Copywriting: Stir Emotion, Calm the Mind

Stimulate. Calm. In the direct marketing world, these are two related, but contrasting messaging and copywriting concepts that every marketer and copywriter should master. Why? Because a sure-fire way to get attention from prospective customers is by stimulating emotion. But you don’t want to stimulate emotion and drop the ball there

Stimulate. Calm.

In the direct marketing world, these are two related, but contrasting messaging and copywriting concepts that every marketer and copywriter should master. Why? Because a sure-fire way to get attention from prospective customers is by stimulating emotion. But you don’t want to stimulate emotion and drop the ball there. You must then immediately calm the mind so your prospect’s fears are relieved, allowing them to become engaged with your message, so they will pause long enough for you to introduce them to your solution.

In my most recent column, “Leveraging Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in Copywriting,” I described how fear paralyzes thinking because it’s an instinctive response from the amygdala, our lizard brain.

But because fear is so overwhelming as a natural response, it shuts off the thinking part of the brain. So while, as a copywriter, you want to stimulate emotion by tapping into fear, uncertainty and doubt, you need to quickly calm the mind so decision-making is unblocked. And you can do that by dangling a carrot in front of your audience to moderate their mood.

Search the Web for “how do you calm the mind” and you’ll get thousands of websites with meditation advice. While you don’t want to steer prospects to meditate—at least in the stereotypical way you think of meditation—you do want your prospect to be calmed enough to focus on your message.

To more fully grasp the connection between stimulating emotion and the need to calm the mind, it may be helpful to take a deeper dive into how our brains respond to stimuli. Your brain is filled with neurotransmitters, and knowing the signals they transmit will help you better understand how the brain functions. For marketers, it’s important that you know how to use these signals to strengthen your messaging.

Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brains and bodies. They relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons.” The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest. They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance.

There are two kinds of neurotransmitters: inhibitory and excitatory. Excitatory neurotransmitters stimulate the brain. Inhibitory neurotransmitters calm the brain and help create balance.

So as a direct marketer, after stimulating emotion you must quickly balance the mood. When you over-stimulate, the inhibitory neurotransmitters can be depleted and instead of focusing on your solution, you leave your prospect focusing on their fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Those inhibitory neurotransmitters—those brain chemicals—include:

  • Serotonin, which is necessary for a stable mood and to balance any excessive excitatory (stimulating) neurotransmitter firing in the brain.
  • Gaba helps to calm and relax us, by balancing stimulation over-firing.
  • Dopamine is a special neurotransmitter because it is considered to be both excitatory and inhibitory. It’s very complex. When it spikes, it can motivate and give a person pleasure. When elevated or low, it can cause focus issues such as not remembering what a paragraph said when we just finished reading it (obviously, not something marketers want to happen when reading our copy).

With a cocktail of brain chemicals swirling around in your prospect’s mind, here are a few ways you can calm your prospect’s mind after stimulating their emotion:

  1. Announce a new discovery
  2. Introduce a solution
  3. Assure with a promise
  4. Promise a reward
  5. Brighten the mood of the message to evoke pleasant memory
  6. Introduce new learning

Stimulate. Calm. With these two initial steps, you’ve grabbed attention and have moderated mood so your prospect desires to hear and read more about you.

Author: Gary Hennerberg

Reinventing Direct is for the direct marketer seeking guidance in the evolving world of online marketing. Gary Hennerberg is a mind code marketing strategist, based on the template from his new book, "Crack the Customer Mind Code." He is recognized as a leading direct marketing consultant and copywriter. He weaves in how to identify a unique selling proposition to position, or reposition, products and services using online and offline marketing approaches, and copywriting sales techniques. He is sought-after for his integration of direct mail, catalogs, email marketing, websites, content marketing, search marketing, retargeting and more. His identification of USPs and copywriting for clients has resulted in sales increases of 15 percent, 35 percent, and even as high as 60 percent. Today he integrates both online and offline media strategies, and proven copywriting techniques, to get clients results. Email him or follow Gary on LinkedIn. Co-authoring this blog is Perry Alexander of ACM Initiatives. Follow Perry on LinkedIn.

One thought on “Copywriting: Stir Emotion, Calm the Mind”

  1. Hi Gary… your article is right on the money.

    This is something I’ve written about in both of my books, "CA$HVERTISING" and "BrainScripts for Sales Success."

    In them, I discuss the 4 steps to effective fear induction

    In their study, Age of Propaganda (2001), Pratkanis and Aronson claim that, “the fear appeal is most effective when:

    (1) It scares the hell out of people,

    (2) It offers a specific recommendation for overcoming the fear-aroused threat,

    (3) The recommended action is perceived as effective for reducing the threat, and

    (4) The message recipient believes that he or she can perform the recommended action.”

    First, it’s important to note that an effective induction of fear requires all four steps. You can’t simply say, “Boo! Now buy my stuff.” Creating a “box of fear” establishes the context in which your sales message will live. Once it’s created, you still need to convince your prospect that your product is the perfect solution… prove it… and convince him that he can actually alleviate the fear using the product you want him to buy… similar to how you mentioned that a "calming" period is needed or buyers will simply freeze.

    Fact is, some copywriters go too far with the fear approach. They actually scare people to inaction.

    After reading their ad copy—say for life insurance, for example—men will be freaked out to the point of inertia by text describing how one day their wife and kids will be looking at their dead body laying in the casket… “his cold, dry mouth sutured shut with a curved needle and string… stuck into the jaw below his gums, through the upper jaw into to his right nostril… then carefully threaded through the septum into his left nostril and finally fished back down into his mouth and tied off.” All this, of course, so that good ol’ Dad’s mouth doesn’t snap open during his funeral service.

    Ghoulishly intriguing perhaps, but an unnecessary “spill” of facts and a terrible turn-off for most prospective buyers. Fear is best used to motivate prospects away from the alternative… not away from your own product, the thing that’s intended to be that alternative. You’re looking for a, “I really need this!” response from prospects, not, “Good God, I can’t bear to read another word!” 😉

    For example, if you sell smoke alarms systems, don’t focus on all the cool high-tech features until you’ve first expressed a potential threat to one of your prospect’s "Life-Force-8" desires (the 8 hardwired desires that all humans continually drive for every minute of every day, as described in both books)—that’s where the power of the sale lies.

    Asking, “Will your family die in the night?” (LF8 #1 [survival] and #7 [care and protection of loved ones]) is a lot stronger than, “This digital display tells you when to replace the batteries.”

    (This suggests the loss of none of the LF8, although it could, if worded differently, e.g. “This digital display tells you when to replace the batteries so you’re not in bed snoozing while the other side of your house is engulfed in flames. By the way, on which side of the house is little Noah’s bedroom?”) Ouch.

    Fear induction to stimulate sales is a fascinating topic and tactic, but it must be done properly, or the only thing you’ll be scaring is your own customers… away from you! 😉

    Thanks for the great article, Gary!


    Drew Eric Whitman, D.R.S.
    Direct Response Surgeon™

    • Author of the advertising best-seller:
    “CA$HVERTISING”… now in its 3rd printing from Career Press.
    Translated into French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese,
    Japanese, Korean, Arabic, and Thai.

    • Author of: “BrainScripts for Sales Success:
    21 Hidden Principles of Consumer Psychology
    for Winning Customers and Smashing Sales Records”
    Worldwide release in 2014 by global-publishing leader McGraw-Hill

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