50 Trigger Words and Phrases for
Powerful Multimedia Content

Multimedia Copywriting

Mark Twain said the difference between the right word and the almost right word is “the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Twain had an incredible knack for nicely summing it all up, didn’t he?

The value of your content and/or your offer is what ultimately matters. And yet the words you use to demonstrate that value and present that offer will determine to what degree people take action.

The goal of this post is to give you some examples of words that bring the lightning. And by lightning I mean words that invoke and engage emotion.

Of course, these words work exceptionally well in written copy, too. But with multimedia content, you’ve got a lot more electricity to draw upon.

With audio, you’ve got the enthusiasm and emphasis that comes from your voice inflection and tone. And with video, the power of relevant visuals to enhance your message should not be underestimated from a psychological standpoint.

There are way more emotional trigger words and phrases than the examples I list here. And there are many more categories of emotion to tap into. My hope is to simply get you thinking about word choice, regardless of content format.

Let’s get started.

Health and Hope

They say if you don’t have your health, you’ve got very little. And health as a metaphor also works for all sorts of other areas outside of the realm of mental and physical wellness, such as relationships and businesses.

  • Boost
  • Cure
  • Energize
  • Flush
  • Vibrant

Likewise, if you don’t have hope, life is bleak indeed. The desire to believe that things will be better in the future is a primary motivator for action, recently exemplified as a core theme of the Barack Obama campaign for U.S. President.

  • Bright
  • Destiny
  • Empower
  • Overcome
  • Undo

Anger and Frustration

Let’s face it, a lot of people are pissed off about a lot of things, and empathizing with that anger while simultaneously engaging it is very powerful. You don’t provoke anger for anger’s sake though; you do it to create an identification with your solution that ends the anger and moves people to a more positive emotional state.

  • Arrogant
  • Cruel
  • Greed
  • Hate
  • Unscrupulous

Tapping into the frustration your audience feels can be incredibly actionable. After all, frustration stems from the inability to solve a problem. If you have a real solution, identifying with the frustration first intensifies the immediate desire for that solution.

  • Had enough?
  • Never again…
  • Pointless
  • Temporary fix
  • Tired

Betrayal and Revenge

The word betrayal itself is a powerful emotional trigger word. As a theme, it powers Shakespeare’s most powerful works, and runs repeatedly though current headlines regarding the economy, Wall Street, Big Pharma, and on and on.

  • Burned
  • Conspiracy
  • Disinformation
  • Fleece
  • Swindle

Revenge is the desire that results from betrayal, and it’s so powerful because revenge connotes action. The action you want people to take, however, is more along the lines of “living well is the best revenge,” not something ugly or destructive (unless you’re selling something ugly or destructive, but that’s your issue).

  • Avenge
  • Payback
  • Reclaim
  • Turn the tables
  • Vindication

The Forbidden and the Powerless

The power of the forbidden is why banning books to prevent exposure to the ideas in them is a stupid strategy. It’s why we’re drawn to secrets and why Adam took the apple from Eve. In a nutshell, we want what we can’t have (or what we’re told we shouldn’t have), and respond favorably to a solution or promise that we can now have it.

  • Banned
  • Controversial
  • Exposed
  • Insider
  • Taboo

Powerlessness is frustration taken to the extreme, and we’ve all felt it. Beyond that which is forbidden, we feel a solution is literally unattainable. Beyond anger, we feel intense resentment. The ability to empathize with and empower those who feel this way makes you a hero.

  • Agony
  • Floundering
  • Helpless
  • Paralyzed
  • Surrender

Passion and Urgency

When your audience is passionate about what you have to say or sell, there’s no need to convince them of need, it’s all about want. Beyond attaining the objects of our desire, we love to experience excitement along the way. So don’t take passion for granted; enhance it!

  • Blissful
  • Delightful
  • Jubilant
  • Rave
  • Thrilled

It’s not enough to make someone want to do something, you’ve often got to get them to take immediate action if they’re to take action at all. A sense of urgency is an emotional response that can range from fear of loss to unbridled enthusiasm, and one way or another you’ve got to create it at your close.

  • Before you forget…
  • Deadline
  • Limited
  • Seize
  • While it’s fresh on your mind…

The Power of the Right Words

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is determined by the level of emotional identification that word prompts. In other words, the right emotional trigger words take the same basic message to all new heights. Don’t settle for lightning bugs on a clear summer night when you could be shooting for the stars.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Google+.

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Reader Comments (81)

  1. says

    I wonder if Mark Twain ever said anything that wasn’t worth repeating. Probably, though he was wise enough to make sure the room was empty.

    Great list Brian, one worth returning to to be sure.

