#writerscrawl: words are experience with Lab

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#writerscrawl: words are experience with Lab


Lab's Justin Thorne took us through psychological copywriting, which includes nudges, VAK and whether you speak to monkeys, lions or dogs. Confused? Don't be - read on because it will help your copywriting.

The first day of #writerscrawl took a small group of copywriters on a psychological tour of words and how they can be used to create particular effects.

Justin Thorne, an avuncular Brian Blessed dressed in Western garb, was our guide.

"Words are experiences," he explains. "Readers hallucinate the tone of voice when they read. Where does this come from? We will explore psychological factors that influence decision making, with some new models to make them playful and experiential," he says.

He says that the usual method of communicating is to be frictionless - as easy as possible. But he says this creates an opportunity for those who, "Create friction, increasing cognitive load and making people think."

Contextual, rational, emotional

"Decisions are emotional first," he says. "Play with emotional cognitive nudges to build a narrative."

He says there is a four-point route to making a compelling narrative, built around four questions:

  1. WHY? Refer to reasons, the status quo, past events, relevancy. This is a contextual, retrospective look that really wants and needs a YES answer from the reader.
  2. WHAT? Describe the offer and nudge (see below). Be explicit.
  3. HOW? Use of processes, maybe three steps to take, or a metaphor - a tacit but dynamic way to take the reader through.
  4. WHAT IF? Look to benefits, outcomes, or calls to action. Contextual and future-focused results.

VAK: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic language

People usually fall into one of three categories - visual, auditory or kinaesthetic.

  • Visual - relying on and using visual language
  • Auditory - relying on and using auditory language
  • Kinaesthetic - relying on and using sensation and emotion

Writers will therefore tend to focus on one or the other of these cues. He says that to build the 'hallucination' so necessary for successful tone of voice, you need to create for the reader a realistic world that has to tap into all three of these senses.

That means nudging the reader with sights, smells and sensations to build a more realistic world.

"We are trying to influence other people, so we need to build that hallucination. But it is hard to break through your own biases," he says.

Dangers of segmentation

Justin gave the example of two men with remarkable similarities - both successful, married, love dogs, have children. Both 67 years old. On paper the men look identical.

But the reveal shows that one is Prince Charles, and the other Ozzy Osbourne.

Clearly bundling these two men would not be appropriate for a wide range of products and services. He says segmentation is both dangerous and useful.

Perhaps they might have the same taste in expensive cars or whisky, but for a multitude of other things placing these two men into the same segment could be a mistake.

Monkeys, Lions and Dogs

Another way of breaking people down into groups that you can appeal to.

Monkeys: Contextual thinkers, often extroverts who value recognition, status and inclusion. They want to make a difference, leave a legacy. They feel responsible. They make excellent teachers and value creativity and sponaneity.

Lions: Rationals who want control and mastery of situations. They like challenges and money, comfort and power. They value professionalism, credibility and autonomy. Many leaders are lions.

Dogs: Emotional types who want to make connections and love. They value openness, honesty and authenticity, teamwork, loyalty and relationships. Not good with conflict.


"Understand the context to get it right. Linguistics is important. Paradoxical language is powerful," he says.

Here are a list of ways to persuade that work, and can be 'nudged' in copy:

  • Fear of loss is more powerful that opportunity of gain. Fear sells, food, sex and death grab attention.
  • Extra is valued more than discount. 30% more of rather than 30% off.
  • Pleasure now, pain later. Interest-free credit, drinking binges etc.
  • Social proof increases spend. People want to hear it from peers, not the brand itself - it's more powerful than brand messages.
  • Anchor the zero on the value barometer. Let people know what something is worth, and why what you offer is worth more, can give you more, etc.

Neuro linguistic search

Examples to make PPC work better. "This is interruption marketing," he says, a direct, first-person conversation with the user."

Four steps:

  1. .Get attention with disruption – increase the cognitive load with dirruption, confusion or relevancy
  2. Evoke emotions with joy surprise or curiosity
  3. Provoke action with motivational language - verbs not nouns
  4. Nudge. Use the above examples to motivate
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