We human beings are big, bundles of unbridled emotion.
It is not surprising then that emotion is said to be what carries the most weight when we are making decisions.
When you bring into emotions into your copy, your words have more power in influencing your audience.
Think about it. Desire, love, fear, guilt, and anger…these are all powerful motivators.
Lacking crystal balls and Mystic Meg mind-reading abilities, understanding a bit about the psychology behind our major emotions and incorporating it into copy, allows us to tap into the internal motivators that drive people to do what we want (sounds kinda brainwashy…but stick with me for a bit).
We all have desires, hopes, and fears. One of our (many) jobs as a business owner, is to show our customers how what we do, and the products and services we offer, can meet their desires, give them hope, or diminish their fear.
All of which, are big, big feels.
To be engaging, your copy needs to make your customers feel something so strongly, they have no choice but to act on those feelings (aka buy whatever you are selling).
So, how do you achieve this?
The answer is with an emotional appeal.
Compelling copy often uses emotional triggers to evoke the specific emotions and feelings you want your new and existing customers to FEEL.
How many times have you seen or heard advertising catchphrases such as:
Are you sick and tired of …?
Do you hate waiting for …?
Are you still wasting time and money on …?
Believe it or not, these cliched and exaggerated TV-shop slogans do work (otherwise why would they keep rehashing the same stuff? Who can say no to a free set of steak knives?).
The reason they work is because they elicit an emotional response to a problem people are experiencing, and quickly offer them a solution which will (money-back guaranteed) prompt an opposite, more agreeable emotional response.
When it comes to copywriting about your business and what you do for your customers, think about what type of feeling you believe would prompt them to act, and use words to evoke these feelings in your copy.
And the *magic* is knowing what emotions will resonate with your ideal customers.
Pull up short and the results can be dreadful: your copy can come across as offensive, melodramatic, or just pathetic (and will no doubt have you feeling a whole lotta emotions too…)
Using emotions to create compelling copy goes beyond a concoction of powerful words and phrases.
It is about telling a story while using clever vocabulary that triggers the right reaction among your tribe of people.
Knowing people buy based on their emotions rather than the product or service itself, to truly connect with your audience through your copy, you need a solid understanding of who they are and what they are experiencing.
(PS: Jump over to another one of our articles where we talk more about these avatars).
Ask yourself, what is their state of mind?
Where are their emotions being aimed?
Why are they experiencing these emotions?
What trigger words best match their feelings and vocabulary?
When you answer these questions as best you can, you will be able to successfully play to their emotions (respectfully, of course).
While conventional scientific understanding says there are six distinct emotions, more recent literature suggests when it comes down to it, the major emotions we feel are happiness, sadness, fear, and anger.
So, let us explore our emotions together, and how we can use these to write compelling and engaging copy.
Yikes. Sadness is a powerful emotion.
There are a couple of ways sadness can play a role in bringing emotion to your copy.
Using negative emotions such as sadness helps deliver a sense of empathy or compassion.
If comfortable doing so, you can relay your personal story to create sadness, while in the process build trust and inspiration with your audience who may relate to your experience.
When you share your “why” you do what you do from a place of authenticity, the “how” becomes much easier to sell.
It is essential to maintain a balanced approach here; you do not want to upset your audience and evoke negative feelings through your brand.
Likewise, the message achieved through emotion should motivate people to act.
Sample words and phrases I tend to use to bring a sense of sadness to copy include doubtful, uncertain, unsure, helpless, impatient, questioning, wondering, searching, longing…
Use your audience’s biggest headaches to create frustration, by putting their problems front and centre of your copy.
Being able to prove you understand where your audience is coming from and their feelings of frustration can help to build a strong connection with your people.
Most of us try to avoid anger, believing it is a negative emotion that will cause damaging associations with our business brand.
In some contexts, however anger can wake people up and stir them into action.
Successfully triggering anger can be a great motivator.
