TLDR: Tasks that haven’t been completed carry 2x the memory power of completed tasks. This allows us to increase advertising engagement and employee productivity.

Do you know the nagging feeling of having overdue items on your to-do list?

How about the weight you feel on your shoulders to call a family member you’ve wanted to reconcile with? Or the annoyance that you still haven’t called the bank before your upcoming international trip?

All of these “nagging” feelings – the weight of an incomplete task – are a result of what’s known as the Zeigarnik Effect.

In essence, the Zeigarnik Effect places a psychological “weight” on our minds when tasks aren’t completed in the time we’ve scheduled. That weight causes us to be less focused, more stressed, and more aware of the tasks that haven’t been completed than the tasks which are done.

Applications To Your Business

What areas of your business create a sense of “incompletion” for your customer or your employees?

For your customers, this could look like:

  1. A checkout recovery process which uses one simple click to resume an order
  2. A lead generation or sales page which explains the emotional “release” the visitor will feel after they take action
  3. A phone call follow-up for customers who expressed an interest in ordering a product/service but it wasn’t the right time

For your employees, this could look like:

  1. Assigning a reasonable number of accounts to an account manager as to avoid overwhelm and ensure frequent project completion
  2. Specific micro-steps in the Accounts Receivable & Collections procedures to ensure your accountant and/or collections agent don’t feel like they’re hitting their heads against the wall with late clients
  3. A round-robin assignment protocol and celebration milestones for your customer service representatives

Key Strategy: The Zeigarnik Ad Campaign

Advertising offers a unique application of the Zeigarnik Effect. In a normal ad campaign, you use certain language and visual designs to promote your company. Toward the end of the ad campaign, however, you have two choices: (1) turn off the campaign and leave it behind, or (2) launch a follow-up campaign that uses the Zeigarnik Effect to your benefit.

In its simplest form, a Zeigarnik Ad Campaign focuses on the tension-release feeling that we all experience upon the completion of a task.

Over the course of an ad campaign, your “frequency” (the average number of times a person in your target audience sees your ad) increases. Over time, they’ll become familiarized with the language and imagery you’ve used in the campaign.

In response to this increase in frequency, a Zeigarnik Ad Campaign removes certain elements from your ad language and imagery, thus turning the ad into an interactive experience that the person will want to “fix” in order to match the language and/or design that were in your original campaign. The best format for these ads is to use Facebook or Instagram with an automated bot designed to deliver a gift upon someone leaving a comment with the right word.

Note: Catch up on Facebook’s Ad Policies to ensure you’re not “comment-baiting” Facebook users. Use language such as “fill in the missing word” rather than “comment below” – or leave no instructions and let viewers figure it out for themselves! Experiment, experiment, experiment! 

Zeigarnik Ad Campaign

The benefit of making the Zeigarnik Ad Campaign interactive is twofold.

First, you’re increasing engagement with your ads, which lowers your cost per click and, ultimately, cost per acquisition. Second, it’s been proven that this level of engagement will increase a person’s memory of your ad.

In essence, you’re getting double the exposure of the same campaign you ran before – without the ads going stale or annoying people. Quite the opposite, in fact; you’re actually increasing engagement and brand recall.

The Bedrock Of Brilliance

Brilliant ApprovedA central goal of the Zeigarnik Ad Campaign is having the ad recipient “complete” the ad for themselves.

As a result, it’s possible to design your ads in a way that have the person fill in the blanks with words that would normally be associated with another brand, which would assign your ad more authority in their minds. This is authority that you did not earn, nor do you have a claim over it.

Strictly adhere to the Neuromarketing Code Of Ethics tenet #4, Be Yourself.

This tenet states the following:

“Establish your own identity and represent that identity through all channels of your marketing. Unless you have their explicit written permission, you’re prohibited from impersonating other brands or use neuromarketing strategies to subconsciously associate yourself with their brand equity.”

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be on the road toward a business that has more engaged (and relieved) followers, happier employees, and an identity that is wholly your own!

The Brilliance Alliance

As a member of the Brilliance Alliance, you get access to these strategies and more, including monthly Assemblies, direct consulting, live webinars, and events. If you run an authentic business and want to use ethical neuromarketing to boost your growth, this is the place for you.

Additional Applications Of The Zeigarnik Effect Available To Members:

  1. Zeigarnik Loops In Copywriting
  2. Incomplete Assignments In Online Courses
  3. Emotive Amplification Of Task Completion

Click here to learn more about the Brilliance Alliance

Sources ?

This post was written with the following research support:

  1. Nugget #27 from the CoGlode team
  2. Original study by Bluma Zeigarnik and follow-up studies by James W. Atkinson in 1953 and ten years later by A.D. Baddeley in 1963
  3. The Ziegarnik Effect In Advertising by James T. Heimbach