The emotional triggers that (really) sell

Les déclencheurs émotionnels qui font (vraiment) vendre

People love to buy, but they hate being sold. Nobody likes telemarketers, salespeople who come knocking on our doorstep, “too pushy” salespeople who try to force our hand in the store…

Yet we all like to buy.

The truth is that emotions play a central role in the act of purchase, logic and the rational mind intervene right after to justify the purchase.

A copywriter is an emotional copywriter (sales oriented) with a multiple role:

  • Draw attention ;
  • Transmit a message ;
  • Encourage the reader to perform a specific action (purchase, give his email, make a click, etc.).

➡Through emotions.

People have problems and our product or service is there to provide a solution, to solve a problem. When we do copywrite, we are not talking about the product in question, but about the problem of the person.

“Don’t talk to me about my weed killer, but rather about my weeds. »

As a copywriter, my editorial work consists of creating a “big emotional 8” in a methodical and thoughtful way so as to have a coherent and relevant text with highs (joy, desire, benefit) and lows (sadness, problems, frustration) in order to get the reader (prospect) to perform the desired action.

How to create action with emotions?

Emotions are produced by thought, and action arises from the emotion aroused.

Some examples :

Thought ➡I’m tired of being single, I feel lonely, sad, and depressed when I see all my friends in a relationship.

Action ➡I download Tinder and take the platinum subscription at €19.90, I promise to be more enterprising in the future if I go out into town with my friends and see a girl I like.

Thought ➡I have 8 months before my 38 km marathon, I am 116 kg. I promised to do it, but I’ll never get there if I don’t move my ass, and I risk making a fool of myself in front of everyone.

Action ➡I’m going to consult a nutritionist to make a concrete diet, I’m going to start training by going to run small distances and increase gradually. I will probably have to buy a bike and take out a gym membership to train my cardio.

Without doing clinical psychology, it is essential for every marketer and copywriter to have the basics.

“Human beings are much more alike than one might think at first sight”. Abraham Maslow

There is nothing stranger than all that men and women do: all act to satisfy their needs. However, no one acts the same way.

Maslow’s pyramid is a tool known to many serious copywriters, which offers a basis for reflection in the writing work in order to position prospects and products.

I rather like to call this pyramid a ladder, because the thresholds are progressive. Basically, it is necessary to satisfy the essential needs of a prospect at the moment T so that other needs appear then.

A higher need cannot be satisfied if a lower need has not already been satisfied. It is therefore a hierarchy of needs.

You don’t sell a 118 m2 one-storey house by the sea to a starving person who has nothing to eat. Maybe the person has the means to afford this good, but let’s say that on an empty stomach, it complicates the reflection related to the purchase.

 “One can speak to the hungry man only in terms of bread” Gandhi

Maslow’s pyramid consists of 5 levels:

(Image source: Wikipedia)

Physiological needs are the needs essential to a person’s survival, because they are linked to the functioning of the human body. Someone who has been deprived all his life of the satisfaction of one of his needs can keep lifelong sequelae.

Security needs correspond to protection needs against attacks of various types (physical, psychological, and economic). We can evoke the feeling of control, of mastering things (security of income, resources, health, stability in the couple, family, etc.) and generally everything that directly affects the feeling of security (stability, protection, the need for order, to be protected by someone strong, etc.).

Belonging needs correspond to the needs of people who are “hungry for relationships”.

Hunger for love (not to be confused with sexuality), to be accepted by others. It is the fear of loneliness that arises, so people want to be part of a social group, have status, be connected, and be loved by others.

Self-esteem needs correspond to the need to be respected, to have the power to influence others, to feel valued, and to be someone useful.

The need for self-realization or the need to reach one’s full potential. It can be about developing one’s knowledge, revealing one’s creative potential, and solving complex problems.

To speak in the right way to your prospect, it is necessary to situate your product or service on Maslow’s pyramid and to direct the copywriting (and marketing) accordingly.

