Why Emotion-Based Writing is Crucial to Your Business Goals

Why Emotion-Based Writing is Crucial to Your Business Goals

Reader Comments (65)

  1. Demian,

    I absolutely love this article, and it’s one of the first I’ve seen of it its kind. You connect blogging, reading, and writing together using the cognitive science of Antonio Damasio, a genius in the field. He has special knowledge of emotion and cognition, and I’ve read his book “Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain,” which explores the foundations of consciousness, the things that make us know we are alive. He is a powerful writer and I love the way you have worked with his ideas so powerfully.

    This article is a one of a kind, and I’ll be following your writing. I write about cognitive science and writing as well. Thank you for your insights,


    • Thanks Darin. Yeah, there are other studies that make, and are making, the case more and more, but Damasio was the most visible and of course the Gage story is pretty sensational–hard to pass that up. 🙂

      • Damian,
        This post is chock full of psychological goodness. Decisions made on emotional factors have been used by marketers for ages. You would do well with writing a post about psychological “triggers” that help monetize your business.

        Thank you for sharing your ideas,

  2. I haven’t encountered anybody with resistance to the emotional appeals of copywriting before – and honestly, I can’t imagine running into anyone in the future who would feel that way. At a basic level, we all make purchase decisions using our emotions, even if we later try to justify those emotions with rational thought.

    And I’m guessing that the boss you describe in the first story isn’t totally immune to the appeal of emotions either – just the specific emotional case your team presented. Even wanting to feel like a cool-headed financial decision maker is rooted in undertaking actions that promote that specific feeling 🙂

  3. You absolutely rock! This reminds me of a quote from my AWAI course; ”emotions create a link between your prospect and your product”. I tend to be more logical by nature…so I have to remind myself to lead with emotions in my copy. But it’s definitely worth it….I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

  4. I use to be in sales, and the key to making the sale is that the prospect has to be emotionally involved. That’s why you can’t sell to the business owner’s underling. He isn’t emotionally involved. Pain must be personal, and it takes at least three questions to get to the real pain. Once you’re there you act like a doctor, asking them presumptive questions, and questions that show them that you’re the doctor! Soon they’ll say “Geez! I’ve got to do something about this!” And if your questions were good they also now see you as the problem solver! At that point they close themselves!

  5. Great post Demien. Thanks especially for identifying the emotional appeals so clearly. I think that part of writing emotional copy is sharing your own understanding of reader anxiety and showing you can relate, but I find I’m sometimes conflicted on how much to share. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a measure to help writers with the balance between being relatable to reader’s anxieties and losing credibility for relating too much? If you have thoughts on this, I would love to read them.

      • I write about so far trying and failing to become an author. I’m not yet concerned with turning readership into buyers as I’ve got nothing to sell, but I’m enjoying exploring my shortcomings and sharing the solutions I find. A friend of mine who’s been working in PR for years suggested that being so open about the mistakes I’m making may not be a good idea for the long-term. I guess she means in terms of respectability once I do have something I want to sell. Would love to hear your take on this.

  6. If you start off with the idea that emotion-based copywriting is very effective (which is true) then a promise headline isn’t always the best. Since fear/anxiety is a prime emotion that leads to action, a good fear-based headline might not be a promise at all ( e.g. “If you have these 4 symptoms you could____.” “What Wall Street doesn’t want you to know about your 401K,” etc. ). Injecting a promise in these kinds of headlines might in fact dilute the fear/anxiety too soon and reduce the urgency to read further.

    • That’s a good comment, and subject to testing. That’s the only way to prove your hypothesis true: a positive promise v. warning headline. Of course you could combine a positive promise headline with a negative warning sub headline (“Retire Early: What Wall street doesn’t want you to konw about your 401k”).

      • I agree.
        You could also combine a negative/warning headline with a positive subhead, eg. “Find out how to protect your portfolio from the upcoming downturn.” Though sometimes you may want to wait till he lead paragraph to foreshadow the solution. Depends. Lots of combinations to test. Anyway, I should’ve mentioned – good, thought-provoking article.

  7. Demian,

    I receive all of Copyblogger’s emails and usually skim them before choosing to invest the time in actually reading each and every one of them. In the case of this article, I was hooked and rewarded. Thank you. It is perhaps the most cogent argument for writing appeal-oriented or action-inducing copy, as well as illustrating a road map to do so.

    Keep up the good work.


  8. I’ve most commonly run into resistance to including emotion when I work with B2B marketers. The thinking typically is “Hey, this is all business, right? It’s just rational.” My response is to a) point out that B2B decisions aren’t made by disembodied corporate entities, they are made by people. Then I ask them to consider this equation relative to their experience of themselves: reason + emotion = decision to buy (or not). At that point, it typically becomes a self-evident truth. Thanks for the emotionally-satisfying-yet-well-reasoned post.

  9. Well done, Demian. Definitely worth a bookmark. I’m working on a small ebook to give away at a new website I’m launching in January, and this article is helping me decide on the title.

    Someone may have already mentioned this, but to the four emotional appeals to master I’d add “hate.” You could arguably present it as the flip side of love or the ugly cousin of fear. Still, many folks have a “hate” button, and if you push it properly, you can get a response, too.

  10. This is a great post, Demian, which I’ve already bookmarked and shared. Human beings are amazing – we like to think we’re such rational, intelligent beings and yet, more often than not, we’re motivated by such basic instincts.

    I think I’d call your number one ‘desire’ rather than ‘love’ – and I reckon pride and vanity should also be somewhere near the top of the list. You can’t surf the web for five minutes without coming across some advert promising shiny white teeth or a flat belly.

