3 Parts of ‘Smart’ Marketing

I find myself pondering all of the things I’ve learned in my career about what’s smart, and what’s not so smart about marketing today. The following are three “parts” of marketing strategies that never fail for brands big and small, as well as in all industries.

smart marketingWith this month’s release of my new book — “Marketing for Dummies,” a new edition that focuses on the digital era — I find myself pondering all of the things I’ve learned in my career about what’s smart, and what’s not so smart about marketing today. The following are three “parts” of marketing strategies that never fail for brands big and small, as well as in all industries.

It’s Not About Creative

Thinking that the more clever or shocking your advertising is, the more your sales will go up is a trap that many big brands fall into. Take a look at the Super Bowl ad phenomenon.

GoDaddy historically does the worst, most tasteless ads every year. Yet they have experienced consistent growth each year and are at a pace to grow 20 percent. On the flip side, Budweiser always has the most heart-warming, talked-about ads with its horses and puppies, and quite often earns the coveted “most-liked ad” in the USA listings the day after. Yet, as pointed out in an article in Money.com, during their roll of Super Bowl ad success, sales have been going down along with their dominance in the beer category.

The takeaway here is clear: Creative entertains and builds name recall, but not necessarily sales results. If you are okay to entertain with your ads and not worry about the impact on sales, then go hire a creative team who can create a mini-movie in 30 seconds. If you need advertising to drive sales, ROI and profitability, like most businesses, then put your resources into the next three parts. Not saying creative is not important, but it should not be what drives your marketing strategy. What should drive it is a product of the knowledge you have about what inspires, moves, motivates and engages your customers — consciously and unconsciously.

Consumers disliked GoDaddy's Super Bowl ad in 2015.
Consumers disliked GoDaddy’s Super Bowl ad in 2015.

Empathy Is the Foundation

The definition of empathy is: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Now more than ever, understanding consumers’ and what moves them to engage, trust and assign loyalty is critical for acquisition and retention. CRM and data analytics platforms and so many more programs help us understand how and why consumers make choices so we can build highly relevant content to deploy across channels used daily by those we want to reach most.

Yet, if our communications focus only on what we learn from “data” about their transactions, we fall short. We need to understand what drives consumers emotionally and psychologically to engage. What are the feelings that influence their ability to trust and what actions create positive feelings toward brands? As I’ve written in many columns and throughout my book, these feelings that drive consumers toward our brands are much deeper than the satisfaction with our products or services. They are the feelings associated with what drives human nature: a sense of belonging, respect, value and altruism toward common causes.

Your communications and marketing content needs to be rooted in “empathy” of shared feelings and mutual understanding. With all of the research about consumers’ values and their support for companies that engage in sincere CSR programs, it’s not hard to get a glimpse of the feelings that move sales today.

Survival Is in Our DNA

After years of studying human psychology and how it drives choice and behavior, this single fundamental element of human nature stands out the most: We are wired for survival, just like any species is, and all of our thoughts and actions follow suit.

Survival relates not just to our physical well-being, but to every aspect of our lives. Consciously, and more so unconsciously, our need to survive socially, professionally, and emotionally is part of the big and small choices we make daily. Shopping for a dress for the company holiday party is not just about what makes you look good, it’s about projecting the image you believe will help you look powerful, sophisticated, and smart in order to maintain your current position or ready you for a new one that is better and enhances your professional and financial position.

When you can create personalized communications, or mass communications around key personas for your customer groups, you hit the emotional chords that get customers to engage and start a journey with your brand to see if it will lead them to a stronger position in the areas of life that matter most to them: social, professional, emotional, financial and more.

Conclusion

While there are many more than three parts of survival for brands marketing products and services in today’s dynamic and complex market environments, these three fundamentals are part of any “smart” marketing plan. No matter what level you are in your marketing career, you will “dummy” down your short- and long-term results if you don’t apply empathy, address the survival DNA, and keep your creative or marketing content relevant to these two drivers.

