Why Dominant-Emotion Copy Wins

Albert Lasker and John E. Kennedy revolutionized copywriting by introducing the concept of “reason-why” advertising.

Their breakthrough was all about reasoning with a prospect just as a good live salesman would — presenting all the logical reasons why a product should be purchased.

Just do that and your ads will do well.

But will reason-why advertising by itself make you filthy, stinking rich?

Not necessarily.

Now, I don’t want to insult you here. But the simple fact is, unless your prospect is having a heart attack and you’re promoting the only emergency room in town, there are probably a LOT of things he should be doing instead of blowing a wad of cash on your product.

…Like socking his money away for a rainy day — just to make sure he’ll always have all the food, clothing, and shelter he’ll need for the rest of his life, for example.

That would be the intelligent, rational thing to do — wouldn’t it?

That way, instead of saving less than a nickel out of every dollar (as the average American does now), your prospect could be saving 50%… 60%… even 70% of each paycheck, and the compounding interest would be making him a millionaire.

But what a dreary life he would have, and what a boring world it would be!

If consumers only bought the things that are logical to buy…

  • People would never purchase more house than they absolutely needed for survival. And they would be bleak, spartan places with only the bare necessities — and without high-tech kitchen gadgets, big-screen TVs, or even carpeting.
  • There would be no Starbucks, no bars or liquor stores, and certainly no tobacco companies. After all, coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes are not only unnecessary for survival… they’re also costly and unhealthy and, therefore, not rational to consume.
  • No truly practical, intelligent person would ever subject himself to the massive depreciation that strikes when a new car is driven off the dealer’s lot. Everyone would want 10-year-old sub-compacts that get 30 or 40 miles to the gallon. Better yet, they’d take the bus.
  • Spending money on entertainment would be considered a horrible waste. The film, video, and video game industries would dry up and blow away. We could easily survive with one radio per family, and one radio station per city. They’d broadcast only indispensable information… and they’d turn on their transmitters only when absolutely necessary.

TV? Hah! Who needs to see the guy who’s giving you the news?

  • Women would never again blow a single dollar on makeup, designer fashions, sexy shoes, hair color, perfume, “push-up” bras and “pull-in” foundation garments, or anything else to make themselves more attractive to men.

I mean — what’s the point? We’re guys, they’re gals. If a million years of evolution teaches anything, it’s that we’re going to chase them no matter what!

  • Since nobody really needs status to survive, status symbols would be non-existent. There would be no Cadillacs, BMWs, Mercedes, or Rolls Royces…

No Sub-Zero refrigerators, Bosch dishwashers, Miele vacuum cleaners, or KitchenAid Superba trash compactors…

No Rolex, Breitling, or Movado watches…

And certainly no pleasure boats, RVs, or private airplanes!

  • And since advice is merely somebody’s opinion — and, as such, could easily be wrong — who in their right mind would pay for a book or newsletter on health or investing?

As Pat Steel of the Young & Rubicam ad agency once put it…

“People don’t really need these things. People don’t really need art, music, literature, newspapers, historians, wheels, calendars, philosophy… All that people really need is a cave, a piece of meat, and, possibly, a fire.”

Nevertheless, the companies that make and sell all these things are thriving!


Because we human beings are NOT merely rational creatures, seeking only to get what we need for physical survival.

We are also highly emotional beings. And our emotional needs are every bit as valid to us — and every bit as crucial to fulfill — as our physical needs.

In fact…

The minute we’re sure we have plenty of air, water, food, and a roof over our heads, our emotional needs become far more compelling to us than anything else.

And, unlike our cravings for food and shelter, which cease once these needs are met, our emotional needs are never fully satisfied!

That’s why we work hard all of our lives. It’s why most families now have not one but two paychecks.

We do it because we have a driving need to respect and value ourselves… to win the love, admiration, and respect of others… to experience pleasure, avoid pain, and assuage our fears.

We even go into debt and leverage our future financial security to buy the stuff that does these things for us — and more.

What percentage of our income do we spend on true necessities — the things we need for physical survival? How much do we spend on “a cave, a piece of meat, and a fire”?

