3 Ways to Get What You Want by Giving People What They Want

Image of Manhattan

We all long for something.

  • Love that will last.
  • The ability to influence people.
  • Scenic vacations.
  • Financial, political, or psychological independence.
  • Less anxiety.
  • Stunning creative achievements.
  • Organizational excellence.
  • Relief from the sting of rejection.
  • World-class athletic performance.
  • Retaliation for when we are wronged.
  • Invitations to the most popular parties.
  • A savings account that never runs out.
  • An impossibly broken family finally reunited.
  • Recognition for your hard work.
  • A Cosmopolitan body.

Marketing that actually works hinges on connecting your product to one of these mass desires.

When that is done — when you’ve convinced people that you can satisfy their longings (the deeper, the better) — then people will not only fall in love with and buy your products, they will become unstoppable evangelists as well.

Let me show you how to get there …

1. Choose the most powerful desire

Every mass desire has three components.

  • Degree of urgency, intensity, or demand to be satisfied: Finding a cure for bad breath is not as urgent a matter as not being able to breathe. So an asthmatic’s desire for an inhaler is going to be stronger than a playboy’s desire for a breath mint. Same is true for curing a migraine versus just a minor headache. The greater the degree of urgency, intensity, or demand you can channel into your product … the stronger the desire.
  • Duration: Products with a high degree of staying power, repetition, and inability to be satisfied will perform better than products with lower degrees. Basically anything that plays with your pleasure and pain levels. Cigarettes fit this category (mostly because they are addicting): they are hard to quit, you want one right after another, and you need stronger ones to satisfy that original desire. You also don’t need cigarettes. You do, however, need water. Three days without it and you’d die. But that doesn’t apply to most of us in the western world. Now water-bottling brands must compete on taste, design, or story.
  • Scope: How many people share this desire? For instance, how many men will pay to have premium hygiene products sent to their home? Birchbox for Men is hoping it’s enough. Apple bet big on the iPod — and cleaned house. Dean Kamen bet big on the Segway PT — and lost. Channeling mass desire doesn’t require that the general population love your product … just massive enough to be profitable.

Here’s the bottom line in this step: your product should appeal to all of these components … but only one fulfillment of mass desire can dominate in the end. Only one can sit in your headline. Only one is the key to unlock the full profit potential of your ad.

Which desire you choose is the most important step. Get it wrong, and even the greatest copy won’t matter. Get it right, however, and the world can beat a path to your door.

As Eugene Schwartz said in Breakthrough Advertising,

Tap a single overwhelming desire existing in the hearts of thousands of people who are actively seeking to satisfy it at this very moment.

Here’s what that looks like.

2. Satisfy that desire in your headline

Your headline is the bridge between your customer and your product. And there are basically three ways of channelling that desire in a headline.

One, if your prospect is aware of your product and knows that it can satisfy his desire, then state your product in the headline. The New York Times is a household name with high levels of credibility. Stating the name alone endorses the product. But we also know what the NY Times provides, so, in this case, just get to the offer.

The second way to channel that desire is if your customer doesn’t know about your specific product, but only of the desire itself … so your headline starts with the desire.

Let me get this straight: without the image the headline is confusing. The drinkers out there would be appalled at the thought that it would take 30 days to get drunk. Who wants that?

But with the image we know the meaning of the ad immediately.

However, you’ll notice the product isn’t mentioned. Not until you drill down into the copy. Just the desire is mentioned. For example:

  • The desire to be unapologetically attractive and irresistible … where women drop their jaws as you peel off your shirt in the grocery store parking lot (because, you know, it’s really hot outside).
  • The desire to be strong (lifting heavy office furniture or fighting anyone you want).
  • The desire to be athletic (killing it in the Ironman or some spontaneous pull up contest).
  • The desire to be confident (strolling right up to any woman to ask for her phone number, demanding that raise from your boss).
  • And the desire to be healthy (living longer, fewer medical bills).

But the strongest desire is this: I am a wanted man because of my jack’d up chest and ripped torso. Thus, the picture. (In case you were wondering, my mind goes numb thinking about the amount of effort you have to put into getting a body like that.)

Finally, the third way of channelling desire is if your customer doesn’t know about your product or the desire. Rather, your customer is seeking a general solution to a general problem.

If that’s the case, then you start with the problem (use the Problem-Agitate-Solve formula) crystallizing it into a specific need.

Here the product isn’t named and your desire is nothing more than a vague sense that something is wrong.