The ‘Why’ That Gets Prospects to Buy

We’re in an age where copy must work harder to be noticed and break through. The superficial message will be overlooked, and unless it speaks to the heart in a grab-by-the-collar kind of way, it’s lost. So how do you peel back the layers of resistance to deliver the deeper why?

EmotionsWe’re in an age where copy must work harder to be noticed and break through. The superficial message will be overlooked, and unless it speaks to the heart in a grab-by-the-collar kind of way, it’s lost. So how do you peel back prospects’ layers of resistance to deliver the deeper why?

In my last blog I wrote about breaking through to the big idea. Without a big idea, a headline and story become noise.

And without emotion, the big idea may not work.

That’s why copywriters and marketers must work harder to peel back the hardened layers that people add to their personas.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been on the planning team for a musical production coming this July in Las Vegas. There will be about 300 singers from two large choral groups on stage together performing before about 8,000 people.

It would be easy to stand before the audience and sing great songs. But the question we’ve pressed ourselves to answer is this: What emotion do we want the individual in the audience to feel, the moment the curtain comes down?

We’re getting closer to identifying a handful of deep emotions about the impact of singing, but one exercise we used applies to marketers and copywriters, and might be useful to help you identify the deeper emotion of a new message.

Consider the following scenario. At first glance it may seem simplistic, but look past the pure utility of whatever you’re offering to the deeper end benefit can often lead to that clarity of “why.”

A man walks into a hardware store. An employee asks him what he’s searching for.

“A drill,” he replies.

The employee shows the customer to the aisle with drills. Without probing any further, the employee says, “if you need something else let me know,” and walks away.

The employee simply assumed the customer wanted a drill. But what if the employee had known that this was more than drilling a hole? What if it was learned that the customer was building an awning on the backyard of his home? And that he may have needed additional materials or tools for the project?

Or perhaps the employee would have learned that the reason the customer was buying a drill was because he was building the awning for his daughter. Then, she would have a place to sit in the shade on a sunny day, and under protection on a rainy day.

Or, maybe with more conversation, the customer would have revealed that the deeper reason for building the awning was because his daughter was disabled and confined to a wheelchair. And sitting outside was the only time for his daughter to breathe fresh air.

After peeling back the layers, you realize you’re not just selling the simple utility of a drill. You’re in the business of helping your clients and customers get to an emotional satisfaction — of helping them achieve their bigger goal that’s driven by the “why.”

The point of this thought process, and the reason to keep asking “why,” is that even something as simple as purchasing a drill may have a much deeper emotional reason behind the purchase.

When you know the deeper persona of the person you’re reaching, or can imagine their story, your message can get to the core of a deeper emotional feeling that enables the customer to make their decision in a heartbeat.

Gary Hennerberg gives you the detail of his “Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” in his book, Crack the Customer Mind Code, available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways, and access to Gary’s videos where he presents them, go to CustomerMindCode.com.

12 Direct Mail Mandates

(Gary Hennerberg is away this week so we’re running a highly popular article of his, with a few updates, originally published in Direct Marketing IQ).

The bar continues to rise for creating successful direct mail. Today I share a dozen direct mail mandates on a diverse range of topics including crunching numbers, flow charts, mailing lists, and perhaps most importantly, a creative and copywriting process that I use and has resulted in direct mail campaigns with significant response increases over control packages.

These 12 mandates for success are based on my experience analyzing winning direct mail from B-to-C, B-to-B and nonprofit direct mail campaigns.

