Copywriting: Emotional or Intellectual Approach?

I worked as a salesman for many years and I was good at it – good enough to build my own company and flog it for enough beer tokens to keep me happy for the rest of my days. I know what I’m talking about when it comes to selling.

Writing good copy is something I have never mastered and I have a constant battle within myself when it comes to expressing the emotional nature of intellectual facts and features. I am by nature an analytical individual, I like facts and figures when it comes to making a buying decision and rarely does the emotional aspect of a purchase strike my consciousness. That flies against the general doctrine of advertisers and copywriters who believe that facts and figures only help to justify a purchase and the real decision is based upon emotions and feelings.

You can see this dichotomy all over the place – how many times have you come across web copy such as this for Sean Nalewanyj and his bodybuilding course. Very emotionally based, playing to the desire to be ripped and muscled, referring to “getting the girl” and a reader’s feelings of self-esteem and perception.

Now take a look at this piece of copy for a BMW – a very different target market that is more sophisticated and certainly looking to spend a lot more money than a bodybuilding course will set them back. Nevertheless, though it has all the facts and figures for propeller-heads who are into that sort of thing, it is still a very much emotionally driven piece of copy. In fact, the more upmarket you go, the more it becomes emotionally driven and for this you only have to take a look at the Aston Martin website and you will be lucky to find any performance information on their cars – having a DB7 come up behind me, headlights flashing at one in the morning when I was in a Jaguar XJ Sport doing 130+ is a humbling experience. I don’t need to know what the performance is, it’s going to be good however you look at it. The buyers decision is emotionally driven though in my case limited by my bank balance.

Some products and services do lend themselves to an intellectual approach. Professional services for instance, and I’m thinking here of the dentists, accountants and lawyers I work for, all demand an “objective” style that appears professional. Even so, there is a heavy weight placed upon the emotional aspect of the copy message whether it be a dentist who uses sedation rather than a needle, a lawyer who will always win you that case or an accountant who will get your tax refund in rapid time.

The general principle appears to be that the more substitutable the product or service that you are producing copy for is, then the more you will lean towards the emotional aspects. Buying a car tyre or a pane of glass for instance will not lend itself to an intellectual approach except for the serious minority of anoraks out there.

High end luxury goods also lend themselves to an emotional approach, particularly if they are well-known and have a reputation for quality and craftmanship.

For those instances where substance trumps style, such as the professions or financial services, then a more intellectual approach will be more suitable but even then, the buying decision will still be emotionally driven.