhut], or find her on LinkedIn and Facebook. She also invites you to drop her an email at

Some of the resources Nancy mentioned:

London School of Economic’s Behavioral Economics Guide 2017

David Ariely’s Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions

Article in Psychology Today discussing the study on persuasiveness of rhyming language

Landing Pages Designer

Elisa Silverman is a B2B content writer with a background in law and technology, who’s spent a career helping diverse groups of people communicate well with each other.

Also published on Medium.