  1. Run the Numbers: Begin first with an assessment of the financial risk you’re willing to take. Whether you’re risk averse, or willing to gamble, ask yourself how much money you’re will to put on the line. Then calculate Allowable Marketing Costs, so you know how much you can spend, along with a Long-Term Value model. Do this whether you’re marketing to existing customers (who should return a profit to you) or prospecting for new customers (which will probably result in a loss). More on this topic on my Four-Part Series on Marketing Costs.
  2. Flow Chart Every Step: As you plan direct mail, be thoughtful about how you’ll follow-up with those who respond versus those who don’t respond. Whether you call it a flow chart, or work flow, this is essential for thorough customer follow-up marketing. Nurture marketing, often through marketing automation software, can be game-changing in engagement and conversion to sales. Once someone is in your sales funnel, let the software automate direct mail and email deployments.
  3. Mailing List Selection: An oft cited direct mail rule is that 40 percent of your success will come from your mailing list. This is a good rule-of-thumb whether you’re mailing a specific segment of your customer list, or if you’re using outside lists including models and response files. Make sure your mailing list selection is appropriate for your creative message (or more appropriately, make sure your creative message is geared for your audience).
  4. Test!: Test something, but resist “testing around the edges.” That is, don’t only test a new headline. Instead, test completely new story, positioning, offers and more. And make sure you have at least a basic understanding of statistical confidence intervals so you can validate if one direct mail package really outperformed the other when it’s rolled out to higher volumes.
  5. Identify the Persona: Begin with basic demographic data, but you must get into your prospective customers’ mindset using behavioral data. Get started by having a basic profile run of your existing customers (easily accessible from data vendors, and ordinarily quite affordable). Look for behaviors that you can cluster into several personas you can describe and name. For example, “Money Matters,” “Adrenalin Seekers,” or “Did I Matter?” Key: knowing the data is merely a start. You must analyze and interpret the information. Assign the persona into one of your identified types (I have pegged 12 different types over my years in the business, three of those are listed above). Once you know the persona, you’re ready to move into creative strategy.
  6. Stimulate Emotion: We possess advanced human brains. However, as in most animals, at its core, our amygdala — the primitive “lizard brain” — reacts instantly with fight or flight instincts. We are alerted to basic needs including anger, fear, and reproduction. The left amygdala retains both pleasant and unpleasant emotions. The right amygdala retains negative emotions, especially fear and sadness. It’s no wonder that negative works.
  7. Calm the Mind: After stimulating emotion, you must calm the mind. Assure your prospect there is a solution that addresses fear, uncertainty and doubt. Direct the reader to emotions that offer pleasure, reward, a pleasant memory, new learning and moderate the mood.
  8. Position/Reposition: Create new memory for your prospective customer or donor by giving your product or organization a distinctive positioning with your unique selling proposition (or unique value proposition). Differentiating you from your competitors is essential to creating new memory that can linger on for your product or service.
  9. Use Storytelling Techniques: Story is effective because it offers new perspective and solidifies the new memory holds for your prospect. New memory is embedded into the mind with a compelling story that’s well told. Magnetically pull your reader into your story, and encourage them to step into the storyline. Consider how you can use ancient storytelling methods.
  10. Interpret the Outcome: The left brain is logical, and mathematical calculations are processed here. This is where your prospect determines cost to value and influences how the individual will act. Introduce financial cost, and present a perceived return on investment. You must interpret the outcome of possessing your product and avert abandonment by your prospective customer when you translate features into benefits, use testimonials and a strong guarantee to overcome skepticism.
  11. Permission to Respond. The right brain is emotional. Return your prospect back to emotion by naturally leading them to say, “This is good, this is smart, I give myself permission to respond now.”
  12. Analyze Results. A basic step often overlooked is analyzing your results with hard numbers. Metrics can include response rates, conversion rates, cost per response or cost per order. Match how your direct mail program actually performed compared to your benchmarks established in point No. 1.

Words Matter

It’s said that in life, words matter. Simple phrases and how we say them as we interact reveals much about our inner character. I recently listened to a message about how three phrases have the power to change emotion. And it dawned on me that these same phrases, all filled with goodness, have a place in the tone of our marketing messages.

Words in a sales letter, email, website, blog post, social media post or video have the potential to shift emotion in a positive way. The most effective words are simple. Once you understand and empathize with the feelings of your reader or prospective customer, you can shift the tone of your message in a positive way.

