Getting into your head

I’m a wearer of many hats as a copywriter. One is the role of psychologist. It’s up to me to get into the heads of your audience and figure out what makes them tick. What are their aspirations, prejudices and fears? Once I’ve got a picture of their emotional triggers, I can write compelling copy that pushes all the buttons.

I focus on three triggers – the Rule of Three strikes again – to create copy that evokes the desired emotional response:

  • Create urgency and scarcity – You’ve got to answer two questions: ‘Why this?’ and, above all, ‘Why now?’. Creating urgency elicits fast action. It produces a psychological experience that makes you feel like you’ve got to consume the information or product now – right now. This triggers the emotional part of your brain – the amygdala – to activate and temporarily outrunyour information processing systems in your frontal lobe. Psychologist Daniel Goleman uses the term ‘amygdala hijack’ to describe the sometimes-irrational fear response. You want this in your copy because it means emotion is in the driver’s seat. Scarcity is closely connected to urgency. Fear is a primal emotion and, in the case of copywriting, it’s the fear of missing out that triggers action. A senseof urgency makes you act. Using power words – act, choose, don’t wait, limited time – adds urgency to your copy.
  • Be specific – Specificity creates a vivid experience in the brain. So the more specific you are, the more your readers engage with the content. It all starts with your headline. Readers use headlines to decide in a split second whether they want to read your content. Be specific and readers will drop everything to consume your content. A zingy headline and body copy deliver an emotional charge that creates psychological tension that can only be relieved by clicking or reading further.
  • Arouse curiosity – Okay, curiosity killed the cat, but our brains are wired to follow curiosity as a path to a reward. We seek new ideas or information because it sometimes leads to a reward. It’s all about creating a curiosity gap. Why does it work? Because we can’t resist a bit of mystery. Renowned Economics and Psychology Professor George Loewenstein developed the ‘curiosity gap’ theory. He says curiosity stems from two steps: A situation uncovers a gap in our knowledge (the headline). That’s when we feel a need to fill the gap (click through). Loewenstein says: ‘Such information gaps produce the feeling of deprived labelled curiosity. The curious individual is motivated to obtain the missing information to reduce the feeling of deprivation.’

So as copywriter I sometimes put on my shrink cap and get into the heads of your reader or target audience. It’s all about getting to the bottom of their thoughts and desires and creating copy that arouses their curiosity and makes them want to find out more.

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