Could it be all this talk about NSA spying? Or Google knowing everything I search for? Should you be concerned? Is it a problem that your privacy is being threatened? If you happen to think so, then you are likely to be interested in the free reports Stansberry offers.

3. How your product’s performance satisfies that desire

Once you’ve determined the strongest desire, your next step is to figure out which product performance best satisfies that desire. Products have two existences:

  • Physical: Shape, size, weight, color and so on. The object.
  • Functional: What the product actually does. Its performance.

Keep in mind people don’t buy the physical. They buy the function. The value to the customer is in the 3/4 inch hole, not the cordless drill.

What this means is you have to emphasize the benefits in your headlines and copy. And even though this is a long-standing truism, people still ignore it.

Take this screenshot from the home page of the AR.DRone 2.0, for example:

People don’t buy 3 extra sets of colored propellers, two high-density batteries, or a flight recorder using 4 Gb of Flash memory. Those are features to justify the benefits (which I’ll explain later).

People buy the product in action. For example, in this case, you would list performances and match them to the mass desires it satisfies.

  • Novelty: Innovators and early adopters have eaten up the AR.Drone 2.0. They want to maintain the image of the cool kid on the block. … neighbors gathering around as you fly this thing down your street. Or the reaction you might get if you release one of your Drone videos on YouTube. And holy cow, YOU HAVE YOUR OWN DRONE (which might actually turn off women, by the way).
  • Economy: This is a toy that costs three hundred dollars. There is nothing economical about it. At all.
  • Dependability: If you are a novice flying a drone, then the only thing you can depend upon is crashing the daylights out of this machine. Thank goodness the indoor foam protectors are only $45 to replace.
  • Value: See “Economy.”

Let’s dissect another product — the more common car — say the 2013 Volvo S60 to see these steps played out in action.

What are the performances that satisfy consumer desires when it comes to cars?

  • Transportation: Cars are perhaps one of the most efficient, affordable, and fastest methods of getting from one place to another. Volvo doesn’t have a lock on this, however. They just promise to do it more safely.
  • Safety: The S60 has one of the highest safety records in a crash test … whether from a front, side, or rollover collision. One of the reasons for this is that there are air bags everywhere in this car. In front of you, above you, beside you. Not to mention the reinforced doors.
  • Performance: The turbocharged five-cylinder engine distributes power to four wheels … making the car go faster while you maintain superior control.  Drive this car and you aren’t just a prude … you are a speedy prude!
  • Reliability: The NHTSA hasn’t recalled any cars or parts on the S60, but J.D. Power gives the car a rating of 3.5 stars out of 5, meaning the car is about as reliable as any other car out there.
  • Novelty: Own an S60 and you own a unique Swedish car that costs — on the low-end — around $30,000. Get a souped up version and your pals at the country club will let you play tennis with them (or at least let you fetch their balls).
  • Recognition: Because of its emphasis on safety, Volvos appeal to the safety-minded among us. The conservative, who like to telegraph their conservatism.
  • Value: Kiplinger voted the S60 as having the best resale value for a car in this price range.

But here’s the deal. Only one desire can dominate. If you were assigned to the S60, what desire would you appeal to in you headline?

BONUS: What to do with physical features

Here’s where we are so far: use product performances (function) to appeal to the emotions of your customer — especially in the headline.

Use the features to justify those functions and desires (and never put physical features in a headline).

For example, features …

  • Justify the price: The S60 is expensive. No surprise given that it is loaded with additional safety features like Tunnel Detection, which automatically turns on your headlights when you enter a tunnel. That feature leads to additional safety.
  • Document performance quality : A free content library like MyCopyblogger contains over 100,000 words in 14 ebooks. Those features will never sell. What will sell is an offer to become a smarter content marketer … an expert people seek out. The features prove we can deliver on the promise.
  • Sharpen your customer’s picture : Details add to the image of your product’s performance in the customer’s mind and grow their desire for that product. This is the “paint a picture” part of the four Ps. The more benefit-laden features Google shares for its Nexus tablet, the greater the desire.
  • Demonstrate differentiationFeatures are also a great way to demonstrate how a product is different from competition. Take a home with two kitchens, for instance. The normal approach is to promote this property as a potential rental or mother-in-law suite. But that will get lost in the hundreds of similar homes. Instead, list out all the possible ways this home could be used — two single-parent families with low-incomes, married twins and their spouses , military families combine to aid one another when partners are on deployment — and you make this home seem very different.

Over to you …

Each product promises to satisfy dozens of longings. But only one performance will unlock the door to channeling mass desire onto your particular product.

