It started while I was developing a copywriting training program AWAI is doing for Agora. I was working on the part about understanding the prospect’s emotions. Out of curiosity, I did a little research.
You see, back before I discovered AWAI, almost all the information I read about emotions was summed up with “Fear and Greed.” It was the copywriting mantra back then.
Even though it made some sense to a beginner like me, it just didn’t sit right. Having worked so long with disabled students, I knew people were more complex than that. When I took the Accelerated Program, their focus on complex emotions resonated with me.
Things are getting better, thanks to AWAI-trained copywriters’ influence. But my research showed the fear-and-greed approach to copywriting is still the most common advice about touching your prospect’s emotions. A good half of the so-called “experts” I looked at fell back on this old standard. (And most of the other half are trained by AWAI or associated with them.)
Here’s one of them: “In copywriting terms, you’re usually faced with a choice between fear and greed; in other words, your prospect is running away from something or toward something.”
And another: “Greed and fear may be just a couple of the more unsightly blemishes on the underbelly of the human psyche. But they’re also two of the greatest all-time motivators ever invented. If you want your copy to sell, you need to understand how to put these powerful emotions to work for you in your written copy.”
Think about your family, your friends …
You know what to do with that type of advice? Ignore it.
Are you greedy? I seriously doubt it. I know I’m not. Nor are any of the people I know. Certainly, there are things I want in my life. But that doesn’t make me greedy.
I personally don’t know anyone who is. Do you carry fear with you everywhere you go? Yes, there are times I’m fearful. You, too. But all the time? Not likely.
When I think about fear and greed being copywriting’s most powerful emotions, it makes me think of those old-fashioned melodramas. The ones with the mustache-twirling villain (greed) and the quivering damsel (fear).
Those melodramas were funny. But the characters were poorly drawn and not very convincing. Were they?
If you fall back on fear and greed for the emotions in your promos, they won’t be very convincing either.
Not a cardboard cutout …
The success of your writing depends on your having a deep understanding of your prospect. Your prospect is a real person with real emotions. He’s not a cardboard cutout. Not like those imagined by C-level copywriters who depend on fear and greed as their only emotional motivators.
What are your prospect’s real emotions?
They’re as varied, deep, and intriguing as yours. How do you figure those out? You start by using Mark Ford’s (Michael Masterson’s) formula for understanding your prospect’s core complex – his …
- Beliefs. What does your prospect believe? What is his attitude toward your product and the problems or issues it addresses?
- Feelings. How does he feel? Is he confident and brash? Nervous and fearful? What does he feel about the major issues in his life today?
- Desires. What does he want? What are his goals? What change does he want in his life that your product can help him achieve?
This is the starting place. Understanding your prospect’s core complex helps you make the leap to figuring out what Mark Ford calls his core buying emotion.
A complex image for a complex person …
And as Mark points out, that image is never made up purely by one emotion. Your prospect’s emotions are as complex as your prospect himself.
Let’s say your prospect is worried about heart disease. He recently had a friend pass of congestive heart failure. He’s worried, certainly, but now looking for something other than the drugs his doctor has prescribed – the same drugs his friend Jim had been taking before his death.
What are his emotions?
You would be right to say he’s fearful of dying. But, you know what? That’s not his dominant emotion here. He’s worried about how his wife would react if he died like his friend Jim did.
He can remember the deep worry she expressed last year when he had an “episode” that landed him in the emergency room. (Acid reflux, not a heart attack, thank goodness.) He wonders if his friends would miss him if he died. What if it happened in the middle of church? Brother, that could be embarrassing.
His grandchildren. He so wants to see his granddaughter’s graduation from high school next June. She’s supposed to sing the National Anthem. And little Tommy (or not so little Tommy anymore). Next year he’s going on an eighth-grade trip to New York, as part of a youth delegation to the U.N.
These are just a sliver of the feelings and emotions this prospect experiences when thinking about his heart health. Certainly, fear is in there. But it isn’t the dominant emotion – not by a long shot.
So, how do you come up with your prospect’s dominant emotions?
I’ll get into that next week.
Until then, keep studying. Keep reading. And most of all, keep writing.
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