Winning Copy Appeals to Basic Instincts

Sharon Stone in Basic InstinctHow do you get somebody to do what you want them to?

You can just ask of course. That will work with some people. A more successful approach though is to appeal to their human nature. Show what’s in it for them.

We are simple creatures really. Scott Adams of Dilbert fame calls us “moist robots”. As accurate a description as any!

Press the right buttons and you get a predictable, automatic reaction.

Although we like to think of ourselves as sophisticated, intelligent and evolved, at our core we are not all that distant from the chimps. Deep down any human being shares the same drives, needs, desires.

Look how many ads sell based on greed, lust and fear. Why? It works. As the saying goes, sex sells.

This is not to say you should have nude bodies draped around your plumbing supplies, or a breathy, alluring on-hold voice. Rather, find out what the basic instinct is behind your prospect’s interest and work with it rather than against it.

For example does your prospect want a job promotion for the money, power or to impress the opposite sex? Do they want more money out of fear of debt, or to acquire lots of nice things? You can see how if you get this wrong then you are talking to an entirely different market.

Get it right, well you have found the correct button to press to get that predictable, automatic reaction.

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Reader Comments (15)

  1. says

    “Moist robots”? That doesn’t take the low IQ of many people into account. As a robot, I would be insulted by this description.

  2. says

    Michael, the best example I can think of in the b-2-b arena is fear of job loss at the managerial level. C-level executives rarely respond as well to emotional triggers.

  3. says

    IMHO, every market segment, every demographic, requires its own specific narrowly targeted appeals. Further, every individual within these groups may or may not be susceptible to the appeals. And these appeals are not to be found on Maslow’s heirarchy.

    If this were otherwise marketeers wouldn’t measure success with direct response marketing with single digit percentages. And they wouldn’t get excited when a marketing test improves response by 1%.

    I believe one sells one’s customers short by thinking of them as wetware robots.
    Especially in today’s markets it seems that one must first establish a level of credibility.

    Otherwise why bother with bulleted lists of benefits and testimonials? Why place the call to action after you’ve made your best case? Why would Gary Halbert’s or John Carlton’s copy sell better than anybody elses?

    I think this post misses the value of establishing rapport. Even in the mass media every single audience member must feel the one-to-one connection with the message. Otherwise it doesn’t work.

    Why all the work just to obtain a “predictable, automatic reaction” ? People don’t have buttons. This shorthand over simpification is deceptive and misleading.

    People are more complex than any yet devised machine and every time that someone has stood up and claimed otherwise people have done the unpredictable.

    Big ticket sales still depend upon a face-to-face relational meeting. Sure, there is a level of manipulation that is possible. And more times than not it is resented by the customer who will then never return.

    And business is built on returning customers. I can’t think of any business that have survived on the type of simplistic methods implied here.

    Valued customers must be treated as human beings.

  4. says

    “Look how many ads sell based on greed, lust and fear. Why? It works.” – greed and lust may do but “fear” do not sell for long.
    It normally creates reactionary emotions in the reader or viewer. To the most he or she may become more conscious about the dog than the medication you are offering for a dog bite.

  5. says

    Fear can be very effective, it depends on the product and your pitch. For example my accountant just sold us tax investigation insurance using fear of the cripplingly high accountant costs should the tax man come sniffing around the books.

  6. says

    Fear sells huge…

    How many people buy “the Club” or a car alarm for their cars?

    How much value do people put in having a health insurance plan. Or any insurance plan?

    Ever watch the news. Ever see any “good news”?

    I’m afraid to say it … but fear sells. It motivates trillions of dollars to move in one direction or another every year.

  7. says


    You’re right. Fear sells BIG!

    My parents made me get an alarm for my car and I didn’t even need it. Their fear of it being stolen overwhelmed them. And the car is a beat up, ’92 Lexus…go figure huh?

  8. says

    wow that’s awsome so with giving people what they want most in their deep core of beiing will make them perform certain tasks that’s awsome thanks for the good article

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