Identifiable victim effect

Theory explained by Sander Volbeda and written by Thomas Schelling

To simplify the Identifiable Victim effect, it is a tendency in human psychology where we feel the urge to offer help and assistance to a specific identifiable individual rather than to a larger, vaguer group of people.

Look at the following two cases to see which creates the stronger urge to offer help.

“All children deserve a happy and a safe life. However this is not something that the most children of Iraq face every day. According to the statistics, over 800, 000 children are abandoned in the country to starvation, emotional and physical pain due to the war. This is the time they need your hand the most. Make a donation today!”

“All children deserve a happy and a safe life. However this is not something that Abia Safa, who is only a 10 year girl, has ever experienced in her entire life. Happiness and safety are two strange feelings for her. She has difficulty in barely surviving out there with starvation, and the only protection she has is her grandmother who can’t afford to send Abia to school. Abia needs your precious help to get rid of her tragic situation. Make a donation today!”

Which message motivated you to help the most? As the result of the Identifiable victim effect playing in the background, we are highly likely to dedicate to help Abia than 800, 000 abandoned children in Iraq. It’s true the suffering is greater in the first situation, but Abia’s story works better to trigger emotions.

The identifiable victim effect is used widely by digital marketers to influence the decisions of people especially for fundraising. If you’re a person who is struggling to convince your audience to raise funds for some cause, then this is the ideal place to learn the top tips in the subject towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

The identifiable victim effect and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Trigger emotions through your content

When it comes to fundraising and charity, the role emotions play over logical reasoning is quite strong and persuading. Marketing is storytelling. The key here is to trigger emotions of your target audience focusing on a single victim rather than putting a larger group of statistical victims in the frame. Create the required emotional level not through mere texts, but through compelling visual media such as through field videos and photo streams as it’s a great way to tell your audience the difference that their support can create.

Let the supporters know the impact their donations create

Let your audience know how each individual will benefit from their efforts rather than focusing on the change it does for a group of people. Avoid abstract statistics, instead focus on individuality. For example, you can state as ‘$150 sends a child to school for a semester, $15 for a pair of shoes” etc. When your audience knows how exactly their donation makes a difference, their feeling of impact will definitely be enhanced enabling you to obtain more Conversions. By making the outcome more tangible, you can influence the supporters towards more donations. Connect the dots

This can’t be done upfront, but can be implemented as the program goes on. You can publish success stories of your campaign on your website. This is an ideal strategy towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) as it not only can attract more supporters, but also motivates the existing ones to contribute more. Again, to get the maximum benefit of the identifiable victim effect, rather than publishing all the content in general, you have to focus on individuals. For example, post photos of individuals being benefited from your efforts, at the same time a video of a group of people being benefited. Also, you can make the case studies of the completed projects available in your website in order to influence your supporters towards further donations.

Wrap Up

The identifiable victim effect of human psychology can be and widely used in digital marketing, especially in the websites related to charity works and donations towards the Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). As a result of this effect, we often tend to offer help to specific individuals rather than to vaguer groups of individuals.

Take a look at the UNICEF website. You can see how the pictures of individual children are given the priority over groups of children. If your marketing effort is about charity and donations, then the identifiable victim effect is a must that you should use in your website as it can help you a great deal towards the Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

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References

The references contain experiments and studies that prove this bias is there.

1. Explaining the Identifiable Victim Effect
2. The ‘Identified Victim’ Effect: An Identified Group, or Just a Single Individual?
3. The ‘Identified Victim’ Effect: An Identified Group, or Just a Single Individual?

Sources

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