Your job is to find the dominant performance that will do that.

Tease it out in your research …  and then convince your audience that that dominates performance (and the consequent satisfaction of that desire) comes from your product … and your product alone.

*With grateful thanks to Eugene Schwartz, who has given us all many powerful ideas to expand and execute on.

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Reader Comments (59)

      • says

        “Tell me more” – words often spoken by psychotherapists and ‘closers’. Hope it doesn’t take 7 years to make the sale! Then again if you are an artist and view your audience as ‘consumers’ and your art as a ‘product’ … it just might. So said the apple to the banana.

  1. says

    Great article. I think the Men’s Health ad really brings the point home. Out of the ideas I think appealing to a desire is something people are mostly responsive to. I think that one is going to be the first one I am going to try.

  2. says

    When I was a sales manager, one of my motivational sayings to help my team get more sales was this: “You’ll have everything in life that you want, if you help enough people get what they want”.

    I moved some words around from the original saying from Zig Ziglar, of course.

    This is still true today! If more marketers or sales people put the needs of the prospect before their own, they will always have a great outcome. Great article.

  3. says

    Good post Demian…. WOw! Wow!

    I love this.

    Your points reminds me of an sale page I wrote for a client in the seduction niche

    I love the ”demonstrate difference” point… I just noted it on my wall..

    Thanks man

    Daniel, the web content writer

  4. says

    Honestly, this is the 1st time I read a post that is mind blowing from this site. This is really great content and insightful. I just want to add that a good product performance really does help with the product’ success. So always brag about it or use good testimonials.

    Headlines are also important. Make sure that your headlines have the end results and period (how long it will take to get to the end goal) then you have a winner.

    Really great post Demian, Thnx.


    • says

      Glad to have blown your mind this morning. Aim to do that with every post. And regarding product success, it really begins with building the audience first, then selling something they want. That’s the key.

  5. says

    When you can provide a solution to a “high in-demand” problem.. Then find and target where the ones with problem exist.. You are golden..

  6. Peter Johnston says

    Excellent article. Agreed with every word, except one. Swedish.

    Volvo is Chinese. And before that it was American (part of Ford).

  7. says

    Great post, as usual, Demian.

    It’s amazing how well know brands still talk about features in headlines.

    My wife bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner yesterday. Being the copywriting nerd that you’ve made me become, I went to their website.


    Headline about suction power. Of course, you watch the video and you learn the true benefit. A clean house with minimal effort.

    BTW, I love that sinking thing. It will have a profound effect on my the cleanliness of my house and office for years.

    • says

      Yes! That’s music to my ears.

      You wonder if Dyson had their engineers write that copy … because you know they are in love with the suction power. But it boils down to is a deeply cleaned house with less hassle (I especially like the rotating blades that don’t get tangled … that’s a real issue).

  8. Joy says

    Great post. Do you (or anyone else reading this) have any thoughts on how to pick which benefit you focus on?

    For example, I’m in the early stages of opening a ballroom school. There are many reasons people might want to learn to dance (lose weight, reconnect as a couple, enjoy it as a hobby, etc.). I’m struggling to pick a selling premise that satisfies all groups – or if I have to focus, figuring out which one to focus on.

    Also, I’m guessing that as people’s brands progress, they move up through your “3 ways of channeling that desire” – how do you know when it’s time to switch it up?

    Any thoughts from you more experienced peeps would be greatly appreciated. :)

    • says

      I like to segment my prospects by giving them several options to choose from and I also use surveys to drill down the most important “desire” to find out what’s the number one solution I can provide..

      • Joy says

        I like that. My website design thoughts definitely are to segment people, but the surveying idea for the most important desire is solid.

        Thanks for the input. :)

      • says

        Yeah, for example, you could build multiple landing pages for each benefit online (like Copyblogger does), but ultimately you need to serve one benefit in your advertising … which for us is how to become a smarter content marketer.

        You won’t know what benefit to lead with unless you know your audience, and then test each benefit. See which one gets the biggest response, and roll with that.

        You can do this through Facebook ads or (cheaper) ask your intended audience through a survey, phone calls, or look for relevant research or do a customer panel.

        • Ron says

          The problem as always, is there so much contradictory information, as anyone who’s been studying marketing for awhile eventually finds
          out.The ‘ask your audience’ is one.It’s based on
          conventional thinking that says that people know
          what they want and make rational choices.I think
          it was Steve Jobs or someone equally well known that said”don’t ask”. More likely,emotion
          decides and then rational mind agrees.