Some of my go-to words and phrases that can trigger anger through copy include provoke, repulsive, shocking, offensive, unjustified, failure, lazy, humiliation, guilty, unfair, frustrated, had enough, temporary fix, and sick and tired…
Fear is a solid marketing tool for achieving brand, a product or service loyalty.
Fear causes us to act, without too much thought.
Like anger, fear can be controversial in copy, but when done ethically, it can have a powerful effect.
[In fact, you may typically write fear-based copy without even realising you do, because it’s such a go-to emotion for sales].
Be mindful there is a fine line between a reasonable fear factor and flat-out fear-mongering.
If you cannot justify your fear-based copy with facts, you may find yourself crossing a line.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) has become such an anxiety-inducing emotion, the clever acronym was officially added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013.
Use scarcity to create FOMO in your copy and content to drive your customers to what you have to offer.
Limit the time on the offer, the quantity or limit the add-ons; creating a sense of FOMO and urgency into your copy is likely to get you results.
Some of my favourite FOMO-inducing words and phrases (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) include deadline, limited, alone, worry, quick, before you forget, while there is still time, missing out, left behind…
Remember, people want to belong, particularly to something exclusive or unique that makes them feel they are part of an elite community (i.e., your community).
Drop in a few words such as members only, login required, invitation-only, only for, available exclusively to, few, exclusive, unique to foster feelings of exclusivity.
Ah, Happiness. Our favourite!
Use your product or service to create some much-needed happiness and spread the love.
After all, you are the answer people have been tirelessly searching for, so tell them exactly how your product or service will provide them with relief, and how happy it is going to make them feel.
Will it save them time? Money? Free them from fear, worry, or stress?
Whatever your solution to their problem is, shine a spotlight on it and help them see their happier future, thanks to your business offering.
Sample trigger words/phrases to inspire happiness in copy include reverse, beat, challenge, reclaim, empower, destiny, boost, cure, energise, vibrant, guaranteed, freedom, assured, fulfilled, at ease, overcome, overwhelm, take back…
Being a young mum running a business, I am going to add a final, fifth emotion to the mix…
Ask any parent, guilt is a magnificent motivator.
In a copywriting context, you’ll likely see it used by charitable organisations to encourage more people to donate to a cause.
Again, when incorporating guilt into our copy, we walk a fine line.
No one wants to be guilt-tripped, so if you push the guilt card too hard and too long, you risk eliciting anger instead of guilt.
People will ignore your copy and likely avoid further engagement with your business and brand.
Common words that can trigger feelings of guilt include humane, disgrace, charity, donation, mercy, kindness, compassion, feel for, understand, empathy…
Competition among businesses selling products and services is more intense and ruthless than ever.
As a growing number of business move online and compete for SEO rankings and sales conversions, their ability to effectively use the power of emotional persuasion in their copy will be essential for their long-term viability.
When it comes to writing marketing copy that converts, no word should be selected without a purpose in mind.
Think about how every word will affect your target audience and influence conversions, build brand loyalty, and create a community of people who love what you do (and why you do it).
Where possible, stick to one of the strongest emotions you believe will resonate with your audience, rather than tapping in to all five mentioned above; your message will be confusing and *may* lead your reader to an emotional breakdown (not ideal in these extraordinary times).
Another point is that while controversial messages may elicit spirited debate and discuss, copy that sparks controversy is not always a bad thing.
Responding emotionally validates the problem is real after all and confirms the need for a genuine solution.
As a business trying to solve that problem, the fact you are being talked about demonstrates you have ‘skin in the game’ and can help establish credibility as a leader in your field.
If you are keen to explore a more emotional approach to copywriting, be sure to engage a competent copywriter who has a sound understanding of emotional selling techniques, who can craft persuasive and memorable copy for your business.
Simply throwing a trigger word or two into the mix is not going to get the job done.
Even emotionally powerful words can miss the mark if you do not build a convincing and engaging story.
Owner and Head Copywriter, Bohemia Copy + Content Studio
15+ years experience in content marketing and copywriting.
Word Lover. Mama. Wifey. Eternal Optimist.