4 Effective Strategies To Trigger Powerful Emotions In Your Copywriting (To Drive Higher Engagement And Conversions)

How many times has someone told you to “get control” of your emotions?

It’s this magical concept that, somehow, ignoring your feelings ensures rational decisions. 

The truth is, consumers lead with their hearts, whether they know it or not. Emotions evolved to allow human beings to survive and thrive. The most basic of emotions: 

  • Fear
  • Anger 
  • Sadness 
  • Joy 
  • Surprise
  • Anticipation
  • Trust
  • Disgust

They all create physiological responses that protect and enrich whoever experiences them. As simple as it is for animals, it becomes much more nuanced in human beings. These strategies will teach you to write compelling copy with emotional triggers.


Effective Strategy To Trigger Powerful Emotions In Your Copywriting (To Drive Higher Engagement And Conversions) #1: The Wheel Of Emotions

4 effective strategies to trigger powerful emotions in your copywriting (to drive higher engagement and conversions)

Psychologists have categorized emotions in many ways. The most widely-used and pertinent among them is Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.

Plutchik arranged emotions according to their intended physiological effect. He believes emotions have a connection to actions that protect people.

Learn more about the 4 key emotions you should highlight in your copy here.


Fear And Anger

According to Plutchik’s theory, fear is the opposite of anger. Fear warns us to get small and hide. It’s linked to the “flight” mechanism of the sympathetic nervous system. Anger wants us to become big and scary to intimidate the triggering object. Both emotions are hard-wired to handle threats.

Copywriters and advertisers use fear in advertising all the time. They know consumers are afraid of many things, like loss, pain, and fear of missing out. That’s why insurance companies and anti-drug campaigns use fear in their advertising.

If you can paint a vivid enough “boogeyman” and show how you help, people are more likely to take you up on your offer. Don’t overdo it, though. Sometimes too much fear stops the consumer from acting at all.

Some common trigger words for creating fear are as follows:

  • Concern
  • Doubt
  • Worry
  • Nightmare
  • Embarrassed
  • Danger
  • Warning
  • Failure

Anger motivates people to confront and challenge the threat. Rather than avoid something, you want to face it head-on. When people think something's unfair or someone's taken advantage of, they fight back.

Common trigger words for anger include:

  • Scandal
  • Violent
  • Offensive
  • Despicable
  • Violated
  • Retaliation
  • Fury
  • Tantrum
  • Sulk

Anger comes somewhere between annoyance and rage. When harnessed, it'll drive the consumer into immediate action. Convince them that your product solves their pain points and sell them on your benefits.


Joy And Sadness

Joy sends electrochemical signals to the brain to connect with your copy. Joy leads to pleasure, a powerful motivator. According to the Thorndike Principle, pleasant experiences lead to repeated behavior.

Some common trigger words for joy:

  • Happy
  • Serenity
  • Ecstasy
  • Love
  • Carefree
  • Delightful

Sadness leads to empathy and the desire to fix the problem. Some would consider it a negative emotion, but it’s another way the body tells a person to act. 

People either withdraw from sadness or find a way to get rid of it. Empowering a customer to neutralize sadness encourages them to use your product. 

Some trigger words for sadness are:

  • Envy
  • Grief
  • Heartbroken
  • Shame
  • Tearful
  • Troubled

Imagine a homeowner who is envious of his neighbor’s lawn. It may seem silly, but many people have concerns about appearances and want to be the best in their class. 

You could sell fertilizer and weed killer to someone with that perceived inadequacy. Any inadequacy becomes a problem that your company has the chance to solve.

4 effective strategies to trigger powerful emotions in your copywriting (to drive higher engagement and conversions)

Surprise And Anticipation

Next up on the emotion wheel, we have surprise as opposed to anticipation. Surprise happens when you're unaware. Anticipation occurs when you know what’s next. 