While these three phrases could be literally stated in your marketing message, it’s really the tone you should strive to send. So today I suggest you think about how you can put an encouraging tone on the emotion you want your message to convey, and consider how your headline, body copy, or story, can move your audience to a positive emotion.

  • “Thank you.” By themselves, the words can be a bit hollow. “Thank you for your business” is nice, but a sincere thank you that reveals the depth of your inner gratefulness can be much more impactful.
  • “I appreciate you.” Most of us like to be appreciated. Once again, the exact words you use don’t have to say “I appreciate you,” but rather, convey the appreciation of people as customers in your actions and with words.
  • “I love you.” You probably wouldn’t say this in your marketing messaging (although you’ve surely seen signs that say “We love our customers”). In this instance, think of it as affection for your customer or the pleasure you have in serving them.

The tone you convey using the emotion of these phrases does matter. Sincerely expressing these feelings can become a platform for building, retaining and strengthening long-term relationships with your customers.

Emoji: Digital Shorthand for Direct Marketers

Our culture is gravitating to visual displays of shorthand, and we’re relying less and less on words. For certain age groups and demographics, it appears that words and text is becoming out of date. Why? Emojis. You’ve seen them. But you may not have considered how you can leverage them in direct marketing. Here’s an emoji primer along with six ideas you can use for more visual emotion.

Our culture is gravitating to visual displays of shorthand, and we’re relying less and less on words. For certain age groups and demographics, it appears that words and text is becoming out of date. Why? Emojis. You’ve seen them. But you may not have considered how you can leverage them in direct marketing. Here’s an emoji primer along with six ideas you can use for more visual emotion.

First an emoji primer: Emojis originated in Japan, and means “picture letter.” Emojis are a single image that conveys an emotion or attitude. They are different than emoticons that are created with characters on a keyboard such as “:-)” to convey a smile. Emojis are shorthand in the digital age. Mobile has been a driver of the use of emojis because they are quick to use.

Unless you’re immersed in the emoji phenomenon, who would have known that last year some 2,834 new emojis were released by the Uniform Consortium (most of the 2,834 emojis have been in widespread use for years). Each has an official name and definition. By comparison, with a mere 26 letters in the alphabet to deal with, one wonders if adding a few well-chosen words may be quicker than scanning through nearly three thousand emojis for exactly the right one, but I digress.

Two recent observations in my life have prompted me to think about the emerging digital shorthand of emojis:

First, after the iOS 8.3 upgrade came through, I observed the sudden addition of emojis on the keyboard (at that time, I had mistakenly called them emoticons, which they are not). In fact, there are 300 emojis. And a Vulcan salute if you want it added. I like to use voice dictation for text and email on my iPhone. I don’t know about you, but I find the placement of the emoji buttons on an iPhone annoying because of my big fingers. I’m constantly touching the key that opens a flood of 300 emojis when I wanted the voice dictation button.

Second, while onboarding with a new digitally-driven client where everyone works virtual and all communications are posted on Skype chat, I saw team members answering questions using emojis. Even though emoji appearance is mostly intuitive, I still looked up the emoji so I was confident that I knew how team members were replying. On Skype, there are dozens of emojis ranging from the usual smiles and frowns to “TMI” (too much information), being worried and a birthday cake.

Then it dawned on me:

It’s clear that millions of people love emojis, so for direct marketers, it’s time to become aware of their power to transform how you communicate.

As our culture becomes more impatient, and attention spans are shortening, people want to shrink the seconds required to respond via email or text. An emoji can be the ticket to effortlessly conveying an emotion.

So how can direct marketers use emojis? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Direct Mail: A person doesn’t have to be a Millennial or Gen Z to recognize smiles, fingers crossed, a handshake or thumbs up. Remember: it’s visual shorthand.
  2. Social Media: Emojis are already built in and easy to use. Liven up content marketing posts with an emoji.
  3. Email Marketing: Why not? Put an emoji in HTML to add some fun and pizzazz.
  4. Website: Many emojis display movement, such as a bobbing head when illustrating someone laughing, and are a way to draw the eye to a desirable emotion.
  5. Blog Posts: I’ll let this light-hearted version speak for itself.
  6. SMS Text: With mobile as the reason emojis are taking off, it’s only natural to use them if you’re using SMS text (and especially you’re conserving on the characters you’re using). Of course, make sure your customer has opted-in to receiving your texts so your legal bases are covered.

