What makes some commercials and ads extremely appealing to customers? What is the magic formula which makes the words convey emotions and messages which activate the “buy” sense in people? Is it in the words themselves? In the way they sound or look on the screen? Is it the colour and shape of the font? Or is it simply the result of chance and any copywriter could have a hit or miss at any moment?
The answer is simpler than you would think, and yet so complicated: it is science. The science of psychology, more precisely. Despite our claim of being the only beings on the planet endowed with reason and intellect, we are ruled by emotions and psychological triggers. We respond to basic instincts (not only those presented in the infamous movie!) and we tend to accept or reject a message based on the type of instinct it activates or caters to inside us.
Professional copywriters possess, besides the talent for writing, the knowledge of how to reach for and activate the right instincts in their readers. They play on people’s strongest emotions and deepest ingrained automated responses and obtain the end result: sales. Now, this does not mean that copywriting is a nefarious mind control practice. The most persuasive message will fall on deaf ears if a person cannot match it with the logical impression they get from the product itself. In this respect, misleading advertising is the type of one-time success: you tricked me once, you won’t trick me twice.
But if you have a great product for sale, it helps to appeal to the right psychological triggers in people to make that product a bestseller and there is nothing wrong with that, morally or otherwise. So, what types of triggers work best? These are the top five triggers used by the best copywriters worldwide:
Yes, pain is the ultimate psychological trigger for anyone. And we do not mean just physical pain. A pain point is anything which makes your life more complicated, difficult and inconvenient. For some people, going out on a cold winter day to pay the bills is a huge pain point – which mobile payment solves. For others, finding time to squeeze in half an hour of exercising in a busy schedule is a pain point – and an online fitness program is the solution for these people.
People reciprocate in the exact manner in which they are treated. This is one of the basics of human interactions. You are nice to me, I am nice to you. Reciprocity is the top psychological trigger used in the copy for any landing page: whether it is for signing up for a newsletter or offering an upselling opportunity (“with this product you get that product discounted”). The premise of using this trigger is that people will appreciate the fact that they get something of value to them and are willing to give something back in return.
- Commitment and Consistency
Human society has grown based on the basic psychological principle of commitment. People are committed to work together, to build a family, a city, a nation. And thus commitment is something which guarantees that they are dealing with a person (or company) they can trust.
Consistency is also important. It creates a comfort zone for people: they know what they can expect over and over again, and they do not fret or worry that their next shopping experience will be different from the others before. These two psychological triggers can be activated and maintained by using a set of keywords and phrases over time in ads, in blog posts, in social media posts and in newsletters. Creating a consistent tone of voice throughout all the communication channels is more important than ever, and now we have just given the scientific explanation for it.
- The Extraordinary Effect
Over time, people develop a kind of blindness and deafness to monotonous and routine images and sounds. Imagine being in a room where there is a constant humming sound. In a few minutes, you will stop noticing it – your brain has noted it down and filters it out to allow you to listen to other sounds worth noticing, such as a song playing on the radio or a conversation.
This simple psychological effect is critical in creating copy which attracts attention – it must be out of the ordinary, different, even bizarre in comparison to other pieces of content (written or spoken) which people are exposed to. If you sound just like everyone else, your voice will be soon muted in your audience’s mind.
Some people have a difficult time explaining why they prefer a brand over another, even one which offers products of the same quality and within the same price range as the other. When pressed for an answer as to why they do not buy from the other brand, most people will answer: “Well, I just don’t like them.”
And this is why you should try to be likeable in your approach, in the tone of voice and the words you use in your content. People feel when a brand is trying to be friendly and nice, but their tone of voice seems false and too corporate-style. People can spot any false note in your communications and realise that, despite your efforts, they don’t like your brand, because it is not genuine in its attempts to be likeable.