How Important is the Call to Action?

Nearly fifty years ago, social psychologist Howard Leventhal conducted experiments in which he tried to convince Yale University seniors to get a tetanus shot. Leventhal initially divided the seniors into several groups, and gave each group different versions of a seven-page booklet on the disease and its effects.
According to Malcom Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, there was a “high-fear” version of the booklet, with dramatic descriptions and photographs of the disease, and a “low-fear” version with toned down descriptions and no pictures.  

A few months later, Leventhal redid the experiment, with one change: this time “…he included a map of the campus, with the university health center building circled and the times the shots were available clearly listed.”

This change, by itself, increased the vaccination rate from 3% to 28%. Nine times as many students got the shot when they were told how to do so.
“…Of the 28% who got inoculated, an equal number were from the high-fear and low-fear group. Whatever extra persuasive muscle was found in the high-fear book was clearly irrelevant… The second interesting thing is that, of course, as seniors they must have already known where the health center was, and doubtless had already visited it several times already.
“The students needed to know how to fit the tetanus stuff into their lives; the addition of the map and the times when the shots were available shifted the booklet from an abstract lesson in medical risk… to a practical and personal piece of medical advice. And once the advice became practical and personal, it became memorable.”
Like Leventhal, your goal when you advertise is to persuade your prospects and customers to do something.
Your odds of success increase greatly when you make your message practical, personal, and memorable by telling them exactly what to do, and how to do it.


Click this link to subscribe to Portland’s Finest Advertising Blog.

Request your free copy of my white paper, The Seven Deadly Advertising Mistakes and How to Fix Them here.

Got a question? Call me at 503-323-6553.






Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you the first two chapters of my new book, Breakthrough Prospecting, as a thank-you.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Your Chance to Be Heard -- Comment Here!

2 thoughts on “How Important is the Call to Action?

  1. That is a powerful example towards the importance of a call to action. I read Tipping Point and missed that example. Thanks.