Will emojis be the here for a long time to come, or a fad? Who knows? But I suspect that at least for the near term, you’re going to be seeing emojis more and more.

So what do you think? Would you ever use an emoji in your direct marketing messaging?

Stimulating Awe, Goosebumps and Chills in Copy

When your copy stimulates awe, your customer should experience a physiological reaction like goosebumps or chills. A physical reaction comes from stimulation of the mind. And the positive emotion of awe is more likely to move a person to action. Direct marketers and copywriters have the opportunity to create these physical sensations with awe-inspiring copy

When your copy stimulates awe, your customer should experience a physiological reaction like goosebumps or chills. A physical reaction comes from stimulation of the mind. And the positive emotion of awe is more likely to move a person to action. Direct marketers and copywriters have the opportunity to create these physical sensations with awe-inspiring copy.

The link between positive moods and the physiological reaction we get with goosebumps is proven. So if you give your prospects goosebumps, surely you can sell more.

Research at the University of California, Berkeley between emotions such as compassion, joy, and love, versus the levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6)—a secretion which causes inflammation in the body—finds that those who regularly have positive emotions have less IL-6. Researchers noticed the strongest reaction with one particular emotion:

Awe.

You may not think of creating awe and wonderment when writing copy, but you should. Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor and the senior author of the study, gave examples of awe by saying “Some people feel awe listening to music, others watching a sunset or attending a political rally or seeing kids play.”

So what is this emotion called “awe?” Look at a dictionary and you’ll be told it’s “an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, and fear, produced by that which is grand, sublime, or extremely powerful.” It can also result in a subconscious release of adrenaline.

An adrenaline rush causes the contraction of skin muscles and other body reactions. Adrenaline is often released when you feel cold or afraid, but also if you are under stress and feel strong emotions, such as anger or excitement. Other signs of adrenaline release include tears, sweaty palms, trembling hands, an increase in blood pressure, a racing heart or the feeling of ‘butterflies’ in the stomach.

If you create a strong new memory in your message that reminds your audience of a significant event, with the adrenalin rush they may feel goosebumps or chills. Past awe emotions can resurface with the right triggers.

Most importantly, how do you spark awe in your direct marketing campaigns?

  • Stimulate emotions that recall a strong past positive memory
  • Use powerful visuals that accompany copy that paint a picture
  • Stir memory that resonates so strongly that it “feels” right

For your next marketing campaign, deliver that sense of awe so your customer feels goosebumps and chills. And there’s a chance you may feel them, too, as you look at your response rate.

7 Feelings That Add Warmth to Copywriting

Sometimes we get too close to the bells and whistles of our products and services. When that happens, it can be helpful to step back and remember what is near and dear to the heart of your prospective customer. Push away bright, shiny features and techno-speak, and ask yourself if any of these seven feelings can open a new pathway for you to be invited inside your prospect’s mind

Sometimes we get too close to the bells and whistles of our products and services. When that happens, it can be helpful to step back and remember what is near and dear to the heart of your prospective customer. Push away bright, shiny features and techno-speak, and ask yourself if any of these seven feelings can open a new pathway for you to be invited inside your prospect’s mind.

As marketers, we know there are many ways to persuade someone to read or listen to your sales message, such as money, success, respect, and influence.

But perhaps you need an emotional hook. With simplicity and emotion in mind, here are seven feelings where you can bring warmth and emotion to your copy and message.

