One of the greatest powers of marketing content is the stirring of emotion: courage, wonder, belonging. Emotion is a major reason our clients read us, follow us, and buy from us. Well, that and useful information. But when was the last time you sold something with the claim “We offer the highest quality information in the whole state of Massachusetts”.
I am not picking on Massachusetts, but I am picking on you and your writing when/if devoid of feelings. Who would’ve thought mushy emotions contribute to business results? Indeed they do: research shows that when people feel something, their brain chemistry switches to a mode where they notice, trust, and remember more.
A tepid, neutral kind of text can kill your dream client. Methodically, the way you kill a dream. Under slow heat. The kind of heat that drowns your soul on the morning commute to the office. The kind of slow heat that cooks you alive, fully aware and half dead.
Why would you do this to your clients? Watching them atrophy and dance, like a goopy egg, perk up and quiver, perk up and quiver. Like bacon, like fists of kale, limp but wiry, surrender and rise up, each time with little less conviction than before…
The good news is, there are techniques.
The bad news is, you would have to do a bit of exercising.
Because I won’t lie, writing with emotion takes some cardio work.
Writing good copy also takes bravery because you have to put yourself in the path of emotions yourself. Your words won’t be enticing if you aren’t feeling them yourself. And I get it, sometimes this looks like more than you’ve signed up for. I mean, who wants be riding an emotional rollercoaster with each blog or social media post?
And to be clear, not all writing needs to be passionate. The bulk of writing done in the world of communications is flat and factual and that is okay. But not for you. Because you are in the business of shaping ideas, not writing textbooks and boilerplate materials.
You are the beating heart of your business and that makes you a heart-rising technician of words. Your self-confidence, focus, and eloquence with your marketing copy will greatly increase with emotion.
That being said, we do what we can in life. The human condition and taxes require us to opt out of too much thinking and feeling. So no, I won’t be giving you advice on how to boost emotions on command. What kind of monster do you think I am?
But I will leave you with two literary tools that you can use to make yourself, and your readers, plug into the heart-raising channels of text.
And this tool isn’t meant to just make you feel anything, but to make you feel better.
Let’s get brave…
HUMOR TURNED INTO SELF-IRONY
Irony is an effective rhetorical and literary device which, when directed towards ourselves, makes us more likable. It gives us permission to not take ourselves so seriously and keep an open mind to experience outside of our own.
How to apply it:
Whether you’re an author, consultant, or any other type of professional whose work brings intangible results, adding some self-irony to your repertoire can help make you more approachable. For example, to make my pitch more ironic, I can say “As a brand strategist, I spend my time doing one thing: telling my clients they should also do ONE thing!”
With self-irony, you don’t have to be necessarily funny. The amazing Angus Fletcher notes the difference between regular and self irony; “Regular irony makes us conscious that there’s truth that someone else doesn’t know; self-irony makes us conscious that there’s truth that our self doesn’t know.”
Sometimes, all you have to do is take a light ironic view of yourself by acknowledging that you don’t know everything, and that you are open to hearing and knowing different points of view. Recently I was on a zoom call with a marketing expert, and when someone asked him “Are you saying that I got my social media marketing all wrong” he laughed heartily and said “Of course not, who am I to say what’s right and wrong in the grand scheme of things”. And this brought levity to the situation. We can be experts and humans at the same time.
USE HYPER SPECIFIC DETAILS
Details don’t just tell, but show. When you drill into the specifics with your writing, you create a whole world of feelings. It is also the fastest way of mirroring your client’s identity back to them, because it captures a snapshot of their experience. For example, earlier, I used hyper specific details to paint a picture: “like a goopy egg, perk up and quiver, perk up and quiver”. I could’ve just said “Dry writing can’t empower your clients”. But instead of using those summary words (empower, transform) I brought eggs into the picture. Yes, this is also a metaphor, but an oddly specific one.
How to apply it:
My suggestion is to use abstract words (e.g power, unique, creative, passion) frugally, and if you do, give them a whole lot of specifics.
Here is the example about what I do again, but in two versions: one without, and one with hyper specifics:
As a brand strategist, I develop messaging, visual brand materials and brand strategy for my clients.
As a brand strategist, I spend my time doing one thing: telling my clients they should also do ONE thing! I make sure their website hits like a torpedo of dopamine, and it isn’t offering all 103 services they’ve designed during Covid, or listing accomplishments going way back to kindergarten.
While the first example does okay, the second one paints a picture of the work I do, instead of just summarizing it. It brings you into a very specific capture of time, and it’s palpable and relatable.
Now Your Turn!
To wrap this dopamine lesson, take something you’re working on right now, and try to apply the techniques above. Send me your sample, even if it’s just one sentence, I would love to take a peek at your writing.
Do the Unthinkable, be who you are with your brand! Also, words with the letter “k” in them are scientifically funnier than other words. Kumquat over pear every time.