Copywriting Psychology 101: Hack The Mind

Copywriting psychology. The words you choose have more meaning than you think when it comes to processing.

As a result – human psychology plays an integral role in copywriting.

A massive amount of it.

The words and statements you choose can evoke emotion and thought from your readers. Which then triggers response and action.

Remember the one time you made an impulsive buy? And later regretted your purchase?

Something convinced you enough that it was the best product at the time. For some psychological reason.

Words are powerful beyond measure.

So powerful – they have the power to manipulate people and their actions.

Mind-blowing, right?

Let’s take a mindful walk into the science of copywriting psychology.

Table of Contents: Copywriting Psychology

What is copywriting psychology?

Copywriting psychology involves the psychological process when writing copy. It’s about understanding what makes your readers tick.

You’ll be able to hook buyers by blending copywriting psychology with emotional triggers.

Think about it:

  • News headings built to scare you
  • Email headlines sparked with mystery and curiosity
  • Catchy taglines or slogans stuck on replay in your head
  • Social copy with storytelling that hits home
  • Reviews and testimonials that make you feel assured

Date back to when you made that impulsive buy. The word ‘clearance’ justified the logical thinking you were in for a bargain. That’s what it’s about – the psychological triggers that urge you to take action.

Thus copywriting is a science.

Copywriting psychology targets the reasons that motivate humans to prompt behavioral decision making.

Copywriting psychology strategies

Let’s take a deeper look into these strategies that tap into your readers’ minds!

Pull their pain points

Your customers are looking for a solution to their problem.

And it’s your job as a copywriter to bridge the gap between your customers’ frustrations to your solutions.

Those problems and frustrations are known as pain points.

Examples include:

  • “My current service is expensive.”
  • “There is too much on my plate to handle at the moment.”
  • “Shipping takes too long.”
  • “I need to lose weight.”
  • “It’s too complicated to use.”

Remember the last time you ordered fast food for instant gratification? It was a quick fix to solve your hunger because you were too lazy to cook.

You were acting on your emotions by resorting to those crispy 10-piece nuggets or mouth-watering burger.

Your pain points were being hungry and lazy to cook.

So tug away on their pain points.

Keep scratching on the door.

Stir the pot.

Shake up their underlying problem by presenting their solution to the table in this order:

  1. Make them think about their goals and needs.
  2. Remind them of their problem and why it’s important.
  3. Tell them what they need to fix their problem.
  4. Finally bring the goods to the table. Dangle that solution in front of their eyes. Emphasize why your solution is perfect and how it benefits them. Then tell them why they can’t live without your solution.

You need to build momentum by not presenting your solution too early when the timing is right. We will discuss why you will want to present your solution and pitch at the end, after this point. Timing is everything.

Check out this hearing aid advertisement that taps into customer pain points.

advertisement of grandparents showing copywriting psychology pain points

Imagine a grandparent with hearing loss seeing this advert.

The advert triggers him or her into the guilt of not being able to hear their grandchildren for the first time.

“The baby is due in a couple of weeks, so I better hurry and grab a pair of hearing aids.”

Humans become uncomfortable by fear and pain.

Trigger those fears and pain points. You’re likely to have customers seek your solution.

Delay the start of your pitch

You’re eager to entice your readers and excited to let them know how amazing your solution is.

Hold your horses.

As stated before, you need to first tap into your customer’s vulnerabilities.

Then when your customer is more aware of their problem and needs, present your solution.

Why?

When customers perceive you selling too early, chances are they will not buy into your pitch.

Think back to sales funnel copywriting. The beginning stages of your customer journey set up the way to customer conversion, at the end.

infographic of sales funnel copywriting stages

In the beginning stages of your sales funnel, it’s all about educating and making your customer aware of their problem. In this part of the process, you need to introduce and inform your customers.

Then when they have increased awareness, their interest sparks curiosity about learning more. This moves them down the sales funnel in prompting action. With the goal of the action being a monetary decision.

To reiterate:

First start by agitating their problem.

Then remind them why and how their problem is affecting them.

Finally present your solution once you draw them in.

This brings us to the next copywriting psychology topic.

Remind them of their dislike for their problem

You would think that positive or supportive sentiments carry more favorability. Well, that’s not always the case. In contrast, opposing sentiments can place more emphasis on your reader’s solution.

The valence-framing effect states people support opposing ideas based on the framing of ideas. For example, people support political candidates in favor driven by opposing beliefs.