  1. Family: What more important value than the love a person has for family? Family-centered safety and warmth is a winner about every time it’s used. When most people think about what’s most important in their lives, it’s family.
  2. Friends: Including friends into a sales message can free up the mind from the drudgery of day-to-day work. And most people associate friends with entertainment, time together, and sharing of personal relationships.
  3. Fun: With our senses so often bombarded with negative news, a fun or playful spirit in your sales message can lighten the mental load. Most people would rather play than work. Fun invites involvement. Involvement invites response.
  4. Food: This tasty four-letter F-word gets your attention, doesn’t it? Now that you’ve read it, you might be salivating. Just the word “food” can trigger basic human desire to eat (that snack or dessert sure you’re imagining tastes yummy, doesn’t it?).
  5. Fashion: Deep down, we want to look good. And clothes and fashion help create a personal branding statement. Most people want to be attractive, and most people are attracted to others who look good.
  6. Fitness: People have good intentions about being fit and healthy, even if they don’t want to hit the gym and know they could do better. So, get attention by conveying how you can contribute to someone’s improved health.
  7. Fido/Felines: When was the last time you watched a video on social media featuring a cat or dog? You can admit it. We all do. So you can hardly go wrong when you introduce a lovable or quirky pet into your marketing message.

Simple emotions? Yes. But sometimes we all a little nudge to remind us it’s the small things that stir our feelings.

How to Neutralize the Risk of Backfire

The mid-term elections are over, where widely divergent points-of-view are on display. The political campaign season (which one could argue has morphed from a defined period to a never ending morass), is a reminder of the perilous risk of copy and messaging backfiring when you intended to convince people to take a new position and change a core belief. The backfire effect is especially toxic in politics, but it can blow up…

The mid-term elections are over, where widely divergent points-of-view are on display. The political campaign season (which one could argue has morphed from a defined period to a never ending morass), is a reminder of the perilous risk of copy and messaging backfiring when you intended to convince people to take a new position and change a core belief. The backfire effect is especially toxic in politics, but it can blow up in your face, no matter what you’re selling.

Attempting to change someone’s belief is a tall task. It’s true of you. And it’s true of your prospects. As we age and accumulate more information, and the memory grooves in our minds become more deeply etched, it is more difficult to change a mind. People will defend beliefs, even when there is evidence from credible research and studies that the belief is inaccurate. And sometimes, beliefs are built on ideology that has been molded by parents, religion, education, bullying, and other lifetime influences.

Consider these external factors that, as a marketer, you can’t change:

  • The human mind will instinctively and unconsciously resist change. Once something is added to a belief system it is defended from change.
  • When presented with information that is inconsistent with a belief system, beware of the backfire effect. It happens when an individual is defending information that they are seeking. Oftentimes people seek information that simply reinforces their original thinking.
  • For some people, it’s that they stick to beliefs no matter what. It doesn’t matter if there are facts refuting a position with an avalanche of data pointing to an obvious alternative conclusion. Some people will not change their minds.

So when writing sales copy, you are trying to create new memory grooves in the mind. One approach is to cite facts and figures, but when someone vehemently disagrees, you risk making them feel stronger about their positions. Your sales message can backfire. Worse, prospects can push themselves deeper into their own entrenched belief system.

More challenging is when your prospects are confronted with something counter to their beliefs—they pile on to support their already established memory. The unintended result: It grooves their memories even more deeply.

Today, easy Internet access adds even more fuel to this backfire, or pushback. As people selectively seek out information that supports their beliefs—even if it’s factually wrong—inaccurate beliefs can be bolstered by inaccurate claims. Look at newsfeeds on social media. Every minute on the wild wild Web of social media, people are reposting one-sided stories that support a particular belief, accepting it as proof.

So what can you do to dampen the risk of the backfire effect? Consider these five approaches when presenting your sales message:

  1. Know the Persona: Before you write your sales message, know the persona of your intended market or audience. A well-conceived persona will reveal what your prospect most likely thinks so you avoid the landmine of the backfire effect.
  2. Approach the Underlying Emotion First: Begin by gaining trust within an existing belief system. If you need to change your prospect’s mind, do it by understanding the underlying emotion of your prospect first, and gain empathy.
  3. Use Short Explanations: Your prospect is more apt to follow your thought process with explanations that take little effort to process. Keep it simple.
  4. Use a Story: Allow your reader to see themselves inside a story that makes a point and leads to a specific conclusion.
  5. Close With Emotion: Start with emotion, build your logical case, and then close with an emotional appeal. Emotion usually prevails over logic, even when the logic is flawed.