This tool offers a basis for reflection to position prospects and products, but there are other more powerful levers that allow you to go further to refine and perfect your copywriting text.

“Sin is the only remaining color in the modern world” Oscar Wilde

For centuries, and even today, various religions have threatened the faithful with hellfire if they allow themselves to be tempted to sin.

It is not a coincidence…

When we study the 7 deadly sins, we quickly understand that they can be a weapon of massive influence in advertising and marketing.

Very widely exploited by the advertising industry for years, a copywriter who writes by stimulating one or more of the demons that the prospect carries within him has every chance of having a hard-hitting and selling text.

Let’s see in more detail how the 7 deadly sins can be great persuasive levers.


The main motivation for this sin is to obtain a gain, profit, or make a good deal, but also the opposite, to avoid a loss or any problem. At the level of Maslow’s pyramid, we are in need of security. Greed is therefore motivated by a need for security that drives us to have more than we really need.

2 simple words, a verb in the imperative that immediately gives more strength.

How to use avarice in copywriting?

By the promise of a price, or an immediate advantage which will generally break the standard codes of the market, or by highlighting the defects of the product in the text for the rounds in profits or in rational arguments which come to justify the price of sale.


Sin, focus on ego gratification, vanity, self-love, and feeling special. Advertising that uses pride makes prospects feel unique, special, and part of an elite like Audemars Piguet, Gucci, Rolls-Royce, etc. Conversely, this sin can also be a very strong motivation to avoid being humiliated, belittled and feeling shame.

Do you have acne? Ask your girlfriend what to do. Ah, that’s right, you don’t have a girlfriend.

How to use pride in copywriting?

By associating the brand image that your product embodies with the reader’s ego, or by allowing him to avoid a humiliating situation (in the form of a promise, for example). Pride is an ideal sin for high ticket selling copywriting text. This sin is to be exploited in advertising by directing the text to negative feelings to obtain a simple and immediate reaction.

(a click).


Pleasing others, being desirable, attracting attention, excess, sensuality, satisfying one’s fantasies, etc. In marketing, the sin of lust can be an effective strategy to divert a prospect’s attention and transfer it to an offer. The leitmotif of this sin? “Pretty girls make sales”. Exploited by many industry, the examples of beautiful girls associated with a product do not miss, but this sin and so powerful, that sometimes, a few lines of copywriting are enough.

Do you have problems with your wife? So sleep with me, you’ll have the best night of your life snuggling up to me. Sofa in stock, ready to ship.

No image, just an open-ended question that commands attention, a one-line text that describes a problem in very bold ways by appealing to the vice and sensuality of its reader, and a clear call to action , simple, and short.

How to use lust in copywriting?

The example above shows this quite well, but to go further, let’s say that the sin of lust is a very flashy sin , the image of a beautiful woman associated with a product (example: Natalie Portman and Dior). The purpose of this sin is to attract attention and transfer it in subtle ways . This is done in two stages: the eye lands on a more or less suggestive image or message, then this attention is transferred to an offer by playing on curiosity, or by being more explicit.


This sin is motivated by jealousy, covetousness, the desire to obtain the same things as others, the lure of gain. This sin causes an effect of social norms that generate billions in the cosmetics industry, slimming diets, dietary supplements, or gym memberships.

This ad subconsciously suggests comparison and provokes the desire to be part of a norm. In the first block, we find the promise in one word with an encrypted data (we will notice that the color code is not the same as for the rest of the text). Then we have a benefit related to the application of the product, a benefit of simplicity and speed, and a piece of social proof that concludes this ad.

How to use envy in copywriting?

With a strong promise, benefits, quick results, with social proof, evidence, and figures. Do not hesitate to use the Before/After, the novelty effect and the feeling of belonging (see Maslow pyramid). Perfect sin for influencer marketing.


