How To Write Copy That Triggers Behavior-Driven Emotion
Updated: Jun 10, 2019
Reading bad copy is like swiping through Tinder in your hometown. You find a photo that looks good only to be brutally let down by the bio.
OK Dan, that’s great you’re 6”2 and bench 160 lbs. But what gets you out of bed in the morning?
In a way, writing good copy is kind of like writing a good Tinder bio. The main difference is that instead of trying to get people to take you on a mediocre date, you’re trying to get them to buy your product or use your services.
More importantly, you don’t just want to get your suitor to swipe, you want them to keep reading, subscribe and ultimately take action.
Just as writing a good Tinder bio is an art form, writing good copy is a skill that has to be learned. Effective copy takes trial and error and even if you finally find a formula that works, there’s no reason to think that it will continue to work in six months once the market has changed.
Fortunately, there are certain strategies which have been proven to work time and time again. The most timeless of these strategies is creating content which triggers emotions and in turn drives behavior.
Get it right and your conversion rates will be more enticing than a 25-year-old bachelor who loves his dog.
Rule One: Trigger Emotions That Are Already There
Most people are aware that content is more effective if it has an emotional impact but not all emotions drive behavior. For example, let’s return to Dan with the terrible Tinder bio. In an attempt to get more right swipes, he adds: “I just lost my job and then my cat died *crying emoji*.
This bio triggers pity but it doesn't get us swiping. It’s like those horrific charity adverts that make you feel so guilty you turn off the TV instead of picking up the phone to donate.
The lesson here is that good copy is all about triggering the right emotions.
By the “right emotions”, we mean emotions that are already waiting to be tapped into. Don’t just sell your product, sell that thing that your audience is craving.
Sell a comforting hug after a miserable day or the affirming nod after a big rant is over. Sell a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds or the feeling of a hot cup of tea in your hands.
Sell the story that your audience needs to hear and use magical words to help them believe you.
Rule Two: Trigger Persuasive Emotions
So how do you go about choosing which emotions you want to evoke? Although this ultimately depends on your product, there are some emotions which seem to be persuasive regardless of what is being sold.
FOMO (fear of missing out), for example, has proven to be an extremely powerful feeling when it comes to triggering behavior.
Imagine that our man Dan has gone against the odds and written the perfect Tinder bio. He loves his mum, volunteers at an animal shelter and loves to travel. You keep toying with the idea of messaging him only you keep chickening out at the last minute.
Next time you click on his profile, Dan has added: “I’m only in town for a few more days.” If you don’t message him now, Dan will be gone forever. This fear of missing out on something good will push you to take the plunge.
This is naturally applicable to advertising. “10% Off” is bound to be less effective than “Only Three Days Left Of Your 10% discount.”
Even more persuasive is the particularly powerful “Join The Winning Customers Who Got 10% Off Today.” If you don’t get your 10% off today, you miss the chance to belong in the class of “winning customers.” And we’re pretty sure the implication there is that you’re among the losers.
When we dissect these phrases, we fool ourselves into thinking that we won’t let copy like this trick us. The truth is though, most of the time when we are reading, we are not analysing. We are absorbing copy and are responding with emotions that we don’t really have any control over.
Rule Three: Trigger Emotions Responsibly
And that leads us to our third rule: trigger emotions responsibly. Although there is a strong element of persuasive psychology when it comes to writing good copy, you don’t want to manipulate your potential customers so that it is only you that gains something.
Many unethical companies use their ability to trigger emotions to exploit the desperate. Those awful “Help Your Family By Earning $100,000 In A Few Weeks” clickbait articles prey on people’s emotions and misuse the art of copywriting.
This is a shameful way to get conversion rates.
If you’re going to use emotions to drive behavior then your product or service needs to deliver. Remembering this is actually really helpful for the quality of your copy.
Grand emotive claims like “this will change your life” or “be happy forever” can be recognized as hot air by even the most ignorant buyer. Don’t make these big emotional claims when they will inevitably backfire and lead to disappointment.
Let’s return one more time to Dan, the bachelor who is becoming increasingly eligible. He originally wrote: “you’ll never be lonely again with me.” This intense emotional claim triggers eye-rolls and face-palms, not right swipes.
It’s true that loneliness is a powerful emotion and that it can be used to drive action but not in the way Dan is hoping. All he has done is make himself look desperate.
After reading this article, Dan gives his bio another try and writes: “let’s eat your favorite comfort food together.”
Although the words are entirely different, the message is still the same. Dan has conjured the feeling of loneliness through the connotations of comfort food and has put himself in a situation that is usually endured alone. He now presents himself as the antidote to that undesirable feeling.
Basically, Dan has succeeded in using emotions to drive behavior without risking overpromising or underdelivering. And he has done all this in less than a setence.
In a nutshell:
Dan has chosen his action - establishing contact.
Dan has chosen the emotional state to drive that action - loneliness.
Dan has chosen content which conjure this state - “comfort food”.
And this is the key to using the power of emotional language to drive action. To capture the essence of an emotional state and to conjure your brand from the mental place you send your readers to.
If you can master this, you will notice a drastic improvement in your conversion rates. And with the power of language at your fingertips, Tinder users better watch out.
The Takeaway: Good copy doesn’t just trigger emotions. It triggers emotions which drive action.
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