The psychology behind copywriting
February 18, 2020 | Posted in: Articles & News, Marketing pow wow
A few things with copywriting that you may not be aware of…
Copywriting and psychology have a lot to do with each other. I have a keen interest in psychology and given that effective marketing relies heavily on being able to recognise, observe and understand human behaviour, it is no wonder I am working in this field! It is so important to think about what audiences think about, what will trigger their thoughts, imagery and emotions.
A lot of my work involves copywriting and my skills have been built up through years and years of practice alongside a couple of good books and courses. We don’t often stop to think about why or how we do certain things until someone asks us a question about them or we are forced to take an analytical look.
Along these lines, I remember scratching my head when I used to teach conversational English in Japan and a student asked me what the difference is between ‘looking’ at something and ‘watching’ something. It caught me off-guard because with English being my first language, these sorts of things somehow just sound/feel right or wrong and there never really is a need to think about why! Anyway, I managed to adequately explain the difference and fortunately my answer was met with general agreement amongst the students, so I was ‘off the hook’ (knowing full well if I used that idiom in front of them, it would involve a further explanation that I’d have to wing my way through!).
Bringing it back to copywriting…so what are some of these things that I automatically do in copywriting without giving it much thought because they have become second nature? Here are a few:
- Choose active voice over passive voice. This means simplifying the grammatical structure to make messages more fluid and easily understood. This also makes them more persuasive. An example of passive: There are many services available at the branch. An active example: The branch offers many services. Passive voice is where the subject receives an action and active voice is where the subject performs an action. I’m all for more energy in my writing and choosing active voice helps with that!
- Preference for the positive. Always choose the positive form because it is the negative language that will create a lasting (bad) impression on the audience. E.g. ‘Please place your rubbish in the bins provided’ vs ‘Don’t litter in the dining area’ or more of a marketing related example would be; ‘Batteries won’t run out too quickly’ vs ‘Long life batteries are included’.
- Vocab diversity keeps it interesting. Readers prefer messages that use a variety of words because it keeps them interested and wanting to read more! This is where great proof reading comes in – keep an eye out for favouring particular words, even if they are spaced out in your writing (especially if they are not common words) and replace them with synonyms where possible.
- Bring language to life to create mental images. A copywriter can help the reader create mental pictures by their choice of words. These ‘visuals’ are the holy grail for copywriters as far as getting the reader to feel emotion, to retain information and to understand what is being communicated. This is where metaphors can help and make things more concrete/tangible. For example, in describing the strength of a product a description could read “Strong as an Ox, the XYZ will withstand…”. Conceptually lots of companies use these metaphors in their logos as well as descriptive language. For example, financial institutions are all about reassuring customers about the security of their assets with them, using words like secure, peace of mind, rest assured, support and stable and images of pillars, rocks, solid buildings etc.
These are just a few of the many techniques used in copywriting that are so subtle, most readers would be oblivious to their application. Similarly, many copywriters, including myself, use these techniques so naturally and so much, that they forget they are even applying them!
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