Lessons from Neuroscience for Content Marketing
Feelings do not require
reflection or thought. We feel, we act. We think later and justify our
actions based on input from our more highly advanced reasoning brain.
Strong feelings are hot-wired into the brain's action centers, provoking any one of the "F" actions:
Emotions are simple and clear so that action is easy and fast. This
is built into our brains for very clear reasons of survival as a race.
We wouldn't be here talking about content marketing if our ancestors
hadn't become good at all four "F" actions.
Maybe our current
culture of consumerism means our brains are now hot-wired to react
differently to our emotions? Maybe instead of feeding, we grab a snack,
we argue or write snarky responses, and we make purchases over the
internet. These things won't necessarily contribute to our survival,
but they do satisfy the need for action and instant gratification.
Emotions are either positive or negative. There are relatively few pure emotions:
These elemental feelings are universal. Specific facial expressions
for fear, anger, sadness and enjoyments are recognized by people across
diverse cultures. Paul Eckman is a psychologist who has extensively studied universal facial expressions and emotions.
get complicated because they get combined, like primary colors.
Jealousy may be a mix of anger and sadness. Guilt may be a combination
of enjoyment and fear.
don't talk much about my background in psychology but it's been
essential in my learning how to write effective content for a business
blog. Without my 5-6 years of graduate study and working in field
placements of psychiatric clinics, I wouldn't have the awareness of
emotional content that's behind client interactions. I'm acutely aware
of possible reactions from readers.
The most difficult thing in
learning to write effective content for any business is making the leap
from purely intellectual writing to emotional writing.
is only one small part of what compels people to read your content. The
more compelling reason people read what you write is because you hook
them with feelings.
2 Lessons to Learn
- The key that you should know: Emotions are extremely powerful influences over the actions of your readers and clients. They are in fact what makes people comment, sign up, register, download, or buy.
- The 2nd key is that emotions are doubly powerful when they are unconscious.
Unconscious feelings have been shown to have a higher biasing effect on
decisions than conscious feelings. A reader, or decision maker, is less
able to be reflective about the reasons for their choices.
Even if people are aware of their feelings, they are unlikely to be
fully aware of the unconscious influence their feelings are having on
their decision making.
The Power of Stories
explains why telling personal stories are so effective when you're
writing content. People's emotions are triggered by the feelings in the
story. We empathize with someone else. We feel their pain on an
We are actually feeling our own similar
emotions. We relate because of our own personal experiences. But it's
subtle and pretty much under the level of our awareness.
This is why most people will defend their buying decisions with rational logic and pretty good reasons.
- I need this for business
- It's on sale
- I can't get this anywhere else
- If I don't have this, my competitors will have an advantage
It doesn't matter what the logical reasons are, every purchase is
triggered by an emotional hot button. This is why copywriters and sales
people make good money! They know that words work and how to make them
work. They know that emotions are the triggers that lead to action.
Good copy recognizes universal drives: (from the book Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices (Jossey Bass, 2001), by Harvard professors Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria)
- The drive to acquire
- The drive to learn
- The drive to bond
- The drive to defend
What This Means for Your Own Content Marketing
Yesterday I listed a whole bunch of hot buttons.
wasn't clear about why this is so important to learn. You can't learn
this by memorizing the concepts and the list of buttons. So how do you
learn to incorporate emotions into your writing?
How do you use this knowledge of your readers' brains and the fact they are hard-wired for action through emotional triggers?
suggest writing to a group of clients who you think might be motivated
by one particular drive, say for example, the drive to learn. Practice
writing a piece designed to get these clients signed up for a free
download by appealing to their drive to know more, to learn insider
secrets, or top 3 things most people don't realize, etc.
Practice Makes Progress
only way to learn emotional writing is to practice. Use feeling words.
Use stories, real or invented. Use your own personal experiences to
make it real, authentic and personal. Exaggerate every feeling. But
don't go overboard. You should also remember that facts do matter.
Include features and benefits. And design a call to action that is
simple, clear and easy.
Of course a good way to test this is to
run two pieces – one that is strictly fact-based, the other more
emotional and test to see which one is more effective.
Not Walking My Talk
I were a better writer, and I'm getting there, I'd re-write this piece
by telling you a story and giving you a case study as an example. Maybe
I'll still do this. I'm still oriented like an academician: the facts,
ma'am, the facts.
I'll leave this for now, however. I invite you
to respond anyway, even though I probably didn't trigger many
'hot-buttons' in this blog post.