It’s a copywriting psychology trick that works backward by showing your reader’s dislikes. Then, after they are aware of their dislikes, your solution completes the puzzle.

Stating your reader’s dislike for their problem convinces them to take action to find a fix.

Instead of showing the benefits, remind your readers:

  • You don’t have enough time in the day
  • Your productivity isn’t where you want it to be
  • Worrying keeps you up at night
  • Sales are lackluster
  • Your job doesn’t bring you happiness

When your readers read those negative sentiments, it taps into their emotions. It puts them in a place of agony and distress. And it makes them frustrated in the search for a solution as soon as possible.

Once they are vulnerable, dangle that solution like a sneaky snake.

Primacy effect psychology

First impressions always count.

Think back to a time when you first met someone.

Either it be a date or their first day of work in the office.

Did your first impression of that person stick with you for a long time?

Whether it is their lack of confidence, poor body language, sloppy style of fashion, or mesmerizing beauty.

Your impressions probably lasted a while.

The Primacy effect is a psychological cognitive bias. The bias places a higher emphasis on information when presented earlier as opposed to later.

In copywriting psychology, the primacy effect influences your readers by order of events. Content delivered at the beginning of your copy has a greater effect.

In 1946, Solomon Elliot Asch was one of the first psychologists to study the primacy effect. His study consisted of experimenting with participants by showing two lists of words. The words were adjectives that describe a person.

The second list contained the same words from the first list, but in reverse order.

List 1List 2
EnviousIntelligent
StubbornIndustrious
CriticalImpulsive
ImpulsiveCritical
IndustriousStubborn
IntelligentEnvious

Asch’s experiment found the second list was a more accurate description of the person.

This study proves you are likely to recall items at the beginning of a list, as opposed to the items at the end.

Beginning content is more impactful on a person’s mind.

Why?

Your attention span, repetition, and long-term memory.

It’s seen over and over in studies that human attention spans don’t last long.

Imagine reading a list of words from top to bottom.

As you go down the list, the newer words bombard your brain. Making the words at the bottom likely less recallable.

So, when you are trying to lure your readers in raising their awareness, present the benefits of your product or service to make a strong first impression.

Did you remember?

First impressions always count.

Rhyme from time to time

Incorporating rhyme into your copy gives your readers an enjoyable experience.

But that’s not the only purpose to incorporate rhyming.

Rhyming also validates your statements.

And humans love valid statements.

Why?

The cognitive bias called “rhyme-as-reason effect,” or the “Eaton-Rosen phenomenon.” The belief places more accuracy or certainty on statements with rhyming aesthetics. When words in a sentence rhyme, people are more likely to hold truth and certainty to the sentence.

In 2000 – McGlone MS and Tofighbakhsh discovered that poetic form has a strong correlation to perception. Specifically on the aphorisms of rhyming. Participants of the study found rhyming statements more fluent as truthful.

Another study done at Lafayette College found that poetry has a strong correlation between human perception and the accuracy of statements. The results following the research suggested that poetic form – like rhyme – enhances our brain to process truthful statements.

Check out this advertisement from Arby’s utilizing the rhyme-as-reason effect into their marketing strategy.

example of copywriting psychology for arbys rhyme as reason effect slogan

While the catchphrase sounds clever and fitting – it also conveys a strong and truthful message. Because what fast food doesn’t put you in a good mood?

They say social proof works like a charm

Humans have always been social beings since day one. We rely on each other to live in a cohesive society.

Think back to a time as a pedestrian when you needed to cross the street with no stoplight in sight. You see someone across the street looking in both directions proceeding jaywalking. You follow their lead when the moment is clear of no cars in sight.

What happened?

You copied your surroundings’ behavior prompting you to follow through.

You experienced social proof. It’s where our actions are psychologically influenced by our environment. And we conform to the people around us to work as a cohesive society.

We often observe those around us:

  • “What are my peers doing?”
  • “How do the people around me influence my actions?”
  • “I can get the same experience they had too if I do the same.”

We crave rationalization to influence our decisions and buying habits. The logic in wise decision making makes us feel we made the right decision.

Remember that one book you bought because it was the “number-one best seller?”

Or when your friend referred you to their barber or salon to get your haircut?

What about that one time you bought something because it had 5-star reviews?

Would you buy a product if someone told you it was the worst product that gave others a terrible experience?

No. You’d likely research to support your decision-making process. Simply because you’re a logical and rational human being with social proof in your DNA.

