Power up your copywriting with causality, a strong narrative and a healthy respect for cognitive dissonance.

Snack bars for copywriters.In my last post I wrote about the human obsession with causality, and how copywriters can use this weakness to their advantage.

Today we’ll move to the next stage and consider how causality is a building block of narrative.

I know…it all sounds weird. But keep reading and all will be explained. (And if you didn’t read the last post, you may want to read it now, before you continue with this one.)

Let’s work with an example.

Imagine you decide to invest in gold bullion.

Naturally, you are going to read all about the yellow metal, its ups and downs and the various forces at play that influence its price.

Then one day you read an article about price fixing, and about how gold prices are actually under the control of a shadowy force, comprised of international bankers and billionaire oligarchs.

You are immediately taken with this article.

Why? Because it delivers a simple cause for what is actually a complex issue.

This is our obsession with causality at work. Rather than struggle with the dozens or hundreds of factors that actually influence the price of gold, you have now identified a single cause. The price is fixed, rigged, artificially supressed.

Once you believe in this single cause, everything begins to make sense.

And each time you read an additional article that references gold price fixing, your belief is reinforced.

Now we have the makings of a narrative. In fact, before too long everything you read about gold prices becomes part of this narrative.

When you hear that the price of gold has changed dramatically during the course of a couple of hours…you now know the reason why. Because it’s rigged.

You no longer have to consider the myriad other reasons why the price might have moved. The true complexity of the issue has become irrelevant. You always have the answer.

After a while this narrative becomes so deeply embedded in your mind that you’ll fight tooth and nail against anyone who suggests you are wrong.

When you fight in support of your narrative, you are displaying the discomfort brought about by what psychologists call cognitive dissonance.

The fact is, we all find it very uncomfortable when our convictions…which started out as simple narratives…are challenged.

If you vote democrat, you’ll find it very hard to accept arguments from republicans.

If you support the New York Mets, nobody is going to persuade you that the San Francisco Giants are better.

If you are a fan of Apple, you are not going to listen to anyone singing the praises of Microsoft.

If you think genetically modified food is a terrible idea, you’ll close your ears to anyone who suggests it’s a great idea.

When we are asked to consider possibilities or opinions that run counter to our beliefs and familiar narratives, we feel uncomfortable. In other words, we feel cognitive dissonance.

And what does any of this have to do with the craft of copywriting?

It has everything to do with it.

Let’s say I am tasked with selling a crunchy health bar that is not only organic, but also contains zero genetically modified ingredients. It’s GMO-free. 100%.

First, as per my previous post, I’m going to point to GMO as being the single greatest threat to your health.

I’m not going to make things complicated by talking about a hundred other things that might be bad for you.

I’m giving my readers a single cause to latch on to. GMO is the villain.

I’m then going to start reinforcing this belief with a series of stories. All will point in the same direction. And a compelling narrative will be born.

I can do this within a single, long sales page. Or I can do it piecemeal, as part of an ongoing campaign, over time.

Consider what I’m doing here.

I’m not selling the crunchy health bar.

I’m selling GMO as the single cause of all your health problems. I’m giving my readers a simple answer to a vexing, complex question.

And then I am developing a narrative around that single, simple answer.

If I can do that successfully, I can then sell those health bars with the lightest of touches. “Hey, they GMO-free!”

Of course, my client’s part of the job is to find audiences that are receptive to an anti-GMO message.

In summary…

Find and know your audience.

Identify a problem they have. (They want to improve their health.)

Point to a single cause for their problem. (GMO foods.)

With that cause in mind, identify your product as the solution. (Your product is GMO-free.)

Build a narrative around that single cause that is compelling, convincing and ongoing. (21 Reasons why GMO foods are a danger to your health.)

Build it to the point that your audience feels discomfort when they are exposed to an opposing viewpoint. (Monsanto sends out a press release singing the praises of GMO.)

After that, the task of selling becomes relatively simple.

It’s simple because once you get your audience on board with a single cause and a compelling narrative, they become believers…and will stick with you and your products or services for as long as you provide a solution that matches their belief.

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.

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