  2. says

    The thing you said about Revenge and Betrayal is 100% right. That is what is being used by many major media companies of the world and that is what makes their readers glued to them. Isn’t it?

  3. Conor says

    Hey Brian,

    Thank you for such a timely list, just when I’m revamping some ad copy :)

    Excellent content as always. Duly bookmarked!


  4. says

    Directly into the “Copy Inspiration” bookmark folder she goes…basic stuff on the face of it but I reckon I’ll be coming back to this one time and again to get slightly stuck gears moving again.

  5. says

    I was energised and blissful by your post and I feel I can now turn the tables on the pointless and arrogant world.
    But seriously a good read!

  6. says

    This is an excellent list — you unpack a hefty dose of trigger words without going into sleazy/false territory — because you gave each section context. It was interesting to gauge my own reactions as I read through each word on the list.

  7. says

    Do you really think a word like “Jubilant” will fly in multimedia? It just sounds funny… and I would replace it with “Ecstatic.”

    But other than that, this is a great list and is definitely worth a delicious save.

  8. says

    So true.

    One of my mentors calls it “the tip of the iceberg” problem. Technically, you might have made the point, but missed the impact.

    Another one of my mentors focuses on “emotional picture words” … or metaphors to make the points. The right metaphor is like a Vulcan mind meld.

    At the end of the day, I think it’s a reminder that if you win the heart, the mind follows.

  9. says

    Thanks for putting this list together! The right words will “invoke and engage emotion”. Once I read that, I was hooked on the rest of the post.

  10. says

    Saved. Wicked awesome list. I love the more “concrete” how-to posts on Copyblogger with concrete examples. Thanks!

  11. says

    I teach a communications PR course and in discussing the use of emotional elements there is a fairly generally accepted number of main emotions (7 emotions) that are as follows:


    Some of the above listed words are more like feelings or actions than true emotions.

  12. says

    Great list.Thanks for giving them as a list,less work for us.I generally use quotes,I find them a good way to make people think

  13. says

    Excellent list and great post. I can understand how just one word makes a whole piece seem to have a different appearance. Writing everyday you can sometimes get comfortable with the words you use and go through stages of discovering a new word and fall in the trap of re-writing this over again. Yet one simple change and you can rework the whole article/script/story.

  14. Jennifer L. says

    So much of everyday communication is through email, and adding the right words here and there can make a whole world of a difference. Thanks for sharing!

  15. says


    You nailed it in that last paragraph — the most powerful words are the ones that draw the emotion out of us. Even the different category names you list elicit very specific emotional reactions, and that makes all the difference.

  16. says

    I wonder if Mark Twain ever said anything that wasn’t worth repeating. Probably, though he was wise enough to make sure the room was empty.

    Great list Brian, one worth returning to to be sure

  17. says

    Great post, Brian … May have been posted 6 months ago, but powerful content isn’t tarnished by time. So, thanks for an excellent read.

    It’s fascinating that sales writing is so emotive, isn’t it? In the hard world of sales, it’s our raw humanity that makes the difference whether we buy or not.

    Many writers profess the virtues of using fear to sell. Are you an advocate of that style too? In reading your article, I like the way you suggest good sales writing empathises with negative emotion, instead of using it to frighten prospects.

    Words which empower have greater effect than words which belittle readers…

    From one copywriting blogger to another, I appreciate the thought that has gone into this article. Thanks again for a thought-provoking read.

  18. says

    Great list.I was looking for trigger words and these are definitely it. Thanks for taking the time to share this list.
    Great one to keep and use over and over. I especially liked to list for Hope.
    Gail J Richardson

  19. says

    I just finished a draft of an article that I plan to post to my blog. I was in need of additional pulling power with powerful words when I came across your site today. Now I can put the finishing touches it and post it later tonight. I’m grateful to Barbara Ling who point me your site.

    I’m also grateful to you for the power that you have with words.

  20. says

    Hello Brian, my eyes spotted a tweet by Guy Kawasaki. The link led me to your valuable content and energized me to take action. I took a pen and with high greed wrote all 50 words in my notebook. Thanks for sharing this bright and empowerful content.

    It reminded me of the book “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek. He talks about the the Golden Circle (p. 56). Quote: “the middle two sections” (of our brain) “comprise the limbic brain. The limbic brain is responsible for all of our Feelings, Such as trust and loyalty. It is also Responsible for all human behavior and all our decision making, but it has no capacity for language” . Yet, your 50 words, Brian, are a real treasure to enlighten this limbic brain and get people thrilled and responsive. Before I forget, check out Simons website, while this is fresh on your mind.

  21. Jim Nichols says

    Don’t confuse ‘trigger phrases’ with ‘buzz words’. Open-book quiz: which one is the “tip of the iceberg”?

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