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Monday, Jul. 9, 2007

Copy Perspective Monday: #1, Intellect vs. Emotion

By Jeff Sexton
July 9th, 2007

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:

copyperspectives.jpg1) Intellect vs. Emotion
2) Then vs. now
3) Me, Them or You
4) Time vs. Money
5) Style vs. Substance
6) Pain vs. Gain

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]

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Comments (20)

  1. [...] Copy Perspective Monday: Intellect vs. Emotion [...]

  2. Thank you for the useful article and guidelines.

    I’m looking forward to the remaining articles.

  3. Very interesting! Coming from an engineering/business educational background, and being a New Englander/Capricorn, we work exceedinly hard on developing the best service/product and probably err to the side of selling it intellectually. But, hell, we’re talking about travel and there is nothing more emotionally stimulating and satisfying than good travel, especially travel that is “better-than-what-the-Jonses” are experiencing. I’ll be thinking harder about this perspective in the future.

  4. And what if you have a product that is as much emotional as intellectual? I have a photography business and while photography seems at times to be more of an emotional buy, things like price, quality, and the presence of competition all flow into the decision of a prospect’s purchasing decision. I’ve always been torn as to which I side I should be spending more attention to.

    Good article though. Looking forward to the other articles as well.

  5. Bruno,

    You can use both perspectives, just not in the same piece of copy. The choice you make should serve as a unifying framework for your copy, and it can’t do that if you vacillate between perspectives. That said, you can experiment with the opposite perspective in switching from one piece of copy to another. Blog posts, articles, and e-mail campaigns are all great places for this kind of experimentation.

    Hope this helps.



    The Happy Intersection of Style and Substance that Breeds Media MagicClients want press coverage for……

  7. [...] to my earlier post prodded me to delve further into the whys and hows of using an emotional perspective. Hope this [...]

  8. [...] note: This is the second part of our Copy Perspective Monday series. Make sure to read part one and it's follow up if you missed them. Follow along as Jeff Sexton, Future Now copywriting [...]

  9. [...] how even intellectual ads should affect emotions? Well, regardless of how substantive the message, you need to use drama as an essential part of the [...]

  10. [...] persuasive copywriting [...]

  11. [...] if this copy still doesn't wow you, realize that we now have to go back and apply emotion and style. Stay tuned for that on my next [...]

  12. October 02, 2007

    Voters Only Care About Giuiliani, Clinton and Obama

    Leading Emotional Response Polling Used to Predict Candidate Viability

    GAINESVILLE, FL — October 2, 2007 — More voters feel that former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani is the “hottest” presidential candidate, according to a new type of non-verbal poll conducted by the leading company for predicting consumer behavior based on “Emotional Temperature.” Only Guiliani, Sen. Hilary Clinton and Sen. Barak Obama arouse enough visceral excitement in voters to sustain them through the long primary process, concludes the SenseUS™ poll conducted by AdSAM® and Itracks, conducted September 15-21, 2007.

    “Our poll correctly shows how intensely voters feel about each candidate, both positively and negatively,” said Jon Morris, PhD, president of AdSAM® and professor of advertising at the University of Florida. “Guiliani leads all candidates in terms of Emotional Strength, which is most important now to the GOP as only 31% of Republican voters are enthusiastic or excited about their party”

    Proven Method for Disproving Conventional Wisdom

    The viability of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is called into question by the poll. Although he performs strongly in many traditional preference polls, 56% of Republicans feel “ambivalent” or “uninterested/unexcited” about him.

    “To sustain a long campaign, a candidate must inspire strong feelings in voters,” Morris said. “In addition to Guiliani, Obama and Clinton, the only other candidates to register positive Emotional Temperature were Sen. John McCain and former senators Fred Thompson and John Edwards.”

    The SenseUs™ candidate poll used the same AdSAM® methodology the company employed in 2006 to prove that ads that use sexy models in national women’s magazines are not compelling or effective at motivating female readers to buy. To measure the Emotional Response the participants were asked “How does (name of each candidate)make you feel? . The participants were then shown three rows of manikins – an icon-like figure – that represented their emotional reaction. Then they were asked to select one on each row. The first group of manikins represented pleasure, the second arousal or engagement, and the third control or dominance.

    What Most Polls Miss

    According to Dr. Morris, most polls focus heavily on rationale measures, which only reveal half the story, as every human response is a combination of rational and emotional processing. Previously, the AdSAM® method has been used in over 600 proprietary studies worldwide and incorporated into research of many FORTUNE 500 companies.

    About AdSAM®:

    AdSAM® specializes in Emotional Response measurement. The cross cultural technique has been used in over 26 countries in communications, marketing and other research.

    About Itracks:

    Itracks is a leading provider of data collection for market research. Information on the company and industry trend summaries are at and

    Media Contact:

    For a copy of the Executive Summary of the SenseUs poll please contact Conrad Morris at (800) 563-8654 or email

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  14. [...] is the type of choices that should be made before doing any business copy writing. Are you going to write from an intellectual perspective or an emotional perspective? If you’re writing from an intellectual perspective, do you have the facts and figures to [...]

  15. Emotions are an intricate part of all human interactions, whether it is in the workplace, at home, at a sporting event, when shopping, when exposed to marketing efforts, or in many other situations. Every human response is a combination of rational and emotional processing. Tapping into and understanding emotions allow researchers to better understand why people believe and act in certain ways by modeling the emotions that are driving these behaviors. For example, in marketing, emotional response data can be linked to behavioral, demographic, lifestyle and product usage data to develop strategies and more comprehensive target market profiles. More importantly, emotional response data can provide valuable insight into consumer behaviors, such as purchase intentions.

    Many traditional methodologies focus more heavily on measuring the rational component of the response. Tapping into human emotional responses provides valuable insight that is not readily attained through common research methods. Accurately assessing a fleeting emotional response is not easy or practical. Methods such as EKG may be reliable but not feasible in many settings, for example with children or in large studies with many respondents and multiple stimuli.

    There are different methods for assessing emotional reactions. The most common approach utilizes semantic differential scales that consist of pairs of pre-calibrated emotion denoting adjectives. Researchers have discovered many inherent problems with the verbal based semantic differential. Besides being cumbersome, these types of measurements create verbal biases that distort immediate reactions. Researchers have adopted non-verbal pictorial methods, such as the measure ADSAM® utilizes, that reliably assess human emotions and are not only easy to administer but also very accurate.

  16. [...] persuasive copywriting [...]

  17. [...] intampla sa ai de scris un promo pentru radio. Sau un text pentru reclama unui client. Uite un link care te-ar putea [...]

  18. [...] first segment is about how to choose between writing from an intellectual perspective or an emotional one. [...]

  19. Very clever, there are always a million things that you can learn about marketing on the web.

    So if I have the brand that reflects high quality and therefore a higher price, the emotional arguement must be portrayed less because potential clients know that I am quality from my brand. Therefore, I have to be more persuassive on the intellectual front to convince potential clients that this is the write choice because they have to know why they are paying a high price for a high quality product.

  20. [...] Copy Perspective Monday: Intellect vs. Emotion [...]

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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