New research in Marketing from Brigham Young University and the University of Washington has found that the senses you activate in people when you communicate influences their responses. The researchers distinguish between distal (more remote) and proximal (closer) experiences communicators – in their case marketers creating marketing messages – invoke in their audiences via the language they use. Distal language focuses on sights and sounds, whereas proximal is about taste and touch. For example, you could describe a recent restaurant experience by focusing on the ambiance and décor (distal) or the taste of the food (proximal).
In their four different experiments, the researchers found that language invoking more proximal experiences created more immediate interest and action than distal language did. Specifically, they found that marketing material that highlighted distal experiences lead to delayed purchasing, while materials accentuating proximal experiences resulted in earlier purchasing.
For presenters, this linguistic advice can be very helpful. Just as guidance to use more inclusive language, such as “us,” “you,” and “we,” can lead to more connection and action, so to can using descriptive language that focuses on more immediate experiences. As you tell your stories, demo your products, or share your use cases, be sure to include descriptions that invite proximal experiences like taste and touch.