Revenge, ardor, the awakening of an old wound, the feeling of powerlessness. For this sin, it is ideal to exploit the leverage of the common enemy. For example: “if you can’t lose weight, it’s not your fault, but that of the junk food industry which employs all the most vicious schemes to make you consume”. Anger can also be a very powerful lever to create an irresistible desire for change and action.

This Facebook ad written as a breakup letter highlights the loss of time, revenue, and anger that can result from the misuse of a CRM. This ad hits the nail on the head by adding “stop repetitive tasks, and start working on your business.

How to use anger in copywriting?

By creating a controversy, by presenting a common enemy, by making people talk, by waking up an old wound, a situation or a painful memory. Other strategies are possible so as not to take the risk of touching the prospect too directly, such as destroying a myth, denouncing a scandal, a popular belief or a lie. A mix of several of its elements is possible as long as the copywriting remains consistent.

The laziness

It is a sin of major importance. Everyone is looking for quick, easy and effective solutions these days that don’t require a lot of effort. For many products and services, this sin translates into ease of use, great benefit and less effort. The principle of this sin is to leave the prospect in his comfort zone or to make him understand that he will not need to leave it to get the results he wants.

The promise is strong, it uses a counter-intuitive axis. By just reading the front cover, the prospect knows that he will be able to lose weight, without leaving his comfort zone and without making great efforts. We will also notice a smiling man in a suit, showing authority to support a promise that is still quite strong.

“The coat makes the monk”

Our clothes and accessories suggest a social belonging (a character, a profession, responsibilities, etc.) going so far as to inspire confidence or fear. This man in a suit was not placed there by chance, he is an integral part of the advertising message.

The influence of the uniform does not stop at the tie suit, we can evoke the uniform of the firefighter, policeman, soldier, etc. If the subject interests you, the studies carried out by various researchers in psychology such as Guéguin or Bourdieu should interest you.

The back cover informs us that the method worked for the author, and that it was designed by a great French nutritionist (2nd argument of authority). It informs us about the ironic tone that the narration will take (links of empathy) and announces the concrete benefits that this book will deliver to the reader.

In a more recent context, we can cite Timothy Ferriss’ bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek: Work Less, Earn More and Live Better.

The title speaks directly to the lazy people in all of us. There is a first part curiosity (the 4-hour week), work less (a constraint that we remove) and profit (earn more, live better).

The promise is strong, the illustration of the book invites you to travel, to freedom and the absence of constraints.

How to use laziness in copywriting?

By orienting the sales text on an immediate result, easy to achieve, without great effort, by supporting each argument with elements of authority.


It’s the sin of unlimited offers, additional benefits, being able to look bigger than you can stomach, consuming more than our abilities allow, without any negative consequences for the prospect. Greed is aimed at customers who always want more (bonus, unlimited advantage, lifetime access, etc.). All-you-can-eat buffet restaurants exploit this sin perfectly, as do mobile operators with their subscription offers or travel companies with all-inclusive packages.

EAT ANYTHING YOU WANT. Then take one of our pills and you won’t have indigestion.

We find here an obvious benefit of gluttony which encourages the prospect to consume without moderation, taking no risk for his health.

How to use gluttony in copywriting?

The Sin of Gluttony is for customers who aren’t afraid to pay full price for your product or service. These are often the most profitable customers.

To make the most of this sin in copywriting, the text must remove one or more constraints, clearly expose the gaps that the product or service can fill, and combine these two elements with rarity.

Scarcity is inseparable from this sin because if your prospect does not need the product or service at the moment T, the fact that it is available only in quantity or for a limited time can cause the purchase. We can draw a parallel with FOMO.

This sin makes it possible to make the prospect spend more and therefore lead him to consume more, without moderation, even if he has no obvious needs at the moment. A copywriting text that exploits this sin will produce interesting results, even for a difficult audience.

Venial sins, personal complexes, trigger buttons…

The psychological principles to be used in copywriting and more generally in marketing are too numerous to list all.

A second part may see the light of day. Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you have any suggestions or remarks, feel free to comment.

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