"Look, I'm a reasonable person ..." How many times have you started off a sentence that way?
Reason – facts and figures – guides our decision-making when we put direct mail campaigns together, from choosing the address list to designing the format, coming up with an offer and creating the content that will persuade people to act on our messages.
But we humans don't run on just facts and figures. Emotion – an instinctive or intuitive reaction or influence – triggers many of our actions and often triumphs over reason.
Do I really need new golf shoes? Or do I want them because the brand sent me a VIP-customer flyer with a sneak peek at its new line?
Because emotions can be unpredictable, many marketers overlook their influence when creating a strategy or campaign. But, factoring in human emotion when creating your direct mail campaigns can drive more responses than a simple appeal to reason.
As copywriter and filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis often said, "Emotion outsells intellect."
You need both reason and emotion to build a persuasive direct mail campaign. The challenge is to get inside the skin (or heart, to be more precise) of your target audience of one, to understand their emotional pain (or pleasure) points, and then show them how you can satisfy that emotional desire.
The 7 Main Emotional Drivers
Whether you’re promoting a cause or selling a product or service, think about how to build your campaign around one or more of these seven powerful motivators:
- Guilt – Remind a prospect of the consequences for taking an action … or failing to do so. Examples: “War veterans are going hungry tonight in New York” and “Little Jimmy’s mom can’t afford the heart operation he needs.”
- Fear – A perceived threat or danger can be overcome by a rational response, such as your product or service. Examples: “Is your home protected from flooding?” or “5 Common Ways Your Identity Can Be Stolen.”
- Anger – Righteous or not, outrage can be redirected in more constructive directions. Examples: “These beautiful eagles were killed to build another highway” and “Will you let the governor steal our pension money?”
- Salvation – Everyone has problems. So, promise your solutions. Examples: “Pay for home improvements with a low-interest home equity loan” and “Get the technical training you need to further your career.”
- Exclusivity – Help your prospects feel as if they have an inside track to something special. Examples: “This invitation is confidential and is being mailed only to a select few” or “Your company is among the very first to qualify for this low-interest loan!”
- Flattery – Make people feel good about themselves and their achievements. Examples: “You take great care of yourself, which is why we think you’ll appreciate the value of our new fitness club” and “You’ve earned this special offer thanks to your superior financial status.”
- Greed – Less harshly, it's also self-interest. This is probably the most frequently used emotion in marketing. Who doesn’t want more money? Examples: “Earn 50% More Rewards Points With Your New Bank Card” or “Save $200 on Your Car Insurance.”
Other emotional copy drivers also worth considering in your direct mail include patriotism, power, love, and self-improvement.
How to Maximize Your Emotional Drivers
After you’ve decided on an emotional touchpoint for your campaign, these are your next steps:
- Align your copy with this strategy. The teaser or main headline is the best place to start. It gets noticed first and sets the tone for the rest of the mailing, such as the inside panels for a self-mailer or the letter and inserts in an envelope effort.
- Share personal stories or testimonials about your product or service. These can help your prospects identify with the emotions your customers experience with your brand.
- Add high-resolution images that enhance your message’s impact and help you tell your story.
- Combine key emotional drivers that overlap, such as fear and anger, or flattery and exclusivity.
- Leverage variable data to create a personalized offer that increases the authenticity and power of an emotion-based appeal.
- Provide logical support for emotional decisions. Charts, graphics, and statistics help you combine reason and emotion. This also helps to explain your decision-making to others.
No matter which drivers you use, remember that they must support the rest of the elements of the direct mail piece.
As Seattle ad agency guru Bob Hacker said, “If your letter isn’t dripping with one or more of these, tear it up and start over.”