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Four Basic Emotions to Sell Anything

Published: July 9, 2007

Author: David Rodnitzky

Back in the early 1980s, my parents decided to try to get into mail order. Specifically, I believe they decided to sell a pumpkin pie recipe by advertising it in magazines. To make sure they had the marketing down right, they purchased a book about mail order advertising.

Sadly, the pumpkin pie empire they envisioned never materialized, but when I saw the book gathering dust on my Father’s bookcase, I had to check it out and see if I could glean any nuggets that would be applicable to online marketing today.

I reasoned that even if the medium had changed, basic human needs have not. And, indeed, it turns out that there are a lot of lessons from 1982 that are still quite useful for a 2007 search engine marketer.

Perhaps most valuable was the author’s claim that there are four basic emotions that motivate consumers to buy: greed, vanity, exclusivity, and fear. Keep in mind, these emotions apply to direct marketing mediums – like search engine marketing or mail order; there are other emotions that probably work better when you are considering mass medium branding campaigns (for example, sex).

But think about any product you might want to sell through AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing and I bet that you could use one or more of the above emotions to increase your click-through rate and conversion rate.

For example, let’s take Mom’s Special Pumpkin Pie recipe as a case study. Here’s four different ads that use the four basic emotions to get people clicking away.

Pumpkin Pie Recipes on Sale
Award-winning pumpkin pie book.
75% off retail today only!

Make Your Neighbors Jealous
Secret pumpkin pie recipe will
cause envy on your block!

Limited-Edition Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Only 1000 copies remain! Order now
before supplies run out.

Don’t Risk Ruining Thanksgiving
Make sure your perfect dinner ends
with the perfect pumpkin pie!

I’ve actually tried creating ads with these emotions in mind and it does work. Obviously, not every emotion can be matched to every product. But when search engine result pages often seem to have the same ad 10 times in a row, a little emotional manipulation can make all the difference.

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