Copywriting Tip: Stir Emotion and Calm the Mind

(Written and Published for my blog Reinventing Direct at Target Marketing Magazine).

Stimulate. Calm. In the direct marketing world, these are two related, but contrasting messaging and copywriting concepts that every marketer and copywriter should master. Why? Because a sure-fire way to get attention from prospective customers is by stimulating emotion. But you don’t want to stimulate emotion and drop the ball there. You must then immediately calm the mind so your prospect’s fears are relieved, allowing them to become engaged with your message, so they will pause long enough for you to introduce them to your solution.

In my most recent column, titled Leveraging Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in Copywriting, I described how fear paralyzes thinking because it’s an instinctive response from the amygdala, our lizard brain. 

But because fear is so overwhelming as a natural response, it shuts off the thinking part of the brain. So while, as a copywriter, you want to stimulate emotion tapping into fear, uncertainty and doubt, you need to quickly calm the mind so decision-making is unblocked. And you can do that by dangling a carrot in front of your audience to moderate their mood.

Search the Web for “how do you calm the mind” and you’ll get thousands of websites with meditation advice. While you don’t want to steer prospects to meditate—at least in the stereotypical way you think of meditation—you do want your prospect to be calmed enough to focus on your message.

To more fully grasp the connection between stimulating emotion and the need to calm the mind, it may be helpful to take a deeper dive into how our brains respond to stimuli. Your brain is filled with neurotransmitters, and knowing the signals they transmit will help you better understand how the brain functions. For marketers, it’s important that you know how to use these signals to strengthen your messaging. 

Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body.  They relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons.”  The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest.  They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight, and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance. 

There are two kinds of neurotransmitters: inhibitory and excitatory.  Excitatory neurotransmitters stimulate the brain.  Inhibitory neurotransmitters calm the brain and help create balance. 

So as a direct marketer, after stimulating emotion you must quickly balance the mood. When you over-stimulate, the inhibitory neurotransmitters can be depleted and instead of focusing on your solution, you leave your prospect focusing on their fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Those inhibitory neurotransmitters—those brain chemicals—include:

  • Serotonin, which is necessary for a stable mood and to balance any excessive excitatory (stimulating) neurotransmitter firing in the brain. 
  • Gaba helps to calm and relax us, by balancing stimulation over-firing.
  • Dopamine is a special neurotransmitter because it is considered to be both excitatory and inhibitory.  It’s very complex. When it spikes, it can motivate and give a person pleasure. When elevated or low, it can cause focus issues such as not remembering what a paragraph said when we just finished reading it (obviously, not something marketers want to happen when reading our copy). 

With a cocktail of brain chemicals swirling around in your prospect’s mind, here are a few ways you can calm your prospect’s mind after stimulating their emotion:

  1. Announce a new discovery
  2. Introduce a solution
  3. Assure with a promise
  4. Promise a reward
  5. Brighten the mood of the message to evoke pleasant memory
  6. Introduce new learning 

Stimulate. Calm. With these two initial steps, you’ve grabbed attention and have moderated mood so your prospect desires to hear and read more about you.


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.