Cognitive ease is quite simply the ease with which our brain processes information. We tend to prefer information that is familiar to us or that is presented in a way that makes it easy for us to understand and absorb. Read on to find out how you can improve your comms with cognitive ease. 

We’ve all experienced it, think back to a time where you’ve been confronted with a lengthy online form to fill out, a headline that’s unclear, too many steps in a process, too much detail to be able to compare products. When faced with this we go off to find something easier to do. It’s a simple concept but one that is often overlooked in marketing and creative work. 

Cognitive ease is one of three core principles we use in our BeBoLD, our unique approach to behaviour-led design. You can read more about that here. 

Using behaviour biases to improve your comms with cognitive ease

There are a number of cognitive biases that you can use to enhance cognitive ease in your comms.

Chunking – Breaking information down into shorter, more scannable elements makes it easier for us to process the message. 

Picture superiority effect – Including visual aids can really help to get your message across as we’re more likely to notice, remember and comprehend images rather than text. 

Familiarity bias – We’re more likely to choose options that are more familiar to us so brands should protect their assets with their life, consistently using colours, fonts or images that are familiar to their audience.

Some nice examples of cognitive ease in action

Stay at home, Protect the NHS, Save lives 

At the start of the pandemic, the UK Government used a white and blue colour scheme in line with NHS branding to convey COVID-19 information to the public. 

As the crisis developed, the messaging changed to the simple slogan that makes use of chunking and was reinforced with more memorable colours. Following this change, a survey carried out by Ipsos MORI suggested that 90% of people believed the comms surrounding coronavirus were clear to them.

Cognitive ease at play in a retail environment

Here are some examples that really highlight the importance of using cognitive ease. In the Co-op example below you can see the signage is high contrast, consistent and highly legible, which all help to get the message across. In the Costcutter example the chilled sign is barely legible – you can take our word for it that it’s there!



How we’ve used cognitive ease in our client work

Auto Trader needed to convince car retailers that their premium package still represents good value despite a price increase.

We needed to make sure the value that the premium package offers was highlighted as clearly and simply as possible using the only method of communication available to us – a letter. 

The content’s role was to ensure the price increase was seen and judged in the context of what the retailers receive for their investment, with the aim of softening the blow of the price increase. In terms of design, we used a variety of biases to lighten the cognitive load, making it easier to easier to process (its predecessor was 3 page letter!) We added visual aids to display detailed stats and performance metrics (making use of the picture superiority effect) and leveraged Auto Trader’s brand heuristics to embed a strong association between the brand and what was being communicated.


Fancy a chat about what behavioural-led design could do for your brand?

If you’d love to find out what behavioural-led creativity can do for your brand, we’d love to hear from you. We deliver everything from insights, strategy and brand building, to big ideas and tactical execution. Contact us here.

By Tamsin Scott

Head of Marketing