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.

Leveraging Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in Copywriting

Fear is paralyzing. And fear is important for marketers to understand and leverage. I was reminded of how fear takes over the mind while on vacation a couple of weeks ago in Barcelona, Spain. We rented a car for a drive to Andorra and Southern France, and while returning the car to the Barcelona’s city center, we got lost. The GPS navigation wasn’t helpful. The streets were crowded. Then a tap on the window by a motorcyclist next to our car, and pedestrians pointing

Fear is paralyzing. And fear is important for marketers to understand and leverage. I was reminded of how fear takes over the mind while on vacation a couple of weeks ago in Barcelona, Spain. We had rented a car for a drive to Andorra and Southern France and while returning the car to the Barcelona’s city center, we got lost. The GPS navigation wasn’t helpful. The streets were crowded. Then a tap on the window by a motorcyclist next to our car, and pedestrians pointing to the passenger rear tire sent me over the edge: the tire was nearly flat.

Going into the trip, I anticipated that renting a car and driving would generate some anxiety. It began with the fact that the car came with a manual transmission. The last time that I had driven a vehicle with a manual transmission was on the family farm in the 1970s. I thought driving with a manual transmission after all those years would be like never forgetting how to ride a bike. Apparently not. After dozens of times stalling the engine in intersections and at toll booths due to the learning curve of syncing acceleration and releasing the clutch, I felt fear. After three days of driving, I finally got past the learning curve of using a manual transmission.

But it was in the moments returning the car with a nearly flat tire that was my worst fear of all. There was no place to pull over on the crowded streets of Barcelona. Traffic was heavy. Motorcycles buzzed around us. Yet we were only blocks from the car rental facility. We couldn’t get there from where we were.

Fear consumed me. It’s an instinctive response, and there is science that helps to explain why fear is all-consuming.

The amygdala, or lizard brain, has an evolutionary purpose for humans to survive. The amygdala reacts in a “fight” or “flight” mode. It is alert to basic needs—anger, fear and reproduction—with memory formulated over a lifetime as it assesses how to respond to survive and reproduce.

The right amygdala retains negative emotions, especially fear and sadness. The left amygdala retains both pleasant and unpleasant emotions.

Because we’re wired for fear and negative emotion more dominantly than for positive emotions, fear, uncertainty and doubt take over.

And these emotions are the most powerful human emotions that marketers can leverage.

For fear to work, and for you to be credible in your copy, consider these three pathways:

  1. Begin by stimulating your prospect’s emotion with how you relate to their fear, uncertainty and doubt (“FUD”).
  2. Once you have acknowledged and reminded them of their FUD, you’re poised to take the next step of earning trust.
  3. Quickly calm their minds by offering your solution and clearing away the FUD.

When your mind is in constant fear, it’s difficult to think. You’re stuck. You’re frozen. You can’t make up your mind. Your decision-making power is blocked.

Marketers can leverage the power of fear to stimulate emotion, but to be effective, you must quickly calm the mind so that decision making is unblocked and you can move your customers to the thinking part of their brains where they can make decisions.

As for the rest of the Barcelona driving story, thankfully, after several minutes of fear and panic, we ditched using the navigation. Our daughter had been studying there for the semester and her internship’s office was in the general neighborhood of where we needed to return the car. She had never driven in the city, but was familiar with the streets.

She calmly gave me the turn-by-turn directions to the car rental return facility. When I finally recognized a landmark only a block away, my fear vanished and a calm enveloped me. We arrived before the tire had gone completely flat. And now I could think clearly once again and return to enjoying our vacation.