Saturday, June 11, 2005

Subtle Emotion - The Key To Copy That Works

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by Karon Thackston © 2005

Say the word "emotion" to a man, and he'll immediately jump out of his seat and run from the room! Utter the word "emotion" to a woman, and she begins to conjure up thoughts of romantic, long talks centered around feelings. However, speak the word "emotion" to a copywriter and s/he should see dollar signs. Why? Because a good command of subtle emotion is the key to copy that works.

The Difference Between Subtle and Obvious Emotion

Confusing obvious and subtle emotion is a common mistake among copywriters. Let's say your copywriting client tells you his product should make the end user feel classy and sophisticated. He wants the copy you write to convey that message.

What happens when writing with obvious emotion is this:


Our silverware patterns will make you feel classy and sophisticated. They will decorate your table in an upscale manner so you and your guests will think you're in a fine-dining restaurant.


Obvious emotion tells readers what they will think, see or feel. This approach is clumsy and awkward and rarely has the result the client is looking for. On the other hand, subtle emotion has a much greater appeal. Why? Because it deals with imagery. When you show people, rather than tell them, how they'll feel or what will happen after they buy your product or service, you evoke core emotions rather than shallow feelings. Here are several examples of subtle emotion at work:


Graceful and elegant, these silverware patterns are sure to bring compliments from your guests. With an exceptional display of taste and style, you can adorn your table with distinctive stainless or sterling silverware that highlights every element of your table setting.


As peaceful and charming as a Sunday afternoon on grandma's front porch, these metal gliders are recreations of the WWI originals. Rock the afternoon away with a big glass of lemonade and a little nostalgia wafting through the air like a gentle summer breeze.


Spend lazy days and restful nights in this poster bed dreaming about romantic interludes. Finished with Gabon mahogany veneers, your bed has reed posts, a removable canopy frame and a louvered headboard reminiscent of a shuttered window.


Do you see what's happening in the copy examples above? No one came right out and said, "Your table's gonna look real classy if you use our silverware," but the notion is there. From the description given, you pick up on the fact that this silver will do more than make your table look good. It will make you look good in front of your guests and give you a little boost of confidence due to all the compliments you'll receive.

The metal glider chair copy never said your blood pressure would be reduced as you sat on your porch de-stressing from a long, hard workweek, but that's the distinct impression you get from the copy, isn't it?

And the poster bed? Just the mention of the materials (Gabon mahogany, reed posts) and romantic interludes gives a feeling that this bed is something special, although the copy never actually says so.

By using subtle emotion, by painting a picture of what the customer will get from these products, by incorporating them into the customer's everyday life, you - as a copywriter - are able to pique interest and increase sales. Ah! The power of words!

About the Author:
Karon Thackston is owner of Marketing Words, Inc., a full-service copywriting agency. She is also author of the highly acclaimed Step-by-Step Copywriting Course, now in its third edition. You can find Karon online:
Marketing Words, Inc. or at her Copywriting Course.


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