Generation Effect

🤔 Did you know…

Wordle was released in October 2021.

In January 2022, Josh Wardle sold it to the New York Times for $1,000,000+.

By 2023, Wordle had been played more than 4.8 BILLION times.

How did a word game with *missing letters* become a million-dollar app in just 3 months…

And EXPLODE in popularity?

Keep reading to find out.

This post is sponsored by MindStudio and Ignite Digital ❤️ 

Imagine this…

You’re sitting with your grandpa while he watches his favorite show, Wheel of Fortune.

As he yells out each answer at the TV, you can’t help but shake your head.

You’ve never understood why people watch this show.

You’re mindlessly scrolling on your phone when he shouts, “The answer is ‘Parakeet in the garage!’”

*ding ding ding*

He was right. Again.

But then Jim Thorton announces the new category…


Your head snaps up. You’re a self-proclaimed movie aficionado.

So you patiently wait for the new puzzle board to come on.

Damn, this is a tough one.

You start racking your brain for movie titles.

W…w… What begins with “W”?

A few seconds later, it hits you.

And you shout at the TV…


Your grandpa slowly turns to look back at you like you’ve lost your mind.

But you don’t care. You’re too busy relishing in pride and jumping up to high-five him.

412 Party Crasher GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

Outta all the times you watched TV with Gramps, you never forgot this one. Why?

In today’s edition of Why We Buy 🧠 we’ll explore the Generation Effect—why we remember something more if we put effort into generating it.

Let’s get into it.

The Psychology of the Generation Effect 🧠

In 2020, participants were shown a list of well-known brand names.

But there’s a twist…

Participants were also shown brand names with a single missing letter.

For example: HSBC and H_BC.

After being shown all the different brands, participants were asked to state which ones they saw.

The insane result?

Brands with the hidden letter were recalled 14% more than the fully spelled-out brand names.

This is due to a psychological phenomenon called the Generation Effect.

It happens because the more effort we put into recalling something, the more we remember it.

Why is this important to you?

Because you have mere seconds to grab people’s attention.

But even if you get people to stop scrolling, it means nothing if the copy or content is instantly forgettable.

If you wanna be unforgettable *and* make more sales, using science-backed tactics like the Generation Effect is SM_A_.

(See what I did there?)

How To Apply This 🤑

Alright, so how can we apply this right now to sell more?


Make your next ad unforgettable with hidden letters

The American Red Cross used the Generation Effect brilliantly with their #MissingType campaign.

To increase the number of blood donations, they excluded certain letters in their ads that corresponded with blood types they needed (A, B, and O).

The result?

Within less than a month of running the ads on social media, more than 320,000 people donated blood.

And there was a lasting effect. The ads’ memorability increased overall awareness of how important blood donations are.


Incentivize active participation

Learning a new language is hard. I’m talking, trekking-Mt.-Everest hard.

So Duolingo found a way to make it effective and fun.

One way is by prompting learners to *actively* produce answers through “immersion exercises,” like filling in the blank.

This enhances memory retention because users have to work to recall what they’ve learned to complete the exercises.

Duolingo also rewards learners for every new milestone reached, transforming a notoriously difficult task into a fun game.

(And you already know how gamification triggers a dopamine release that keeps people coming back for more.)

Smart, huh?

Social media

Make your social media posts interactive

Don’t talk to your audience. Talk with them.

Turn your next social media post into a quiz, poll, or survey, and watch your engagement go through the roof.

I do this regularly on LinkedIn.

But even for everyday posts, I always wrap them up with a CTC (call to comment).

Why? Because prompting people to actively engage with you makes your brand more memorable. Bonus points: It also helps build a connection with your audience.

Which means—you guessed it—more sales.


The Short of It 💥

The Generation Effect is one of the only times when creating some friction in your copy is a GOOD thing.

Because when people have to work a little harder to process something, it becomes up to 14% more memorable.

This creates your brand top of mind, which drives more sales.

🐦 Your Brainy Tweetable

Wh_t’s with the m_ssi_g le_ters, you ask?

Hiding letters make your content or copy up to 14% more memorable.

It’s called the Generation Effect.

And the American Red Cross used it to persuade 320,000+ people to donate blood.

Tweet this now >



Wanna really get inside your buyer’s head?

When you’re ready, there are a few ways we can help:

Written By Katelyn

Katelyn Bourgoin is the CEO of Customer Camp, a 4X founder, and a cheese lover. She lives by a simple mantra: whoever gets closer to the customer wins.

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