You can see social proof as a form of copywriting psychology all over the world if digital marketing:

  • Reviews: We all research reviews before buying a product online. If a product on an eCommerce store has more negative than positive reviews, we will look elsewhere.
  • Testimonials: Similar to reviews, what have other customers experienced when using a service or product. We make sure we want to have the same experience as them before committing to a purchase.
  • Endorsements: “Oh, the president is using a product, I want to be cool too!” Endorsements are highly influential and powerful, due to the figure of authority.
  • Storytelling: A landing page with an effective story that inclines visitors to emotionally react is a strong strategy at moving readers. Whether it be funny, sad, or inspiring, if placed correctly can convert easily.
  • Social Media: The obsession over having the most likes or followers compared to our competitors highly influences our actions. Experts and celebrity takeovers through collaborations or stories are also powerful in influencing the masses.
  • Case Studies: Credible and effective at backing up data with facts and research. People love solidified results as a credible source of information.

Think about the various resources where your customers seek advice, support, or guidance. They rely on other customer’s experiences to guarantee the same experience.

Recommendations or words from other people have a higher validation and accuracy.

Humans seek assurance and affirmation to move forward in their actions and decisions.

Majority rules in this case.

Trigger a sense of urgency

Eliciting urgency is a very popular psychological strategy in marketing campaigns. The strategy plays with the reader’s emotions by inducing a compulsive urge to buy.

Like that one time you had to buy that gorgeous shirt because it was the only size left.

How about the one time of the year when sales don’t come by often?

Macy’s utilizes this psychological selling technique to promote their one-day sales campaigns. Based on the sole fact sales prices only last for 24 hours, inclines customers to make a purchase. This method guilt trips customers on the fear of missing out on a bargain.

macys advertisement exemplifying copywriting psychology through urgency

Trigger words on advertisement:

  • “Ends Wednesday.”
  • “One day sale.”
  • “Deals of the day.”

Other methods marketing departments promote a sense of urgency in their product campaigns:

  • Scarcity by limiting items to raise demand (eg. “We have two more left of this item, buy now.”)
  • Ticking clock counters and countdowns.
  • Teasing the offer away. Copywrite such as, “This will the last sale of the year,” or “Offer is on a first-come, first-served basis.”
  • Difficulty by making something hard to get, increasing the value of what they want.
  • Use of time-related trigger words: deadline, fast, hurry, ends, never, soon.

Stimulate their senses

It can be easy for reading and writing to be one-dimensional.

The power of visual imagination helps paint a picture in your reader’s mind by text.

By implementing sensory words into your copy, customers are more likely to react and prompt action. A study done in 2012, found reading sensory words stimulates the human brain, as opposed to non-sensory words.

See a couple of examples regarding sensory words and how differently they sound with non-sensory words.

  1. Without the use of sensory words: The ambulance passed by in a rush.
  2. With the use of sensory words: The screeching ambulance passed by in a frenzied rush.
  1. Without the use of sensory words: The door woke the baby up.
  2. With the use of sensory words: The squeaky door woke the screaming baby up.

By implementing sensational copywriting psychology in your text gives your readers a more visual impression in their minds.

The power of declaring someone’s name

In copywriting psychology, making things personal always work.

Think back to a time when someone was speaking to you and they used your name in the conversation.

Now, think back to a time when someone was speaking to you without using your name in the conversation.

You more than likely reacted differently by turning your head in response to when the other person said your name.

Or, acknowledged the other person by some sort of formal response.

As humans, we enjoy a little ego stroke from time to time, and the idea is all behind implicit egotism. When we hear our name or anything associated with us, multiple areas of our brain become activated in igniting response.

So, next time you launch your email marketing campaign or send that thank you letter, don’t forget their name.

When it’s personal, it’s meaningful.

Frame the glass as half-full

What we intend to convey through our words and sentences, may not come across as we intend them to mean.

How we perceive sentences can mean something entirely different versus spoken sentences.

The solution to that is simple.

It’s called framing. And it’s a powerful psychological bias.

Framing is a copywriting psychology method that sets up sentences for perceivability.

Our words and sentences either contain positive or negative sentiment through framing.

The goal of framing is to structure your statements in a positive light. By doing so, results in favorable outcomes.

Positive framing of sentence structure connotates gaining something or attraction.

Whereas negative framing of sentence structure connotates a loss or repulsion.

Check out these examples of two sentences side-by-side. Each sentence has the same meaning, but the framing structure differs.

