What Is Emotional Direct Response Copywriting?

What Is Emotional Direct Response Copywriting?

In our previous article on direct response marketing we touched on the fact that this type of marketing uses very different copywriting techniques.

It uses copy which is designed to push the emotional hot buttons of the target audience.

Rather than using the conventional, boring, “professional” sounding copy, it uses copy that is like a car accident. No matter how much you want to, you can’t help but look.

Emotional direct response copywriting uses attention grabbing headlines, strong sales copy and compelling calls to action. It’s what’s known as “salesmanship in print”.

Many businesses, especially those who sell products and services to professional or business customers feel like this type of copy is not appropriate for their market. And while it’s true we should tailor our approach to this market (as we would for any target market), it would be a major mistake to discount emotional direct response copywriting.

From the CEO of a Fortune 500 company down to the janitor, we’re all big bags of emotion and our buying decisions are made with emotion and then justified with logic later. “Hey honey I bought that Porsche 911 ’cause of safety and German cars are really reliable too”. Yeah right.

You Can’t Bore People Into Buying

People open their mail above a wastepaper basket. They sort it into two piles, the first pile gets opened and read and the second pile goes into the trash, often unopened.

People in general are craving something new, something entertaining, something different. When you give that to them, you get their attention.

When your copy is “professional”, it’s boring, monotone and ignored.

The fact is that most businesses are too afraid to send out copy that will get them noticed. They fear what their friends, relatives, industry peers and others will think or say.

So they send out letters and ads which are timid and “me too”. Swap the company name and logo and they are pretty much interchangeable with every one of their other competitors.

There really is only one opinion you should be worrying about – that of your customers and prospects. Frankly no one else’s opinion, including yours, should figure in what you put in your sales copy. Testing and measuring response is the only true way of judging the effectiveness of your copy.

The truth is the masses are living lives of quiet desperation. They are absolutely craving something that grabs or entertains them, even if it’s just for a moment. Your job is to give it to them.

The Headline

The goal of your headline is to get the attention of your audience, suck them into the ad and entice them to read the opening paragraph.

The headline is basically the ad for the ad.

Here is one of John Carlton’s most famous and ripped off headlines targeting the golfing niche:

“Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards To Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks and Slices… And Can Slash Up To 10 Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight!”

I’m not really very interested in golf and I still want to read what it’s about. Imagine how someone who was big into golf would react to it (and they did). Compare this to something boring and professional like:

“Improve Your Golf Swing”

The job of your headline is to get your opening paragraph read. The job of your opening paragraph is to get your second paragraph read and so on.

Need some inspiration? Here are some highly successful tested headlines:

“They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano, But When I Started to Play!”

“How I became popular overnight”

“Would you invest $7 to be $1000 richer… without risking a cent?”

“Do you make these mistakes in English?”

“You can laugh at money worries if you follow this simple plan”

“Which of these five skin troubles would you like to end?”

Emotional Hot Buttons and Words That Sell

It’s incredible how a change in a word or phrase can dramatically change the effectiveness of an ad.

The fact is there are some words which are extremely powerful and trigger emotional hot buttons. Here are just few of the most common ones:


A one word change in your headline can dramatically alter the results you achieve.

Always remember, people buy with emotions first and then justify with logic afterwards. Trying to sell to their logical brain with facts and figures is a complete waste of time.

The five major motivators of human behaviour, especially buying behaviour are:


If your sales copy isn’t pushing at least one of these emotional hot buttons, then it’s likely too timid and ineffective. Notice how all the successful, tested headlines above push one or more of these?

Fear, especially the fear of loss is one of the most powerful emotional hot buttons you can push in your sales copy.

Understanding how certain words are linked to certain emotions is powerful.

Many worry that this is too manipulative.

Like any powerful tool it can be used for good or for evil purposes and no doubt many people do both.

A sharp knife can be used to cook a lovely meal for someone or to physically harm them. Either way we need to understand how this powerful tool works and likely we can’t go through life avoiding it’s use.

The same thing is applied to emotional direct response copywriting. It’s a powerful selling tool and you should never use it unethically.

If you sell something that is in the best interest of your prospect or customer then you are actually doing them a great service by using this powerful selling tool. You are preventing them from buying someone else’s inferior product or service.

Join The Conversation Already Going On In Your Prospect’s Mind

We all have a conversation going on in our mind, all the time. Sometimes this is referred to as “inner talk”.

That conversation is going to be very different if you are an expectant mother versus a retiree. Or a fanatical fitness junkie versus a couch potato.

This is why it is so important to understand your target market well.

An emotional hot button for one type of target audience will fall on deaf ears to another audience.

Emotional direct response copywriting is no substitute for understand EXACTLY who your target audience is and what their emotional triggers are.

Before you ever write a single word of copy, you must intimately understand how your target market thinks and talks. The kind of language they use and respond to. What kind of day they have and the conversation that goes on in their mind. What are their fears and frustrations? What gets them excited and motivated?

Research is often the most neglected component of copywriting and is the major reason why even powerful copy can sometimes fail.

Emotional direct response copywriting is a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. But understand it is part of a process.

Research, write then test and measure and you’ll be far ahead of 99.9% of all your competitors.

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  • Aundrea Keefe

    Reply Reply September 1, 2014

    Studying this article -the gift of the time

  • Saundra Pfeifer

    Reply Reply November 30, 2014

    Hurrah, that’s exactly what I was searching for, thanks!

  • Paul

    Reply Reply March 21, 2016

    Really useful article, thanks Allan.

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