People don’t always meet surprises with open arms. The emotion makes us want to “jump back” from the unfamiliar object. In this case, the surprise works by drawing the consumer to an old, familiar standard. 

Words that elicit thoughts of surprise:

  • Awe
  • Jaw-dropping
  • Mind-blowing
  • Astonishing
  • Breathtaking
  • Terrific

According to Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions, the opposite of surprise is anticipation. You know what’s coming next and can imagine it happening. Anticipation will make a person get closer and examine what you have to offer. 

Video game releases and sequels to books do this. They use a lot of publicity and take advantage of strong brand loyalty. Readers become invested in stories and can’t wait to see what happens to the characters next.

Anticipation could be as simple as when your mouth waters during a pizza commercial. People instinctively get hungry when they see delicious food. It’s why you won’t be hungry, then someone else brings it up, and you change your mind.

Common words of anticipation include:

  • Crave
  • Discover
  • Inspiration
  • Little-known
  • Yearning
  • Enthusiasm

A common marketing technique for selling items on clearance is the mystery bag. A seller tosses random items into an opaque bag and sells them for a low price. People buy them because they want to know what’s inside.

You can make a “mystery bag” in a metaphorical sense. Offer a free download when a person subscribes to your mailing list. Take advantage of natural curiosity.


Trust And Disgust

Trust draws us in, makes us want to get closer to something. We like the things that we trust, or we are at least familiar with them. 

For example, sometimes, many generations of a family watch the same soap opera. They grow up as the characters grow up and watch it with their mothers and grandmothers. 

It could be a familiar brand, like Tide Laundry Detergent or Coca-cola. Sometimes people never try a different brand. They’re comfortable with the product they already use. 

It can take a great deal of effort to drag a person away from a brand that they’ve trusted their entire lives. But if you get to be that brand, you have a customer for life to get in on the ground floor early on.

Words associated with trust:

  • Admire
  • Authority
  • Faithful
  • Guaranteed
  • Proven
  • Reliable
  • Scientific
  • Trustworthy

When something is disgusting, people want to run away. This might be the most straightforward concept to visualize. Think of garbage or a sink of dirty dishes. Now think of garbage bags and dishwashing soap. Whenever people feel disgusted, they’re ready to buy what it takes to make it go away.

Words indicating disgust:

  • Icky
  • Junk
  • Nasty
  • Obscene
  • Outrageous


Trigger Words

“Trigger words” get a bad rap nowadays. It’s not only about what upsets you — it’s about language that evokes specific images and emotions. When you use the right triggers, you can put the customer in the right state of mind to buy or use your product. 

Some people say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” That doesn’t mean it takes a thousand words to paint a picture. Only clear, evocative language used in the right context.

For instance, take “Saturday mornings.” Depending on who you’re talking to, it might make them think about cartoons and breakfast cereal. Or, it could mean something completely different. 

This is where it’s essential to understand the voice of the customer. You need to fine-tune personas so you know how to provoke emotional responses. It sounds more nefarious than it is.


Effective Strategy To Trigger Powerful Emotions In Your Copywriting (To Drive Higher Engagement And Conversions) #2: Motivational Language

4 effective strategies to trigger powerful emotions in your copywriting (to drive higher engagement and conversions)

According to this construct, there are eight “primary” emotions. Even if that's true, there are many mixes of emotions. You could write a book about how to use each one (several, actually), but we’re only going to touch on a few.



When you were growing up, did you ever want to be one of the cool kids? Even a little? Don’t feel bad. It’s natural for humans to want status. That’s why credit card companies have platinum rewards members. It’s also why country clubs exist.

Make your customer feel special by using exclusive language. 

  • For members only
  • One per customer
  • Limited time only
  • Customer rewards member
  • For the discerning consumer

Why do people wear expensive watches? Is it because they appreciate engineering? Because they don’t know what time it is? No, in most cases, it’s a status symbol.

