How to Sell With Emotion

The following excerpt is from Craig Simpson’s The Advertising Solution. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Ad legend Robert Collier’s phenomenal success as a copywriter made him a figure that many ad writers and promoters still turn to for advice and inspiration. In The Robert Collier Letter Book, he dissected a series of ads to show what made them succeed or fail. It’s like a graduate course in how to use psychology to prepare effective promotions.

One of the chapters in his book, “How to Arouse That Acquisitive Feeling,” analyzed ads for the degree of emotion they were able to provoke in people. Collier believed (and proved again and again in his own work) that ads that touched readers’ emotions were more successful than ads that only touched the intellect.

You can provide a ton of arguments to convince the intellect of the advantage of making a certain choice, but unless you make readers feel that they have to have what you offer and that it will be worth any effort to get it, your sales letter will be worthless.

Collier advised that before writers put even one word down on paper, they need to decide what effect they want to have on the reader. They have to know the feeling they need to arouse so the prospect will be moved to take action. The point of the ad isn’t to make the reader think, “What a clever ad.” Rather, it’s to arouse in readers the feeling of “Let’s go!”

Marketers must determine what feeling has to be aroused to lead prospects to take action. From there, they must consider what kind of argument should be presented to inspire that feeling in readers so that taking action will become irresistible. As Collier put it:

Isn’t the prime requisite arousing in your reader the feeling that he must have the thing you are offering, or that he cannot rest until he has done the thing you are urging him to do?

Of course, people don’t want to feel as though their emotions are being manipulated. They want to believe they’re making decisions based on logic (i.e., you have to placate that good old cerebrum). The challenge of the writer is to present arguments that seem to convince the intellect, while in fact aiming at their emotions.

Collier gives two examples. The first letter had only moderate success, while the second letter pulled more than twice as many responses. Both letters sold boxes of greeting cards, and while the first presented some sound intellectual arguments, the second went straight for the emotions. You can see the difference right in their opening paragraphs:

Letter One — Intellectual Appeal:
Some people have a sort of sixth sense that enables them to send greetings and the like to all the proper relatives and friends on every appropriate occasion. But most of us are likely to overlook such things.

Compare that to the opening paragraph of the second letter:

Letter Two — Emotional Appeal:
How often have you promised yourself to keep in touch with some old friend, to cultivate some new one — and then gone your way forgetting them, and letting them forget you?

The second letter immediately brings up the image of a potential loss readers could experience if they don’t follow up on the offer. It’s that twinge of guilt and loss that keeps the reader going to the next paragraph and the next to learn how to resolve those unpleasant feelings. It primes them to take the easy solution the letter is about to offer.

The goal of either of these letters is to get readers to place orders for personally inscribed cards so they can get them back in time for Christmas. Let’s look at the final two paragraphs of each letter.