A Rational Argument for Emotion-based Sales Copy

Monkeys raised in isolation couldn’t even figure out how to have sex. The females just sat there, unmoved by the amorous advances of socially normal males. And the males – well, let’s just say they couldn’t figure out which end was up.

Baby monkey clings to the soft "mother" even while it nurses from the wire one
Baby monkey clings to the soft "mother" even while it nurses from the wire one

If you took psychology in college you might remember the experiment conducted by Dr. Harry Harlow at the University of Wisconsin.

Harlow took baby rhesus monkeys and raised them in isolation.  Instead of a mother, they were given access to surrogate dummies – one made only of wire, the other wrapped in soft cloth.

It will come as no surprise to the parents among us that the baby monkeys preferred the soft, cuddly mothers – even when only the wire one offered food.

But what’s even more telling is what happened to the monkeys once they grew up.

Not a single one of the monkeys raised in isolation was able to function in a normal monkey social environment.  They exhibited abnormal behavior ranging from clutching themselves and rocking to “excessive and misdirected aggresion.”

They couldn’t even figure out how to have sex.  The females just sat there, unmoved by the amorous advances of socially normal males.  And the males – well, let’s just say they couldn’t figure out which end was up.

As adults, the mother monkeys who had been raised motherless were unable to nurture their young.  They either completely ignored their infants or became monkey abusers, biting and otherwise abusing them so violently that many of them died.

Rationally, the baby monkeys had everything they needed.  Food, shelter, a warm cuddly “mother.”  But without the warm touch and emotional response of other monkeys, they never really made it to monkeyhood.

So what does this have to do with copywriting?

Only this:  that you and I – and our customers – are not much different from those baby monkeys.  After all, we share something like 93% of our genes in common.

And like them, our inner well-being is shaped and supported not by reason, but by our emotional interaction with the world.

It’s tempting to try to base your sales arguments on reason.   Emotional arguments often don’t even make sense.  Until you realize that the very survival of our species is dependent on  emotional give and take.

When you look at it that way, focusing on the emotions first becomes the most reasonable persuasive approach.

Thankfully,  we won’t have to torture any more baby monkeys to prove it.  The proof is in the superior response emotion-driven copy almost always pulls.

Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer who specializes in helping Green and renewable energy companies enjoy increased attention and greater sales through dynamic sales copy and insightful content.

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