That’s not to say that a Rolex isn’t a great watch or that it isn’t worth the money. It means that people buy it for reasons beyond the practical use that it offers.



“Greed is good,” Gordon Gekko declares in the classic movie “Wall Street.” Like it or not, it was the motto for the 80s, and the economy still runs on this principle. People want better, faster, stronger, and more. 

Show them people who used your product and became richer, happier, or more successful. Tell them that they, too, can have a taste of the good life.

It’s not only about money. Some of the least wealthy people spend massive amounts of money collecting something. It could be porcelain cats, Star Wars collectibles, or antique lunch boxes. Everybody wants more of something.

Greed trigger words include:

  • Jackpot
  • Fortune
  • Golden
  • Whopping
  • Massive
  • Frenzy
  • Six-figure


Guilt And Salvation

Salvation isn’t only about religion. It’s about deliverance from anything you feel bad about. That could be anything: a flabby tummy, a messy house, or that extra beer you had at the bar.

Guilt happens when our reality falls short of our potential. It’s one of the most powerful motivators in advertising. 

  • Regret
  • Remorse
  • Shame
  • Responsibility

When you show how the benefits of your product address their pain points, you offer salvation. A new diet drug, a convenient dry mop, or a special app on your phone that reminds you when you’ve had enough to drink. These would solve the problems you mentioned during the guilt phase.

  • Help
  • Saving
  • Redemption
  • Lifeline



Imagine you’re selling a fitness program based on powdered banana supplements. You want to praise the consumer for recognizing the value of your offer and enrolling in the program. 

Weight loss and beauty advertisements appeal to the consumer’s vanity. It doesn’t have to be about physical appearance, though. Vanity includes social status, academic achievement, career development — anything that makes up self-esteem.

There are two sides to this coin. You could praise the consumer for agreeing with you and buying your product. Or you could appeal to their insecurities and show how you can help them be their best selves.

Flattery is a delicate balance between impact and sincerity. A little goes a long way. 



Everybody knows that “curiosity killed the cat.” Few people know about the second line to that saying, “but satisfaction brought it back.” Human beings are curious, and you can take advantage of this in your copy.

Use your buyer personas and other research to discover your audience's pain points. Tease the reader to suggest that you produce the benefits your consumer is seeking.

Conversions and sales are all about solving problems. Get their attention, and keep their interest throughout with a solid focus on what you can do for them.


Instant Gratification

Today’s consumers expect instant gratification. Blame Amazon for its two-day shipping. Your customers are eager to get results.

Meet the need for instant gratification by offering immediate results. Try something like signing up for an email list. That could net the consumer a free instructional booklet download. 

Words like “now” or “within 24 hours” trigger the need for instant gratification. A weight loss program could promise the loss of at least ten pounds in the first month. Your new complexion serum could promise clearer, brighter skin in seven days. 



90s kids will understand this the most. Nostalgia is a powerful trigger in advertising. It comes from the root words “nost” for homecoming and “algia” for pain. It’s a bittersweet feeling of remembering the old days through rose-colored glasses.

Nostalgia in advertising didn’t start with the 90s. Its use in today’s media only manifests as fond memories of the time’s music, culture, and media.

1950s inspired diners operate on the same principle. If you can remind a generation of their glory years, you can sell them anything to recapture that feeling.

Want to learn about emotional hooks that you can use in your copy? Check out this article.


Effective Strategy To Trigger Powerful Emotions In Your Copywriting (To Drive Higher Engagement And Conversions) #3: Common Goals

4 effective strategies to trigger powerful emotions in your copywriting (to drive higher engagement and conversions)

Show how your goals match the goals of your audience. You want to help them identify and solve their problems. Once you empathize and identify needs, you can help them find success and fulfillment.


A Face In The Crowd

Western audiences value independence and originality. It’s partly ego and partly their susceptibility to flattery that drives them to achieve.