I’d be shocked if it was more than 20% or 30% of what we spend each year. And if I’m right, that means we spend the rest — a whopping 70% to 80% of our income or even more — to satisfy emotional needs!

“Dominant-emotion” marketing copy multiplies your response rates and income by putting this crucial fact of life to work for you!

Now think: If 80%, 90%, or more of your sales are made to people looking to satisfy an emotional need in their lives…

… Isn’t it possible that you could multiply your sales and profits by an order of magnitude by appealing directly to those emotions — the part of your prospect’s psyche that is actually making the purchase decision?

That’s where dominant-emotion copy techniques really shine.

Put simply, they are the “extra ingredient” — the added layer of thought that ramps up the intensity and selling power of every technique you’re currently using.

They ensure that every benefit you offer… every “reason why” you present… and every USP (unique selling proposition) you use connects directly with your prospects’ strongest emotions.

Having said what dominant-emotion sales copy IS, here’s what it IS NOT:

FIRST: Dominant-emotion copy is evolutionary — NOT revolutionary. It is the natural extension of proven, time-honored marketing strategies and tactics.

It does not free you from the need to trumpet your product’s benefits, develop a powerful USP, or provide compelling reasons why your prospect should buy from you.

But when you enthusiastically and skillfully present your product’s benefits, USP, and “reasons why” your prospect should buy, you often trigger your prospect’s most dominant emotions by accident!

SECOND: Dominant-emotion marketing is NOT “hype.” Dominant-emotion copy is not merely ramping up the emotional tone of your promotions to hysterical levels or putting slammers (“!”) all over the place. And it is certainly not about making false, misleading, or unbelievable advertising claims.

Falling into these traps is the undoing of many otherwise savvy marketers. If any component of your sales message is less than believable, more prospects will be turned off than will buy. And if your product doesn’t live up to your sales message, those who do become customers will be one-time customers only.

In fact, when done well, dominant-emotion copy is more credible and, therefore, more effective because it attaches the appropriate emotions to the real and credible benefits your product offers.

If a stranger calls me, saying, “Pardon me, old chap, but I was just driving by, and I couldn’t help but notice that your roof appears to be oxidizing rather rapidly…”

I’d probably assume it was a telemarketing call from a roofing company, holler a hearty “F*** YOU!” and slam the phone down. (I know I would. I’ve seen me do it!)

But if that same person burst through my front door and yelled, “Hey, Doofus! Run for your life — your ROOF’s on FIRE!!” he’d get a very different reaction from me. I’d probably leave skid marks on the living room carpet.

See the difference? I fail to respond to the first message because the emotion with which it is delivered is inappropriate for the situation at hand.

By contrast, the second version of the same basic message is delivered in a tone that is appropriate for the situation. And, as a result, it does a better job of getting my attention… strengthens the credibility of the message… and triggers the desired reaction.

THIRD: Dominant-emotion techniques should not be limited to your sales copy. They should encompass all aspects of the selling effort. From the creation or selection of new products to the positioning of your company. From the development of your sales messaging to establishing your pricing, mode of delivery, guarantee, and service after the sale.

In a nutshell, dominant emotion is the icing on the cake. The “oomph” that makes your benefits, your “reason-why” arguments, and your USP sing!

And when you decide that identifying and directly addressing your prospect’s emotional needs is a priority in your ad copy, you greatly amplify the selling power of your USP-driven, benefit-oriented, “reason-why” advertisements.

[Ed. Note: In the 39 years since Clayton Makepeace wrote his first direct response promotion in 1971, his direct mail and online sales copy has generated well over $1.5 billion in sales for many of the top financial and health-related direct response companies in the country.

In addition to his work as a direct response strategist and copywriter in the wealth and health fields, Clayton publishes the highly acclaimed e-zine The Total Package to help business owners and copywriters accelerate their sales and profits.

Have you heard? The Total Package is closing their store! But, that’s good news for you because right now you can save up to 80% on everything in the online store during their Inventory Clearance Sale. You don’t want to miss this! Once these products are gone…they are gone forever.]