Have you ever read the book "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls? When you get to the end, I promise you'll be crying like a baby. My daughter just completed fifth grader and her class had wrapped this book up and she lamented over its ending, how well her teacher did in narrating it aloud, and how even the boys in class cried. Old Dan and Little Ann sure made an impact on a certain set of middle school students. I can relate.
Why? Because Rawls taps into powerful human emotions that take readers on a heartfelt journey with the characters. He does it with the story, but more so with how he TELLS the story.
Painting an emotional picture.
When reading great emotive writing like The Red Fern, you form an unbreakable relationship with the descriptive, emotionally-packed words. They are the chariot that carries you from beginning to end, allowing you to see, smell, taste and touch the imagined world along the way. More than anything, the writing lets you FEEL the same emotions as the characters. Which, in the case of The Red Fern, will have you reaching for a tissue more than once.
OK, that’s fiction. What about marketing writing?
Great marketing writing can forge as strong an emotional relationship with the reader as fine fiction does. “Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing,” author Douglas Van Praet explains “We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder (marketing) decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made.”
Just watch this and you’ll appreciate the power of “feeling” when it comes to selling (Kleenex Tissues by the way, since that’s the theme we’ve got going). The big takeaway here is REAL feelings get REAL results:
How to inject feeling into your writing
Keep it real! If that Kleenex video teaches us one thing (and it’s the most important thing), it’s that communicating honest, authentic emotions will resonate with your readers and cause them to FEEL the intended emotion.
What emotions are we talking about?
Robert Plutchik was a noted psychologist who developed a psycho-evolutionary theory of emotions. His extensive research and big brain led him toward identifying our 8 basic emotions.
Now, you might read that list and think ‘Geez, I don’t want to use emotions like fear and sadness in my marketing.’ But oh, yes you do! Whether you’re selling a product or a service, the use of emotion in communications is a ying-yang kind of thing. Here’s an example:
A teenager’s prom is on the horizon. She fears that she’ll have an acne outbreak before the dance. The thought of it makes her sad, angry and disgusted. Then she discovers some marketing communications from a skin care brand that really seems to understand her negative emotions. The words are compassionate, honest. The brand then spells out how they can solve her problem with the science that’s built into their skin care product. Suddenly, her fear is replaced with surprise; sadness becomes joy; anger surrenders to anticipation; and disgust becomes trust.
Don't say it, show it
If a company just lays down the facts and figures of their product or service offering, it does little to stir emotions. The skin care brand mentioned above could explain how their product cures acne through pH balancing, amino acids, exfoliants, etc., etc. Yawn. But, when they wrap all those virtues into a narrative that captures their consumers’ core emotions – Bam! That’s when people reach for their wallets.
Practice emotional writing through journaling
To infuse more real-honest-to-goodness emotion into your company’s marketing communications, do some practicing in private. Write about your own life and experiences in a journal where you can be 100% honest with yourself. Nobody else has to read it. It’s like planting an emotion plant in your brain, and every time you write you’ll be giving it a little water and nutrients. It’ll grow, and as it does the emotional connections will spread like roots into your marketing writing too.
Solve problems with understanding and compassion
Step one in communicating with your customers is understanding them. Know the problems they face. Know their fears, and really think about how your product or service can allay those fears. Then, put your solutions out there with a compassionate voice that says “Hey friend, I get you, and I think I can help you.”
Take inspiration from what you read
Next time you crack open a paperback from your favorite author or even read a riveting blog or magazine article, pay attention to your feelings. If you’re moved, inspired, thrilled, shocked, saddened or whatever, think about HOW the writer’s words triggered your response. Then, copy it! Learn from the masters. And hey, maybe start with “Where the Red Fern Grows."
My fire is fueled by the relationships I make, build, and cherish. I love hearing people’s stories, what makes them who they are, and where I fit into their lives. As the Content Services Manager at Leighton Interactive, I'm a storyteller. I’m lucky that I can use my natural ability to help people find their voices, tell their stories, and reach their goals so their businesses can get results. Outside the office I get excited to find sunshine, consume iced coffee, work out, or add unique pieces of jewelry to my ever-growing collection. I also tell stories on behalf of AAF and serve as District 8's Second Lt. Governor & NSAC chair.