We place a significant emphasis on the “coming of age” narrative. If you can convince the viewer that you'll help them stand out in the crowd, they'll be more agreeable to your offer.

  • Blossom
  • Prosper
  • Boom
  • Flourish



Everybody wants a little more freedom. Freedom from worry, freedom from responsibility, freedom from the shackles of convention. Find something they’re worried about or something holding them back. Then, show how you can liberate them.

Automobile ads are excellent at this. They show high-performance vehicles navigating treacherous mountain passes and incredible views. Let the viewer picture how much lighter, faster, or stronger they'll feel with your product.



Car advertisements also engender excitement. Pleasure, anticipation, that feeling of being alive. Have you heard the phrase, “If you could bottle x, you’d make a fortune?” That excitement produces a visceral reaction that draws customers into your world.



Self-improvement or self-help is a vast industry. People want to buy products that will make them better people. Diet and fitness industry advertisements know this very well. Offering a “quick fix” (instant gratification) motivates the buyer to take action. 



It could mean preventing the loss of your possessions, or it could be less tangible. People work hard for what they have and will go far to protect it.

Insurance provides security against loss. A regular skincare regimen prevents premature aging. If you provoke fear, you can show how you can prevent it.


Effective Strategy To Trigger Powerful Emotions In Your Copywriting (To Drive Higher Engagement And Conversions) #4: Emotional Audit

4 effective strategies to trigger powerful emotions in your copywriting (to drive higher engagement and conversions)

Review your copy to ensure that you’ve reached all the high points and goals for your organization. Are you using strong language for the most impact? Be sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you using emotional trigger words?
  • Does your message focus on one central idea?
  • Are you targeting the correct audience?

4 effective strategies to trigger powerful emotions in your copywriting (to drive higher engagement and conversions)

Update Your Buyer Personas

You waste trigger words if you don’t target the correct audience. Remember, don’t try to appeal to everyone, but specific groups of people based on market research. 

Understand the demographic, infographic, and geographic data. Use a combination of surveys, focus groups, and social media mining. Show the direct correlation between their concerns and the results that you offer.


Focus On Headlines, But Follow U

The right headline will grab the viewer’s attention, but well-written copy makes the sale. Keep emotional triggers consistent and relate them to the pain points you solve. Don’t only provoke an emotion. Use it and connect it to the benefits you have to offer.


Put It All Together, And What Do You Get?

4 effective strategies to trigger powerful emotions in your copywriting (to drive higher engagement and conversions)

Robert Plutchik described a “wheel of emotions” that creates the entire human experience. He based the main categories on whether the emotion drew the viewer in or repulsed them.

Joy, anticipation, and trust all draw the viewer closer. Sadness, surprise, and disgust push them away. Anger and fear are powerful motivators of the “fight or flight” mechanism all animals have.

The word “trigger” itself may have negative connotations today. In reality, it means the correct phrase to connect with your readers and hold their attention. All good marketing hinges on emotion and the psychology of the customer.

You can also appeal to a viewer’s lower emotions, such as greed, vanity, and instant gratification. People are complex creatures with drives and desires as complicated as each other.

Here's how you can effectively trigger emotions in your sales copy for better conversions.


What Else Do You Have To Offer?

4 effective strategies to trigger powerful emotions in your copywriting (to drive higher engagement and conversions)

Self-improvement, salvation, and security all appeal to a person’s better nature. They represent what people want to be.

Indulgence in curiosity and nostalgia provides endless possibilities for marketing. Appeal to their inner child and natural desire to hold onto the past to reel them in.

Make sure you’re talking to the right audience. Update buyer personas and make sure consumers care about the problems you address. 

Don’t make assumptions. Back them up with research and testing.

Emotions inform us and affect every decision we make. Rather than being distractions, they’re some of the greatest ways to get desired results. 

Create the connection between their heightened emotional state and your solution. Do that and you can draw your audience to action. You’re here to help them meet their needs and show them how you can do it.


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