What if I told you that a single word can make a big difference in your brand messaging?
A word that can make your audience feel more connected, interested, and persuaded by your ideas. A word that can boost your resonance and reach.
That word is ‘YOU’.
But not just any ‘you’. I’m talking about the generic ‘you’ – the ‘you’ that refers to people in general, not to a specific person or group. It’s the ‘you’ that expresses universal truths or wisdom, as in “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” or offers advice, such as “You can achieve anything you set your mind to.”
Why is this ‘you’ so powerful?
A fascinating scientific paper from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) called “You’ speaks to me: Effects of generic-you in creating resonance between people and ideas” reveals the secrets behind this word.
The researchers analyzed data from Amazon’s Kindle and found that passages that use generic ‘you’ are significantly more likely to be highlighted by readers. They also found that generic ‘you’ increases how much people like, agree with, or relate to an idea.
Why does this happen? The paper explains two key reasons:
- Generic ‘you’ creates a sense of shared experience and perspective. It positions the idea as universal, common, and relatable.
- Generic ‘you’ invites the audience to imagine themselves in the situation described by the idea. It makes the idea more personal, relevant, and engaging.
However, using generic ‘you’ is not a magic bullet. The paper also acknowledges its limitations. It may not work for all types of messages or audiences. It may also backfire if it’s perceived as too general or presumptuous, or lose its effectiveness if it’s overused or misused.
So next time you’re crafting a message, think about the power of ‘you’. Used wisely, it could be the secret ingredient for creating more resonant, relatable and persuasive content.
But don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself and see what happens.