  9. says

    Right on!

    I think this is where an A/B split test could be useful. Create two different campaigns/advertisements and see which one does best. You can do the same thing with your headlines. A little research and experimentation goes a long way.

  10. says

    I love the idea that your headline serves as the bridge. You’ve got to hit readers over the head with the benefit. For example, the fact my iPhone is 16 gigs means something to a select few people. When you put that in terms of how many albums, photos and apps you can store, now you’re speaking the universal language.

    Another solid post!

    • says

      … and then put that performance into a benefit and you are winning it. Too many people expect us to see the benefits behind 16 gigs … and wonder why they don’t sell anything. For the original iPod what sold was “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Spotify has taken this to another level with their premium: millions of available songs anywhere in the world.

  11. says

    Wow, Demian, are you trying to compete with Robert Cialdini or something? 😉 Great stuff!

    I always thought Safety and Novelty with Volvo. Safety is obvious. Novelty because it is a Swedish car (owned by a Chinese company) that’s a wee bit quirky. Now that Saab is out of the picture they could probably use this, but it seems they’re trying to edge into BMW, Audi territory: Luxury performance … now those companies have great ads.

    By the way, my reliable Acura is still running fine at 10+ years old 😉

    Also, I would play on getting jack’d up and ripped … at any age … have you seen pics of Jeffrey Life?

  12. says

    Another EPIC post Damian, and brilliantly laid out as always… I particularly loved the way you worked myCopyblogger into the mix… a true master of the craft!

    Reading it all laid out like this makes it sound so logical, yet I still catch myself making many of these mistakes over and over, even though I know better… this will be a great resource to refer back to.

  13. says

    hi Demian

    I like this post, is full of great examples and eye catching photos – well done!

    I hope to see you post more often here @ Copyblogger…

    I’d like to add a little remark in regard to satisfying people’s desires…

    Let’s face it! Most individuals love getting instant gratification or free stuff, but hate the work or extra effort…

    Imagine you’re a gardener … would you ever think to get the fruit without actually planting the seed first and caring it before it crops?…

    For this reason alone, when I write copy I try to craft a message from the heart and connect to their uttermost desires, but at the same time, I emphasize that the solution is not the blue pill which solves their problems overnight…

    Does it make sense?

    • says

      It does make sense, but short cuts are always going to out perform the hard work … people will pay a pound for a cure rather than an ounce for prevention … so when you are talking about the leading benefit then you need to lead with the one that so perhaps the short cut (continuing with your gardening metaphor) is to “the best petunias this week” sort of like the “Learn to speak French in fifteen minutes” where they actually mean you can get down the fundamentals (and order foie gras instead of being shown the restroom) … where you and I both know learning French to speak like a diplomat takes years … and even that headline “Speak French like a Diplomat” which was a successful Caple’s headline sold it because the hard work was reduced to the short cut of “15 minutes a day.” This is why the Men’s Health ad adds “in 30 days.”

  14. says

    As you stated, it is important to know what your product can do, in addition to what you designed it to do. If a product has features you almost don’t notice but which your audience would go crazy for, those are the details you need to emphasize in your marketing. (Sometimes, people will surprise you in what they really want.)

  15. Steve says

    I don’t know.

    Perhaps because I recently finished reading Breakthrough advertising and the words are still in my head but this post seemed eerily close to what was written in that book. Probably a lil’ close for me.

    I was left with an icky feeling after reading this. I understand you made a quote reference to Eugene Schwartz and you added examples (which were good btw) but the article made it seem like the idea came from you. (could be just me though)

    Even the car example and word usage. I don’t know.

    I’m not accusing anyone of anything. I could be way off too. In fact, I don’t know what I am trying to say except how I felt. Does my opinion and feelings matter in the end to you or anyone else? No, but somehow felt to state it.

    Aside from all that though, loved the specific examples you selected. Almost like what was missing in the book itself.

  16. says

    I see a lot of people trying to implement these 3 steps in their content marketing (especially marketing agencies themselves), but the one thing I see in common with the end product is that what they’ve written has been written before…..many, many times. It’s repetitive and boring. I love this article, but it’s good to keep in mind the importance of writing about a subject in a way that no one else has in the past and then to of course express that in the headline as you recommended.

  17. says

    Reminds me of the golden rule. “Do unto others what you want others do unto you.” It’s always give and take in a HEALTHY relationship, may that be personal or professional. It’s the way of the world, and to not follow that rule means disaster.