  • Negative: The glass is half-empty.
  • Positive: The glass is half-full.
  • Negative: 15 casualties happened of the 20 civilians.
  • Positive: They rescued 5 lives.
  • Negative: The representative is too talkative.
  • Positive: The representative is a social butterfly.
  • Negative: She is a very timid person.
  • Positive: She is cautious about her actions.
  • Negative: His personality is too defiant for me.
  • Positive: He carries strong beliefs with him.
  • Negative: Going to the party is a waste of time.
  • Positive: I got a lot of work done and was productive.

On the topic of positivity,

According to Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, our words have the powerful effect of changing our brain.

What does that mean?

The researchers discovered that when we hear or read positive words like “peace” and “love,” we prompt action.

Brain activity behind cognitive functioning becomes greatly activated and strengthened, by building resiliency.

In theory, our brains literally change our way of functioning when using positive copywriting psychology wording.

Let them be free

The freedom to choose is a copywriting psychology strategy that puts your readers at ease.

Take a look at these statements that urge the ability for readers to make their own decision to choose.

You are free toBall in your courtPick your poison
View your choicesOpen-bookYour Play
Whatever you preferDecision is yoursChef’s choice
Your callYou decideYour move
You are free toBoils down to youIt’s up to you

When you give your readers the ability to decide for themselves, it takes the pressure off to make a decision.

This is why comparison-style articles (X vs Y) are effective in converting readers. Because readers are not afraid of comparing.

And when you’re at ease in making a decision, the chances of making a purchase are higher.

Combining their freedom to choose with a strong call-to-action will tempt them to take action.

Justify their thinking

Humans like to think they are logical, careful, and rational beings.

Because that way of thinking justifies our need to be right.

But, oftentimes that is inaccurate.

We sometimes make foolish mistakes, without thinking right.

A psychological experiment done in 1978 reported humans often mindlessly approve things as long justification exists to support their reasoning.

The Xerox experiment consisted of people waiting in line to make paper copies at a copy machine. The question was to see the reaction of the person making copies if someone were to “cut” them in line.

You would think that as humans, we would not let anyone cut in front of us.

Because there is a systematic way of using a copier machine, you fall in line and wait your turn.

The experiment revealed that 94% of people would let others cut to the front of the line, with valid reason.

For example, if you say you are in a hurry, more than likely people would let you jump the line.

The other alternative is to ask to jump the line, but not say you are in a hurry or need to make copies. People are unlikely to let you jump the line because they see no validity for you to cut.

Take a look at these examples that exemplify justification and logic. You don’t even need to utilize the word, “because.” Your readers already have a sense of justification through logic or trigger words.

  • “If you buy this product, then this will happen.”
  • “Buy now to save 50% off.”
  • “Opt-in to grow your business.”
  • “Add to cart for optimal savings.”
  • “Learn more by taking your life to the next level.”

See the logic? Of course you do, you’re a logical human being.

The word “because” is also powerful in copywriting psychology. The power word builds logic and a sense of justification in your reader’s mind.

Ask rhetorical questions to have them answer

Do you want to learn to write better copy that sells?

Do you ever include rhetorical questions in your writing to engage with your readers?

Believe it or not, you just subconsciously engaged with the copy in being an active participant.

Rhetorical questions present themselves in the way of a question, but rather their purpose is to emphasize a point. Rather than have the reader respond.

In copywriting psychology, you use the power of rhetorical questions to create or prompt an effect from your readers. Such effects include:

  • Tapping into the reader’s mind by providing a solution.
  • Repeating the point or problem in the reader’s mind, rather than explicitly telling them.
  • Making a statement you want the reader to remember.
  • Persuading the reader by bringing up a thought.
  • Encouraging the reader about his or her own beliefs.
  • Creating a basis for new information.
  • Triggering emotion out of your readers.

How fascinating and powerful right?

Who knew you could influence and manipulate your reader’s thoughts just by a simple question?

Tips when implementing rhetorical questions in your copywriting:

  • Do not overuse them to vex your readers
  • Use them in moderation
  • Frame them in simple and complex questions
  • Avoid asking complicated questions

Closing thoughts on copywriting psychology

Who knew copywriting would involve so much more than words alone?

As you now see – copywriting is an art and science.

Copywriting thrives on the foundation of human connection and communication.

The beauty of copywriting involves the psychological connection of humankind. Our words connect people, solve their problems, and its what turns the world.

How we live our lives through words and the words around us, is what drives our mental processes and behaviors.

Remember it’s more than just words. Rather think of the meaning and purpose with the use of each word.