Why a Bit of Psychology Makes Good Copy

Advertising has to be striking and memorable. Everybody knows that. There are all sorts of techniques for doing that – rhetorical questions, a story, a problem and its solution, striking images, a catchy tune. The truth is, you don’t just have to be a good writer to write good copy. You need to know a little bit about psychology, too.

That makes it sound complicated, but it’s just another way of saying that you need to know your audience. People all over the world think in surprisingly similar ways, and a little psychology can show you just how to catch their attention.

  • Be the first thing people think of - If you have a new and unique product, this is a great opportunity to make sure consumers think of your product first. When it comes to brands like Google, the name has become synonymous with the product—like vacuum cleaners and Hoover, tissues and Kleenex, and lip balm and Chapstick. Chances are, if the first product that comes to mind is yours, your brand will be the first that your target market goes to.
     
  • The power of association - When you’re making an ad, think about what you want your product to evoke. If you’re marketing washing powder, for example, you want your ad to be full of bright, clean colors, and associated with things that smell wholesome.
     
  • Free trials - If you can get someone to sign up for a free trial, they're more likely to stick with you. It’s easier than switching to another brand, and people are reassured by the fact that your product worked well for them during the trial period.
     
  • Social selling - People buy what their friends buy. If you can link social groups—" 9 out of 10 housewives prefer this brand" —or even do online advertising using people’s Facebook friends, then it seems to the consumer as if your products are endorsed by people just like them. If that’s the case, then surely whatever you’re promoting is good for them, too!
     
  • Keep it simple - Don’t give people conflicting messages! Choose simple, positive statements, and don’t mention your competition. If you mention a competing product, chances are people are going to remember that too. You want to create a mental shortcut, an “availability heuristic”, which means your product is the first one to come to consumers’ minds.
     
  • Don’t lie - It seems obvious, but this is really critical. If you make a statement that can be easily proved to be false, people lose trust quickly.
     
  • Matching -  It might sound odd, but a University of Leicester study found that if you play a particular sort of music in a shop, people will buy things they associate with it. If French music is playing in a shop, people buy French wines in preference to German or Spanish wines, and vice versa. It can help your product stand out!
     
  • Make it catchy - If you can come up with a slogan or a jingle, you’ve got a good chance that people will quote it, whistle it, and remember it. In the UK, the supermarket chain Tesco really capitalized on this with their catchphrase, “Every Little Helps”! Now when anyone says that, people will often associate it with their store.

You don’t have to read psychology textbooks to pick up this sort of thing. Just look at the sort of advertising you can see around you, in banner ads online or posters by the roadside. How are they appealing to consumers? Can you borrow their tactics? 

Nicole Walters
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