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What Is Disfluency in Marketing?



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OK, it’s a strange word – disfluency. I’d never heard it before, so maybe you haven’t heard it either.  Psychologist and Assistant Professor of Marketing, Adam Alter defines it this way:

“Fluency implies that information that comes at a very low cost, often because it is already familiar to us in some similar form. Disfluency occurs when information is costly–perhaps it takes a lot of effort to understand a concept, or a name is unfamiliar and therefore difficult to say.”

info marketing disfluency

What Is Disfluency in Marketing?

I’m still unpacking this definition, even after listing to a podcast of Alter speaking about it, and letting the concepts swirl around in my brain for a while.  Here’s my take on it: we give less value to ideas and information that come to us easily, and we give higher value to ideas and information that take more effort.

How does that sound? Am I making sense?  I mean, the concept may still be foreign, but I honestly think that’s it, in a nutshell. If I’m on track here, it explains some phenomena I’ve observed in marketing information for many years, especially these days when so much information is available for free.

The public has been spoon-fed for quite a while now, and grown somewhat dependent on information that is easy to swallow without any effort at all. Concepts that take some effort, some real thinking to process are not popular, and yet they are the ones that generally stick with the people willing to put forth the effort.

Those are the disfluent ideas, the ones we have to chew on in order to digest. I think I’m getting it because finally some things I’ve noticed for years are starting to make sense.

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