    Thanks very much for this – inspiring and helpful, as always,


  11. This is the second time that I’ve heard Antonio Damasio’s name. He was mentioned in the book As We Speak to make the same point that you made here about the emotion’s effect on decision making. A different story was told though.

    It’s about an attorney who underwent surgery on the right side of his brain and lost the ability to make decisions.

    This post reinforced that point, and it was done extremely well. There was lots of great imagery.

    • Yeah, you’ll probably come across Damasio’s name any time you are reading about the emotions and the impact they have on decisions. I originally came across his name in Taleb’s Black Swan.

  12. Loved this post. I’ve seen (and been guilty of) sales copy that’s so anxious about selling that it induces heartburn.

    I’ve started posting eloquent reminders on all my to-do lists about meeting a client’s needs by -relieving- their anxiety instead. I copied your bit about eliminating anxiety and pasted it on my master to-do list. (I have a lot of lists). Thank you!

  13. Nice Post,

    I think the key thing I learnt here is to keep the copy focused on the reader. Ensuring what you write benefits them in some way so they will want to keep on reading.


  14. Hi Demian, Great write up on Damasio’s work! I’ve always been a huge fan of his studies and how it relates to marketing. Specifically, I love how much he shows that emotions are connected to decision making. People don’t necessarily need a BMW (logic), but they definitely want one (emotions). Steve Jobs did an amazing job of creating products that people wanted, not that they justified logically. Based on this, copywriters and marketers do well to tug at emotions and not just trust a rational appeal to get the job done. There’s a place for both, but emotions should come first.

    • Well said, Joseph. If you think about it Jobs didn’t give anything new except better designed digital products–and an insane feeling of belonging to the superior group. Nobody needs the iPhone/iPad/mini–let alone the latest release. Yet…people mob the stores. (If you have a laptop and phone, really that’s all you need). That’s emotional.

  15. This is an article every internet marketer should read. I like how you illustrate things here about emotion-based writing. The ones that I like the most are “The 4 Emotional Appeals” and “My favorite copywriting formula”. Thanks a lot for sharing. Great article! Excellent writing.

  16. I loved this article and the comments that followed. A great “last read” for my day. I can’t think of anything to add that hasn’t been said, so I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

  17. Thank you Demian. This reinforces ideas I first got from Dan Ariely. He has written two great books about the irrational aspects, including emotions, of our decision making. They totally support your ideas here. The books are ‘Predictably Irrational’ and ‘The Upside of Irrationality.’ Along with this blog, all marketers and copywriters can benefit from reading them.

  18. Good stuff. Especially about getting to know your reader. However, I feel it’s also important to actually feel the emotion as you are writing. It’s not enough just to get to know the reader . . . you have to put yourself in their shoes and actually feel it for yourself. Only then can you truly connect with your reader on an emotional level.

    It goes without saying that such connection requires genuine honesty in your posts — don’t try to string your readers along. Blatantly trying to force a roller coaster of emotions upon your reader is obvious and just pisses people off. Treat your readers with the respect they deserve and they’ll respond to your honest appeals.


  19. The point is you need to connect to the audience through your blog. Emotions are a critical component to decision making and this has been proved.

  20. Lately I’ve been finding the real kicker has been to spice these emotional draws with a sense of achievement. By encouraging the reader to feel as though they achieved A-to-B, they are much more likely to share the source.

      • People tend to share media that either makes them look funny or smart to their friends. A brief written example is evading me, so I’ll point to those meme-images that use characters to spell out “If you can read this, you’re smart”. People aren’t sharing these images because they provide humor. They are sharing them because it makes them look good.

  21. Emotions are, in my opinion, the best part of writing. Being able to express you own, search and find others’ is the reason for creating content, I’d say.
    By emotions I mean expressing them with sincerity, most of all, let myself be vulnerable, even wrong.

  22. Hmm, I think you fumbled your 3rd “P,” provide proof a bit. Cause I took the boss who hates emotion as a dodo. And though I know the story of Mr. Gage, I didn’t feel the crowbar : Phineas’ brain :: nonemotion : copy analogy. Then again, I read to the end, and am already a Scribe subscriber 🙂

  23. Holy smokes! How awesome was this?? Thanks so much for writing this for me, Demian! (You did, right? LOL) Love it and can’t wait to tear it apart and absorb it. Thanks again 🙂

  24. I am so excited by this article! There has been a disagreement between the logical side of me and the creative writer in me about the importance of emotional content. You have now settled that dispute and I am now at peace with myself. LOL. FInally! Thank you so much, this article has been bookmarked and will be used for future reference, especially in regards to the 4 P’s! I greatly enjoy your writing. Thank you for sharing.

  25. This is a bit controversial, because most people believed that for you to make good decisions, you need to do away with your emotions. But i admire the fact that you are viewing this matter from the other side of the coin. As a writer, appealing to your readers emotion is very important, it is a good way to capture their interest and make them act.

  26. I am just starting my journey as a writer, and this article is saved in my evernote ‘Manuals’ folder.

    Just incredible – thank you for writing this article. You have opened my eyes and showed me the ‘keys’ in appealing to people for action. This will help in all kinds of writing, let alone copywriting.

    Thanks again….

  27. Nice Article Demian,

    I like the 4 P’s – I’ve heard it put differently (Information Gap) but your model works too – the trick I have is remembering it – tricky sometimes to find the balance between just writing naturally (which I am always drawn to) and following a formula such as this,

    makes a lot of sense though…

    take care & best wishes,

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