How to write copy for emotional connection


Hi there, welcome to Lab Notes. My name is Felicity Wild and I run the Brand Language Lab. Today I want to talk about writing copy for emotional connection. Because unless you've been under a rock for the last six months, you’ll have noticed the explosion in Generative AI tools — particularly writing tools.

We've all had a bit of time to work out what they're good at, what they're bad at, to play around with them. And one of their real stumbling blocks is that their outputs are completely devoid of emotional connection, in most cases. 

If you’re using an AI tool to write copy and you're looking at how to edit and improve the outputs; Or if you're a copywriter and you're feeling a little bit threatened by AI and looking for a way to distinguish your skill set; Or maybe you're aware your competitors are using AI tools and you want to make your copy better, to get out ahead of them — building an emotional connection with your copy is a great way of doing this. 

What do I mean by emotional connection? I’ll start with this quote from Jeffrey Cohen the psychologist:

“The desire to belong is a fundamental part of human nature. When people feel out of place, when their sense of belonging is threatened, then that discomfort and self-doubt can have far-reaching effects.” 

When I'm talking about emotional connection, what I'm really talking about is creating a sense of belonging, creating a sense of feeling understood with our audience. It's the opposite of that discomfort they feel when they don't belong. It's about creating a sense of comfort and making your audience feel safe. 

My four favourite ways of doing this or achieving this emotional connection are: nostalgia, indulgence, reassurance, and speaking about a common enemy. 

I'm going to look at each of these points and give you some examples. But before I do, it's important to note that for this to work, for you to successfully create an emotional connection, you need to know your audience well. 

That's beyond just basic demographics like knowing their age and income brackets and what type of car they’re likely to drive. It's about emotional knowledge. Knowing their likes, their dislikes, their hopes, fears and insecurities. 

We're going to start with my favourite example, which is nostalgia. There's a lot of nostalgic marketing around at the moment, particularly 80s references. I think that's because millennials have come of age and have significant spending power, so they;re being marketed to a lot. And they really get 80s and early 90s references, because it speaks to childhood memories. 

An excellent example of this is Vacation Sunscreen. Their website is a masterclass in perfectly pitched 80s nostalgia. They've taken it just far enough so that it's funny and so that you get it without being too much of a spoof or too much of a pastiche. Their parent company Poolsuite is also a similar masterclass in perfectly pitched nostalgia.

A word of warning on nostalgia (that links to knowing your audience): just because you get a pop culture reference and you find it funny, doesn't mean that your audience is necessarily going to get it. 

For instance, I remember the frustration of dial-up internet, and I'm sure many of you do too. But if I'm speaking to an audience who are 15 years younger than me, they won't get this. 

I also remember sitting on a Saturday night watching gladiators on TV. But if I'm speaking to an international audience who are the same age as me, making a reference to British TV in the 90s is not necessarily going to be understood by everyone. 

You've got to make sure that what you're saying is going to land with who you're talking to.

Onto indulgence — another good one, encouraging your audience to treat themselves. You could go a little further and position your brand as a guilty pleasure. If you think back to the classic coke break adverts, that was an exaggerated guilty pleasure. 

But I'm not sure you could get away with that type of advert these days. 

Galaxy do really good indulgent adverts and their classic tagline: why have cotton when you can have silk

For this to work, you need to know what's really desirable for your audience. What feels like a treat, what's going to make them feel good. And you position your product in a similar category to the things that feel luxurious for your audience. 

Reassurance is the third point, on things you know your audience is worried about. A real masterclass in doing this is from Modibodi, They sell reusable period products and their copy addresses a lot of insecurities. They speak to them very sensitively and they reassure their audience. They speak in an inclusive way and it feels very safe — like you're really understood. 

If you want to see using reassurance to make an emotional connection in action, check out Modibody's website and their social media. 

The last example is a common enemy, something that you know annoys your audience, something that they don't like, that pisses them off. 

A good recent example is Bose's Dear Neighbour campaign that they released during lockdown for their noise cancelling headphones. The tagline was: “Dear neighbour, stay noisy” with lots of examples of different types of noisy neighbours that would be annoying people at the time. Because we were all stuck in our houses, we were all living on top of each other. This campaign tapped into emotional connection by speaking to something that was annoying a lot of us at that moment in time. 

That’s it — thanks for listening! As always send your thoughts, your feedback, suggestions and requests. That's my direct email there, or you can connect with me on LinkedIn. That's the only social media platform I'm active on at the moment. And I'll see you next time. Bye!

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