How copywriting can influence purchasing decisions

Isabella Wells | 26th June 2018 | Content

The role of emotion in copywriting and the influence it has on a reader’s purchasing decision is undeniable. Researching the connection between the heartstrings and the purse strings, Lerner, Small, and Loewenstein discovered that feelings of sadness trigger acquisitive neural states in response to a desire to change presently unfavourable circumstances, meaning sadness can  – and often does – increase consumer spending.

However, while sadness should be actively induced in many forms of copywriting – especially those linked to persuading customers to spend more – it should be avoided at all costs in social media copywriting.

This is due to the fact that sharing is the polar opposite of the brain’s instinctive drive in response to sadness and consequently sadness is the least shareable emotion.

Solving a problem through copy

According to Nick Kolenda, a researcher into the psychology of persuasion, the core purpose of a piece of copy is to present a product or service as the solution to a problem that potential customers are facing.

As a copywriter, if you want such customers to appreciate this solution you first need to remind them of the problem. You can achieve this by incorporating statements designed to agitate readers into your copy.

These will ideally be phrased as questions, such as:

  1. Do you feel stressed and overwhelmed?
  2. Do you feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day?
  3. Are you always scrambling to meet deadlines?
  4. Is your work-life balance suffering?
  5. Do you spend enough time with your family?

Once you have agitated readers and increased their awareness of the problem they face, then (and only then) should you provide the solution.

Utilising emotions in copy

A 2016 study into emotional marketing undertaken by Wichary, Mata and Rieskamp demonstrates that negative emotions narrow attention. Readers stymied by the problem you have described to them and its detrimental effect on their life will focus more intensely on the product or service you are offering.

The physical structure of the copy – its form – has a demonstrable influence on the reader’s purchasing decisions. A 2007 study by Qiu and Yeung illustrates that the first item in any sequence has the greatest emotional impact. This is due to the fact that any emotions experienced while reading the copy are misattributed to this first option which is perceived to be their source. Copywriters should take this into consideration when organising headers or lists in their copy – you should place the point you want the reader to take away at the beginning.

Research conducted by the Association for Consumer Research shows that the most important point should be repeated.

Concepts and words we read over and over again are given higher priority by the brain, meaning that the more a potential customer reads a statement, the more likely they are to trust its accuracy. This leads to increased feelings of brand loyalty and hopefully conversions or sales. This is not an excuse for keyword stuffing or sloppy writing, however – this is a tool that must be wielded subtly in order to be effective.

Timing in social media is crucial

Social media copywriters should also be aware of what time of day and day of the week their text is going to be posted and tailor the emotional content accordingly.

In the morning, a reader’s emotional capacity will be high because their energy is high, leading them to seek more exciting products or services. By contrast, at night when readers are tired, their emotional capacity will be low and they will respond better to soothing products and services. Producing a piece of writing designed to engage, then posting it in the evening will  negate the impact of your writing and is likely to leave readers unresponsive.

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