    I find this article really interesting especially the practicality of the suggestions.

    I have to agree about using desire as a marketing tactic, since humans are always enticed by their own desires. If you get a hold of that and make sure that you satisfy their desires, they are more than willing to repay you.

    Nicely written!

  18. Sheetal Sharma says

    Great post, thanks for writing and sharing it, some of the pointers m, mentioned here are really executable.

  19. says

    The go-giver principle is really popular these days… And with good reason! :-)

    Thanks for sharing the ideas.. Not sure if I will use them directly, but somehow I will.

  20. says

    Absolutely brilliant thank you Damian.

    Mind blowing stuff. It offers such a powerful blueprint for engaging content in such a simple, straightforward way.

    I loved the psychology. It really helped to lock in the principles.

    Providing insights into how people think and how it affects their behaviour is something that I’d like to include more in my writing.

    How do you do the research?

  21. says

    Great detail in the article. Most people will explain this in about a paragraph. Desire is the ultimate tool in opening people up to your ideas. To sell and get people’s attention you must listen to what they want first. This article helps explain that in a detailed way.
    Thanks for the great explanation.

  22. says

    Great article, lots of food for thought! But how does this work with a service that the prospective customer doesn’t realize he or she needs, but which could make a big difference for him or her? How do I go about creating a burning desire for what I have to offer?

    Case in point: I’m holding a webinar next week that explains 10 ways that bloggers can use mind maps to manage their work much more effectively. I’ve emphasized that it’s an antidote to information overwhelm, and that smarter, visual-based thinking, planning and doing can help them increase their productivity by up to 20%. But the number of registrations has been disappointing so far.

    What am I missing?

    • says

      That’s a more advanced copywriting problem — essentially, you need to figure out the bridge between what they know they want and what you know will be useful and beneficial to them. That will take lots of talking with (and listening to) your audience so you can understand their problems.

      That’s why it’s much easier to market a solution that comes out of your audience need, vs. something you think is cool and beneficial. You may be 100% right that they would love it, but it’s much harder to “push” that desire than to use the “pull” of what they’re already looking for.

      • says

        Thanks for the advice, Sonia. Yes, that is a tough nut to crack. All I really have right now is a perceived problem (bloggers tend to face information overload) with little to connect it to my proposed solution. I don’t know if most bloggers consider that to be enough of a problem to invest in my solution. Time to talk to some bloggers and learn from them!

        • says

          you would get me with arguments like being more effective, being more focused, being up to 20% more productive, easy to learn and implement in my current working schedule

    • says

      Hey Chuck, that is a tough nut. The problem with your proposition is that it’s not entirely unique. The mind map/brainstorm for blogging bit has been played before.

      If you want people to listen to you then you need to establish a distinction that no one else can offer … like you’ve got 20 years of research on mind maps and bloggers … your method will make them 90 times more productive … an angle that people would feel stupid missing.

      • says

        I did much of that, Demian – informing readers that bloggers tend to view mind mapping software for only 1 role (content development) but it can actually do at least 10 things – most at more of a strategic level. I also explain how it can improve their productivity by 20%+ (based on survey results, not my own estimation). I also cite my thought leadership. I guess it’s too much of a leap for many bloggers – I would need to convince them to not only invest in my webinar, but also download and learn some new software…

    • says

      Chuck, you’re getting a LOT of good advice here. But one thing I see that is problematic (for me, personally, as someone who is interested based on what you just said here) is this:

      There’s only 1 option you’re giving me.

      Pay you.

      Your Webinar would do very well (I’m betting) as a freebie … where you up-sell me from the freebie into a lead-nurturing program.

      There, you give me some “results in advance” of my purchase.

      This PROVES to me you’re worth the investment. By changing my success rate at __________ (you have lots to pick from) you earn my trust. Plus, what you sell looks more like a “logical next step” versus something I need to think about investing in.

      Hope this helps.

  23. says

    Hi, Benefits will always rule. Folks don’t care as much about what something does, as much as what’s in it for them and how it will help them. The secret I have always found is to find out what the prospect really wants (the benefit – normally a secret – especially the REAL reason), and the features (what they tell everyone else – the obvious).

    Thanks for this great post. Good to see someone out there truly passionate about the art of copy.



  24. says

    Yep, here we are again at the benefits vs features crossroads. I find it useful to always lead with benefits. That is, what is in it for them. Not how shiny and alluring it is, but what it can DO for them to HELP them get what they want.

    Thanks for the post. Very good, and very true.


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