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Remember Johnnie Cochran’s notorious line, “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit”?

Of course you do. And not just because it helped set murderer O.J. Simpson free. You remember it because it rhymes.

It’s not surprising that rhyming statements are easier to remember than non-rhyming ones. But what is surprising is that they’re actually more persuasive. Johnnie Cochran knew exactly what he was doing.

And so did the authors of:

  • You’ll wonder where the yellow went — when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent
  • Gillette: The best a man can get
  • Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is
  • Moore in four
  • Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven
  • We will sell no wine before its time
  • Loose lips sink ships

In one study,* researchers compared the perceived truthfulness of rhyming vs similar non-rhyming statements. For example:

  • “What sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals” vs “What sobriety conceals, alcohol unmasks”
  • “Caution and measure will win you treasure” vs “Caution and measure will win you riches”

Even though the test subjects stated a strong belief that rhyming had absolutely no relation to accuracy, they nevertheless perceived the rhyming statements as more truthful.

Researchers suggested that “rhyme, like repetition, affords statements an enhancement in processing fluency that can be misattributed to heightened conviction about their truthfulness.”

In other words, rhyming makes statements easier to understand… which in turn makes them appear more accurate.

So next time you’re writing a tag line, slogan, headline or whatever, consider poetry. It’s not just fun, it’s effective.

 

BTW: On January 26, I’m hosting a FREE webinar called Online Persuasion: The Power of Social Proof. I suppose I really should have named it, “Don’t be a goof, use social proof”.

Hope to see you on January 26. Oops. I mean, “Get your fix on Jan 26”.

 

* McGlone, M.S., and Tofighbakhsh, J. (2000) Birds of a feather flock conjointly (?): rhyme as reason in aphorisms. Psychological Science, 11:424-28.

 

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