I was really impressed with a chap I’ve been working with this week.
We’ve been trying to figure out a way to sell his product and have tried numerous angles that just don’t seem to work.
So, we jumped on the phone and talked it out.
There were a lot of dead ends, unfinished thoughts and some good discussion – just the way it should be when you’re figuring things out.
But what really impressed me was the chap turned around and concluded off his own back:
“Maybe this isn’t the idea the market wants; perhaps we’ll have to do something completely different.”
That might seem an obvious conclusion to you.
But it’s not.
Not by a long shot.
After a decade of trying to sell ideas, I can’t tell you how many people insist on trying to flog the same idea even though the market has repeatedly told them it doesn’t work.
That’s why I think this was such a good… well, for lack of a better phrase, we’ll call it a ‘self-realisation’.
And here’s the key thing…
The idea we’ve been trying to sell is actually a good one and it makes people money. Logically, it makes complete sense.
But despite it making LOGICAL sense, we just can’t get it to connect on an EMOTIONAL level.
That’s what I’d like to talk about today.
I should point out that I always aim to make these emails practical and give you actionable insight you can apply to your own writing.
It’s a personal hang up.
I go to so many copywriting events where so-called experts just spaff a load of crap attempting to define what copywriting is in a new way or how great they are at it, but don’t really dig down on how to emulate what they do.
I’m trying to be different in that respect.
This week I worry I might get a little too philosophical.
Let’s hope not.
For my part, I’ll at least keep that concern in mind as I write.
The problem is when it comes to writing about the importance of selling with emotion over logic… it all tends to get a bit waffy.
Let’s stick to facts then, and take a Wittgensteinian approach to it:
1. Emotion and logic are both valid tools for use in copy.
1.1. Readers engage with copy an emotional level.
1.2. Emotion is what influences the desire to engage with copy.
1.3. Readers use logic to justify emotional decisions.
1.4. Logic should therefore only be considered a secondary element in presentation of an idea.
Jesus. That was dull. How did that Wittgenstein guy write a whole bloody book like that?
My point is there’s a clear hierarchy when it comes to copywriting: emotion trumps logic.
To be honest: you should know this. I’d question any copywriting guide or mentor who didn’t tell you this from day one.
But I think it’s important to cover the issue because despite it being so fundamental and seeming so obvious, it’s still the cause of so much failed copy.
So, let’s explore a little…
It’s your responsibility to push your client in the right direction
Now, I won’t name names…
But I saw a talk recently where the “copywriting expert,” with great relish, poked fun at the ‘idiot client’ who didn’t understand what it meant to be a copywriter.
It was well intentioned, I’m sure.
Actually, screw that: it wasn’t.
It was intended to create an ‘us versus them’ mentality and pretentiously suggest that we writers are infinitely smarter than any client and understand language and emotion on a much deeper level than any ‘business person’ could ever understand.
Think like that and a long and empty career of posting snide and rarely witty remarks on Twitter awaits you.
Pretension, aside… the reason the talk didn’t sit well with me was that I felt the presenter suggested the copywriter de facto knows the emotions of the client’s customers and therefore the client’s wishes should be ignored.
You make the product, this ‘guru’ seemed to suggest, and I’ll sell it.
Such an attitude is not only short sighted…
It’s just freaking dumb.
(You know I wanted to write ‘fucking dumb’ there, but censored myself. What’s your feeling on swearing in copy – authentic or grotesque? An issue for another time? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org)
As a copywriter, you should fundamentally see it as your responsibility to help the client understand what it is about their product that is worth selling… and what isn’t.
You should never close your client out of the copywriting process.
On the contrary, you should work with them until you have an idea you not only think is worth writing about, but will connect with their customers on an emotional basis.
Don’t get me wrong, I know in reality you’ll sometimes need to take on jobs or write up briefs that leave a lot to be desired – we all gotz to makes cash money, right?
But with every project you take on, you should at least attempt to work collectively with the client to improve your idea and identify its emotional appeal.
From my experience, your client will push back as much as they can with the logical argument for their product.
That’s fine. Let them.
But then work WITH them to turn that logic into emotion.
Because if your client understands that you need to focus on emotions to sell their product, it will make your job a damn sight easier.
And it will result in much more effective copy.
Of course, it might turn out that by analysing with the client the emotional level you’re attempting to connect on with the reader, you’ll realise the product itself is flawed in some way.
If that happens, don’t panic. Just forget about ‘copywriting’ for a second and help the client figure out how they can improve or rethink their product so it can connect with the customer on an emotional level.
It’ll make everyone more money in the long run.
OK. Did we get to some kind of semblance of practical advice there? I hope so.
Here’s another practical thing you can do to make sure you create an environment where you can help emotion win out over logic…
Find your band mates
I’ve played bass guitar in a band since I was fifteen.
Aside from the fake bands I made up in school, during that time I’ve played in three ‘proper’ bands.
However, in all of those three bands, I’ve made music with a combination of the same four people.
In fact, I’ve never played with a different drummer – always the same guy, despite him being an idiot.
What’s this got to do with anything?
I believe the process for finding good ideas that connect on an emotional level is the same as writing music with a group of people you trust.
Well, when it comes to writing a song, I might arrive at band practice with a riff…
I play it.
My band mates listen.
It’s kind of cool, they say, but it’s not really connecting.
OK, I reply. What about this? I play a slightly different version.
Hmm. Still not there, they say.
OK, what about this completely different riff?
Ah! That’s interesting, they say. And then one of my band mates suggests I add a note and change the accent slightly.
That’s good, we all think. We jam the riff. It leads us to another riff. We end up with a new song.
That’s the kind of environment you need to create with your client so that you can get them thinking about ideas in an emotional way.
I don’t cry when my initial riff is rejected. And my band mates don’t laugh at me.
We all understand we’re there to write the best song we can. We trust each other.
That needs to be the same sense you create with your client.
As I say, your client will consistently come at you with logic because that’s how they understand the value of their product.
You’ve got to think of that logical argument as that first riff. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it. It’s a riff like any other.
But it doesn’t connect.
To make it connect you need the rest of the band. And you need to all chip in without fear of being rejected.
That’s why I suggest you find your band mates: use the client and other people you trust to create an environment where you can develop the riff together and make it connect.
It’s no good, as a copywriter, to turn around to a client and tell them their riff sucks and just play a better riff.
You need to work with them to tease their riff out and help make it stronger.
Identifying an idea that connects with people on an emotional level is just like writing a song…
We’re getting FAR too waffy. I did warn you I was in danger of getting too philosophical here.
Now I’ve gone downright sentimental.
But hopefully you get the point and we can leave it there. Hopefully I’ve got it across without making you want to spew up your breakfast.
Let me make just one other point on this emotion over logic idea…
Don’t forget about logic, just don’t lead with it
As I say, without finding the emotional connection to the reader, your idea is going suck big-time and you’re going to fail.
But I just want to be clear that I’m not saying you should exorcise logic entirely from your copy.
As I point out in this piece, when it comes to closing a sale, a helpful dollop of logic can help you enormously.
But at the start of your copy, when it comes to teasing the sale, you have to go beyond logic and do everything you can to find a way to connect with your reader on an emotional basis.
Do that, and you’ll go far.
P.S. In case you haven’t see before, I’ve put together a simple to follow guide that outlines my own training methods as well as detailing more than twenty ways to boost the conversion of your current copy.
Filled with specific writing tasks I’ve used to train successful copywriters, I guarantee this will help improve your copywriting – or your money back.