What Is the Barnum Effect?

How Does the Barnum Effect Apply to Marketing?

Jason Quey
Last updated: Aug 14, 2020
Originally published: Apr 11, 2019

Also Known As: The Forer Effect


People give high accuracy ratings to descriptions that fit their personality, even if the descriptions can apply to a wide range of people.

Barnum Effect Examples:

Validate Your Customer. Do you enjoy being liked by others? So do your customers. Jif peanut butter likes to affirm choosy moms. These moms want what’s best for their kids. They want mealtime to be fun, great tasting, and memorable.

Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? The thing is, I could have have decribed any buyer persona and that statement would most likely fit them too. Let’s try the same statements with a new family member: Jif peanut butter likes to affirm choosy grandpas.

These grandpas want what’s best for their grandkids. They want mealtime to be fun, great tasting, and memorable.

Affirming your customers even in a generic way can help them feel special, and increase your sales.

Which Character Are You Quiz

Have you ever taken a quiz on Facebook to find out which movie character you are most similar to? Like many other people, you’ve been influenced by the Barnum Effect.

People like to learn something about themselves. And what better way to do so by connecting themselves with a popular TV or movie character? If you ask questions about your audience, then rephrase the statement to them exactly what they told you, your audience will believe you are psychic.

Product Descriptions. When writing a product description, you can use the Barnum Effect to show how a product fits with a person’s identity.

See Also: Confirmation Bias, Placebo Effect, The Rainbow Ruse

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Jason Quey

I am the CEO and Founder of Growth Ramp. I enjoy serving early-stage startups and later-stage scale-ups on their journey from idea to scale.

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