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Narrative Control

Definition: Influencing a thought.

There are 4 types of thoughts we’re trying to influence:

1: “Too good to be true”
2: Negative
3: Competitor
4: Do Nothing

Narrative Control is a way to push past these 4 thoughts.

Here is an example of a Negative thought. We know shoppers hate newsletter popups. Most close the popup before even reading the message. This means even if your offer is beneficial most will miss it. That’s a problem.

Narrative Control to the rescue. In this example, the user is being offered a 12% discount. Most will instinctively rush to the (x) button without reading the details:

Default popup message

Imagine if we added a message like this for people who clicked (x):

Popup warning message

We’re using Narrative Control by letting shoppers know that if they close this popup, they won’t be able to receive the discount offer again. Now shoppers have a choice to make: close the popup and never see the offer again or take the offer. What do you think they will choose?

Revealing It All

We hope you liked this article about narrative control.

But we have so much more to share with you.

Why Listen to Us?

We’ve spent all our time in our marketing lab, experimenting on online shoppers. We’ve learned a crap ton and are ready to share those learning.

What we’ve learned is that the real secret to growing sales is to ignore 84% of your site visitors so you can triple down on a very special group. We call this group Healthy Skeptics. 👈🏼 click the link to your left for an unfair advantage over the competition.

Comments 7


Rishi – I think you male an interesting point, can see how shoppers would pause and reconsider upon receiving the 2nd message.

avatar post author

Glad you liked it, Julie. We need to add this type of message on your site.



Rishi, the 4 types of thoughts all seem to be negative.

Do you think humans are motivated more by negative thoughts than positive thoughts?

Great article here, by the way!!

avatar post author

Hey, Tommy. Thanks for commenting. Narrative Control has been developed to address 4 types of shopper resistance. Resistance is negative. But you’re right in that shoppers are motivated by positive thoughts too.


Hey there, Tommy. I’d like to add on to what Rishi already said. You asked, “Do you think humans are motivated more by negative thoughts than positive thoughts?” In short, the answer is usually “yes.” There are a number of reasons for this and they all circle back to human psychology.

For example, we are all (typically) victims of ‘status quo bias’, which essentially is our tendency to prefer things to stay the same. This affects our decision making all the time. If a shopper is presented with a product/solution, there will be an internal struggle between their inherent desire to maintain the status quo by doing nothing (thought #4 in our article) and their logical, System 2 thinking (https://upfrontanalytics.com/market-research-system-1-vs-system-2-decision-making/).

Another reason is ‘negativity bias’. Negativity bias is the idea that negative thoughts, emotions, interactions, and so on have a much greater influence on a person’s state of mind than neutral or positive things. If a Hawaiian shopper visits a site that shows a banner that says, “Free shipping to the contiguous U.S.”, there’s a decent likelihood that this shopper will ignore all the great things they read about the product in their cart and fixate on this one negative aspect of the site. Consequently, they’ll abandon their cart and leave the site, never to be heard from again.

These are things we’re all guilty of, whether we’re aware or not. As marketers, that realization is a huge advantage!



Interesting approach, Rishi. My fear with not closing the offer the first time the click X would be that you’d annoy the user so much that they’d click X in the tab they’re in and leave the site altogether, that’s certainly what I would do. However, I know enough to know most people don’t react to things the same way I do! haha.

Have you tested this approach?

avatar post author

Hi, Brett. On the checkout flow, there is usually a message that says “signup for the newsletter” with a checkbox. I’ve tested showing a warning message when the user unchecks the checkbox. That idea won. I have not tested the popup message close warning but the principle is the same. I do plan to A/B test this popup strategy soon.



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