Well, that was Blue Monday, but what about the rest of the week?
Updated: Mar 13
Four formulae to get you through to Friday.
How was Blue Monday for you? Was it thoroughly depressing? Did it make you book a summer holiday? Because that’s why it was created. The idea was launched in 2005 by holiday company, Sky Travel, using an equation developed by part-time Cardiff Uni tutor, Cliff Arnall. Most years, the answer is the third Monday in January. The equation looks impressive:
where W=weather, d=debt, D=monthly salary, T=time since Christmas, Q=time since failing our new year's resolutions, M=low motivational levels, and Na=the feeling of a need to take action.
It’s pretty spurious but tallies with a sense of winter blues. And, for a travel company, it’s a great persuasive prompt for booking a summer holiday.
But why should formulae be reserved for Mondays. Given we’re all struggling to get going in the dark days of January, here are four more formulae to get you through the week and add a dab of persuasion to your copy:
Tuesday: D x V x F > R
Behavioural psychologists have identified the key factors in overcoming resistance to change as a combination of dissatisfaction, vision, and first steps to solving the problem. We think it makes a good copy structure too.
What are copywriters paid to do? Overcome resistance. Resistance to products, to brands, to charitable handwringing, to pretty much anything. Here’s how the formula works for copywriters:
D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now. Something your audience can really relate to. Imagine you’re selling fibre broadband. ‘Fed up with slow downloads? should strike a chord.
V = Vision of what is possible. ‘Imagine if the whole family could watch the films they want at the same time’.
F = First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision. Something easy and achievable: ‘It’s only going to cost £7.99 for the first three months.’
It’s not exactly your standard copywriting formula, but it’s a very effective structure for an opening paragraph.
Let’s simplify things a little. This basic ratio can make all the difference to your copy. It’s an old direct response writers’ adage – three “you’s” to every “we”. Try rewriting your copy with that formula in mind. You’ll find it becomes a lot more involving. So, ‘We think this is a great formula for engaging copy’ becomes ‘you’re going to love the way this formula makes your copy more engaging.’
It’s not just an opera by Verdi. AIDA is also a handy formula that has shown results for over 100 years. Some people will tell you it’s past its sell-by date. We say, give it a try. Grab the reader’s Attention. Keep them Interested. Appeal to their personal Desires and make them take Action.
Grab the reader’s attention. Traditionally this was a headline, but it could be an email subject line or even a tweet.
Typically, a story about a real person. We’re all suckers for real-life stories. Dave Trott’s blogs do this to perfection.
Where you ramp up the benefit story to tell readers ‘what’s in it for them’. A stalwart tactic in persuasive copywriting.
Calls to action have their own formula for success:
• Command (a verb like ‘book’)
• Singular (your, you, my, our etc)
• Promising (tickets to the best show since Hamilton)
• Clear about what happens next (sales open tomorrow)
• FOMO (for a limited season)
• Enthusiastic (don’t let the energy you put into the rest of the email flag here)
This Netflix sign up page ticks most of the boxes:
Slightly different kind of formula for Friday. But effective nonetheless. Dopamine, often called the pleasure chemical (it does other things too but feeling good is what’s important), can be triggered by different aspects of writing.
For example, stories with happy endings trigger dopamine. So, make sure your copy has happy endings all the way through – let the reader picture themselves in the perfect future your product or service will give them. Make sure the Call to Action has a reward.
New things also make our brains release the chemical. Redefine, refresh and revitalise your product or service descriptions. Telling people your products are new and improved may seem cliched but it actually works. Of course, you could be more subtle and say that you’ve listened to your customers, you’ve taken the feedback into the latest version, the product is all about their needs.
The anticipation of rewards increases the level of dopamine in the brain too. So promises and benefits all add to the dopamine triggers.
Saying all of that will cause a little dopamine spike that predisposes your customers to your brand that little bit more.
And something for the weekend
Dr Rhys Morgan, of the Royal Academy of Engineering, spent hours calculating the best chance of success. Gave the world another great formula in 2015. The formula for the perfect poohstick:
PP = A x I x Cd
Where PP is the Perfect Poohstick. A is Cross Sectional Area. I is density of the stick. Cd is the drag coefficient of the stick.
Which means that the Perfect Poohstick is tubby and long, fairly heavy (but not so heavy it will sink to the bottom of the river), with quite a lot of bark to catch the flow of the river like paddles.
And if playing Poohsticks doesn’t cheer you up, nothing will.