“Can I change your mind?” Perhaps this is something that we should be asking every time we write copy. Freelance writer and author, Lindsay Camp asked this a lot in his work. He began his career at J Walter Thompson in the 1980s, the UK’s biggest ad agency at the time, working on everything from TV commercials to print. He asked the question so much that he later turned it into a book, Can I change Your Mind? The Craft and Art of Persuasive Writing.
But Lindsay’s book is just one of many. Over the years, and as advertising and marketing has evolved, there have been thousands more books written on copywriting. Because the art of copy is something that is universally effective. No matter the decade, no matter what generation, and no matter how technologies have advanced since the first advertising agency opened in 1869. There’s always a need for good, well thought out copy. Because in marketing, there’s always a need to change someone’s mind about something. And as they say, content is King. Just like the brains behind the beauty, copy is the ‘intellectual’ element of every polished aesthetic in business or retail. Graphic design simply wouldn’t work without it, bringing us to the fourth piece in our Let’s Talk Design series. Here we take a detailed look at the power of copy and the incredible art of persuasive writing.
So What is Persuasive Writing?
Persuasive writing is a form of writing in which the writer tries to convince the reader of a thought or feeling through the use of words. Persuasive writers can change minds; they can turn doubters into believers, window shoppers into buyers, or even political opponents into allies. Yes, words really are that powerful. In the case of marketing for businesses, persuasive writing is about writing to sell. Whether you’re trying to sell a product, a service, or a brand idea, compelling copy really is the cornerstone to communicating what you want.
Looking at the wider picture (not just sales, but prose in every aspect of life), there are three key areas to successful persuasive writing: ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos refers to ethics and morality; building trust as an expert, thought leader, or just someone with a good moral compass. This is how you establish your position with your reader and get their attention and trust. Logos refers to logic; using rationality and reason to convince the audience of your point of view. This could be simply listing the facts and giving truth a platform. Whilst pathos refers to feelings; appealing to your reader’s emotions to generate a reaction. This one is incredibly important and we’ll be coming back to this later on. But for now, let’s move onto the different tools that we can use when designing a new advert or banner.
How to Use Persuasive Writing Techniques
Being able to write persuasively requires a good grasp of some basic techniques to help you communicate your message. Because whatever it is that you’re trying to say, you need to find a way of expressing it to the world. To do this, there are some powerful literary devices you can use to help your narrative along. Including some learned techniques that date all the way back to GCSE English, such as metaphors, similes, alliteration, parallelism, puns and even personification…..
In addition to brushing up on what you were taught at school, here are some other ways you can make your copy pop for your next design project.
There’s something called ‘learning psychology’, which makes repetition crucial. Without sounding like a broken record, make your advertising copy consistent and don’t be afraid to remind the reader of your product’s benefits.
One of the most powerful words in the English language is ‘because’. Psychological studies show that people are more likely to comply with a request if you simply give them a reason. It’s a simple strategy but it works a charm, and you don’t need to actually use the word ‘because’ in your copy. (That’s just too obvious, right?)
The technique of storytelling is one of the most engaging art forms in writing. It’s about hooking your reader in and getting them to invest in your narrative. All you have to do is spark an interest and the stage is yours.
What makes your product / service invaluable? One of the best ways of making your case is providing a problem, then solving it. The key here is to 1) agitate and 2) resolve. Whilst this tool may seem slightly sadistic, it’s actually about empathy. The idea is tapping into the reader’s emotional needs and saying, “Hey, we can help you”.
These are but a few of the tricks you can use to communicate effectively with customers. And we could talk forever on the ways that copy can empower your campaign. But there’s one fundamental rule that we cannot ignore when it comes to designing the perfect marketing banner or advert; and that’s creating an emotional connection with your reader. It’s what we talked about earlier; the third leg to the persuasive writing tripod, pathos.
Pathos: How to Write Emotively
One of the most important tricks is to be able to a create connection with your reader – not just on an artificial level – but emotionally. They say that the most important word in persuasive writing (other than ‘because’) is the word ‘you’. Because let’s face it, we societal humans are all pretty self-involved at the end of the day. So the first step is to engage your reader with the 2:1 ratio. There needs to be twice as many ‘you’ words to ‘we’ or ‘I’ words. As powerful as your anti-ageing cream is, or as robust as your cloud software is, this is not the time for showing off. The copy used on your designs should never be an ego massage for your brand. Instead of discussing the remarkable qualities of your product / service, talk about the advantages that your customer will experience.
This is where we apply benefits over features. And the best benefits are always the emotional ones. Rather than just saying, “Our anti-ageing cream is formulated for younger looking skin”, forge a connection with something much more moving. Such as, “Our anti-ageing cream will make you feel amazing, with skin that looks 10 years younger”.
In addition to emotive writing, it’s important to include the right imagery or photography in your design to make your story consistent (such as lifestyle / situational images that people can relate to). And finally, you can never forget that all important call to action, which will lead us to next week’s discussion in our Let’s Talk Design series…
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