The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Guide to Selling with Emotion

Copywriters are taught to appeal to emotions. The problem is some take this too literally and end up writing gobbledygook:

“Join us and be a part of a movement that changes lives!”

“Help us end animal cruelty and make the world a better place!”

“Are you tired of feeling left out and ignored?”

I witnessed this myself while working with an agency recently. I’m convinced this is a reason a lot of copywriters never make it out of first gear on the steep road to glory. Copywriting IS about appealing to emotions. What it’s not about is jumping up and down on them while wearing a hula skirt and screaming into a megaphone. The more blatant the appeal to emotion, the lamer the copy. How to fix this?

Well, the answer is not booting up ChatGPT.

Appealing to emotions without calling them out relies on being able to articulate the subtleties and nuance of human experience. If you’re using Ai to write copy right now, there’s a gaping hole where this should be.

Whether this gap gets adequately filled in time for your next copywriting project is up for debate. Some copywriters are going to go “all-in” on Ai and pay the price of delegating their faculties. Others are going to play it smart, keep tabs on progress and leverage it where it makes sense to BUT also keep one foot planted in the reality and power of the human experience.

Which camp will you be in?

If you’re interested in maintaining a grip on your intellect, it pays to know the only real, deep-down reasons people buy things:

Physical activity
Social contact

I will also draw your attention to a book that has won the Pulitzer Prize: Lessons of History by Will & Ariel Durant. Inside this book, the authors provide a “Table of Character Elements:”

I first read the book a few years ago, before I developed an interest in direct response. But now that DR is my filter, I see this table of elements in a new and useful light.

The problem with the “only real, deep down reasons people buy things” offers a snapshot. But the “Table of Character Elements” is a spectrum. It gives you much more room for maneuver and imagination with your copy.

The human brain is wired to detect MOVEMENT as either threat or opportunity. Everything the brain does is about MOVING us between fear and desire. Survival mechanisms MOVE us toward pleasure and away from pain.

So the best way to act on the basic copywriting advice of “appeal to emotions ” is to position your product or service as the facilitator of this transition. You don’t have to spell it out, you have to make it happen. You’re putting an arm around them and helping them to see around the corner.

I’ll give you a recent example.

I was working with this agency on a handbag account. It’s a brains and beauty kind of product. Form and function. Positioned for work and play. We could have pressed on emotions to do with social status, pride, acceptance, etc. But it felt forced and contrived.

So instead we just called it “The Magic Bag!” and let the prospects fill in the emotional blanks themselves.

The result?

CTR at 5X from the other agencies hired to run ads.

I hope that helps you to see the task of appealing to emotions in a different light. Less as a spreadsheet to fill, more a symphony to explore.

P.S.P. French

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