Numerous difficult choices have to be made before your fingers ever touch the keyboard, if you hope to write compelling copy. Among those choices are what Future Now calls the Six Perspectives:
Depending on the circumstances, either side of any one of these polarities can be the right choice. So choosing correctly requires you to know more than simply what circumstances call for which decisions; it requires you to understand the dynamics behind those decisions.
For this reason, I’m devoting an entire article to each perspective*, starting with the first: Emotion vs. Intellect. Now, at some level this one isn’t really a choice at all, since all persuasive copy should speak to the desires (read: heart) of the customer. As we say at Future Now:
“People rationalize buying decisions based on facts,
People make buying decisions based on feelings.”
The real question, then, isn’t whether you’re you going to speak to the emotions; it’s a question of ‘what’ versus ‘how.’ Are you going to change what your readers know about the topic (and thereby change how they feel about it), or are you going to change how they feel about what they already know?
Choosing to change “what” is an intellectual perspective. Choosing to change “how” is an emotional perspective.
An example of an intellectual perspective:
At $40, our perfect-fit pocket tees might strike you as pricey…
Until you try one on. The supple hand of long-staple, organically grown sea-island cotton costs $20/yard itself – even at wholesale prices. But it’s guaranteed not to fade, pill, or wear out for 5 years, regardless of use. No more relegating your favorite tee to car-washing duty after a year or two.
And that kind of comfort and durability just can’t be duplicated with cheaper alternatives. Neither can our distinctive articulated shoulders, famous Grok mascot, or made-in-the-USA commitment.
You could certainly buy a cheaper shirt, but then you’d have to wear it.
Is that aimed at affecting your emotions? Sure it is; I want you to feel better about paying forty freakin’ dollars for a t-shirt. But the copy is accomplishing that by changing what you know about the t-shirt: it’s made of better material, has superior construction, etc. That’s an intellectual perspective.
A famous ad campaign that leveraged an emotional perspective:
In his book, Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads, Roy Williams says of the famous Motel Six ads:
“Tom Bodette, reminded us of what we already knew, that ‘Motel Six has the lowest prices of any national chain,’ but Tom made us feel differently about it. He replaced our mental image of ‘cheap and tacky’ with one of ‘clean and simple.’ The straightforward and unpretentious charm of his statement ‘We’ll leave the light on for ya,’ caused us to question the value of chocolate mints on our pillows and tiny bottles of avocado body balm in our shower stalls.”
So, when do you go with Intellect and when do you go with Emotion?
a) Go with the opposite perspective when you already know that the former is nailed down.
If the Grok mascot had considerable cachet, and if our pocket-tee was a known luxury item, then the emotional pull was already established. The main goal of the copy is simply to provide the intellectual justifications/rationalizations of the purchase.
With Motel Six, it’s the opposite; the intellectual argument was already well established: they’re cheaper than the competition. But the block to purchasing wasn’t intellectual, it was emotional; no one wanted to stay at a cheap flophouse. The ads concentrated on removing the emotional block.
b) Consider if your product or service is bought on style or substance.
This is getting into another perspective but, suffice it to say, a substance sold primarily on style (say, designer jeans) would probably do better engaging emotions than intellect. And that accounting software had better affect the emotions by providing a sound, substantive, and intellectual basis for making the purchase, rather than trying to slide by on style alone.
c) Honestly answer whether you have the factual “juice” to make an intellectual argument?
Not every business has an intellectual argument to make, or at least not one that their customers would care about. So, when the facts aren’t in your favor, argue definitions and qualities; use an emotional perspective. This is advice as old as rhetoric itself.
Conversely, even style or fashion products and services could benefit from an intellectual perspective, IF the facts were in their favor. The Grok pocket tee is a good example of this.
That’s a fair amount of thought for one perspective, but do the hard thinking before hand, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of effective copy afterward.
[*Editor's note: This is the first part of our Copy Perspective Monday series. Follow along as Jeff Sexton, Future Now copywriting instructor and Persuasion Architect, guides you through an in-depth overview of six essential copy perspectives. If you enjoyed this installment, be sure to read its addendum, "Emotional Perspective Redux" and to check out Jeff's personal blog jeffsextonwrites.com]