Home > Marketing Strategy > Don’t give them what they want, give them BETTER wants

Don’t give them what they want, give them BETTER wants

the key to persuasive content marketing is appealing to powerful emotions.

To write content that persuades, appeal to the most powerful emotions.

Well-schooled marketing and sales professionals have learned the primary buying motivators read like the Seven Deadly Sins:

  • Gluttony
  • Lust
  • Pride
  • Wrath
  • Sloth
  • Envy
  • Greed

For copywriters the granddaddy of them all is GREED.

Denny Hatch has opined that marketers are in the business of creating wants. Building on this, economist Herbert Stein observed, “People don’t want their wants satisfied – they want BETTER wants.”

This condition goes all the way back to the genesis of humanity. Consider the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (I paraphrase):

They were living in Paradise. They wanted for nothing – leisure, peace of mind, abundance, direct communion with God. Enter the first salesman in the form of a serpent …

Salesman to Eve: “Try the fruit of this tree. It is delicious.” (product feature)

Eve: “I really shouldn’t. It’s supposed to be bad for me.” (objection)

Salesman: “Not this fruit. It will give you knowledge. Eat it and you will be as smart as God.” (overcoming objection with a benefit statement)

Salesman: “… You can try it now and pay later.” (the close)

Cynics argue that modern commerce is the continuation of the devil’s work in Eden. We persuade prospects they should want more, better wants. We prey on their greed, fear, guilt, anger, pride and lust to tempt them to buy. We manipulate their basic human emotions.

Related: Turn the wisdom of the crowd into raving social proof

Emotional triggers to persuasion

While emotions can be powerful drivers of buying behavior, such criticisms overlook the element of individual freewill and the choice of saying “no” to emotions. In the past decade we have learned much more about how our brain processes stimuli through the study of emotional intelligence.

We now understand that, evolved though we are, our brains are still hardwired to first perceive from the emotional center that triggers the fight or flight response. This links to the instincts that enabled us to survive as a species. Seth Godin calls it our lizard brain. That part that makes us contradict our rational thinking by acting in irrational ways.

3 types of motivation

But wait, there is more to consider before plugging emotional appeals into our selling and content strategy. And that is the relationship between emotions and motivations.

Related: The 100 greatest motivators proven to get a response

Psychologists know that emotions are the high-octane fuel that drives the motivations behind behavior. Studies have boiled it down to three basic types of motivation.

  • Approach motivation is positive desire that draws you to something good, either an object or an outcome. “I want to learn a new language.”
  • Avoid motivation is triggered by a desire to get away from something uncomfortable or low value. “I want to screen my calls from the bill collector.”
  • Attack motivation is extreme negative desire to devalue or destroy something. “I want to end world hunger.”

Thinking about the interaction between emotions and motivation helps us to better understand our customers and prospects. It helps to clarify our selling approach and content to make sure it aligns with our product and brand promise.

SOUND OFF: Tell me what you think. What are some of the emotional drivers you are using in your content strategy?

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  1. Ro
    March 20, 2012 at 7:31 pm


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