Guilt, exclusivity, fear & the 7 other direct-response copy drivers that work

Source: Target Marketing

I’ve been thinking about emotions more than usual lately. Maybe it’s the type of direct mail I’ve been reading lately that sparked it.

Or maybe it was all of the great discussion around Carolyn Goodman’s webinar that my colleague Thorin McGee wrote about the other day. In case you missed it, she talked about the emotional buy-in of some voters during the current election season.

Swedish direct marketing entrepreneur Axel Andersson and Seattle direct marketer Bob Hacker identified the seven key copy drivers that persuade people to buy a product or service, or to join a cause. They are:

guilt, flattery, anger, exclusivity, fear, greed and salvation.

For years, I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of which of these appear in the long-term controls I track for Who’s Mailing What! Flattery and greed are the two most commonly used. They figure prominently in Denny Hatch’sThe Secrets of Emotional, Hot-Button Copywriting, a report that focuses on the seven great ones

But there are other drivers that also deserve a moment in the sun. Inanother book, Hatch identified twenty-one additional motivators that can also lead to action. Here are three of them, with examples of how I’ve seen them used in the mail.

1. Love
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I’m surprised that I don’t see more mail that really taps into one of the most basic of human emotions. But some marketers, like Danbury Mint, are good at it. This mailing for a “Midnight Spell Necklace” spells it out on the front of the outer: “this holiday season Romance Her Heart with a gift from yours.”

The brochure inside tells of a Polynesian legend that says a black pearl was meant to be a sign of “eternal love”. In the necklace, the pearls “add mystique and glamor to the woman who wears them.”

2. Better Health/Physical Well-Being
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This can take many forms, depending on the audience. Maybe it’s a gym, a weight loss program, fitness equipment, or or a diet supplement. In this case, it’s content delivered by a newsletter, Consumer Reports On Health, in a magalog.

“Healthy or Not Healthy?” the headline asks, then teases “21 myth-busting facts to help you feel younger, stronger, healthier.” Fascinations (i.e., fascinating facts), phrased as questions, dangle just enough information to get the reader to turn to the pages inside for the answers.

3. Patriotism
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Conveying a sense of national pride has strong appeal across the political spectrum. For example, it’s long been a staple for some non-profits to talk about helping those who have sacrificed so much for the security and liberty of their fellow Americans.

From a recent letter for the Blinded Veterans Association: “They put their lives on the line for our freedom and they deserve more.” “We invest a lot in military personnel,” it continues, “it’s time we all stepped up.” One note of caution: it’s important to maintain a proper tone of respect and good taste to avoid sending an inappropriate message.

There are other copy drivers worth considering, but regardless of what ones you use, either alone or in some combination, make sure that they support the rest of the elements of the mailpiece. To quote Bob Hacker, “If your letter isn’t dripping with one or more of these, tear it up and start over.”