How To Use Negativity In Your Copy Part 2 [Copywriting Knowhow]

I guess I should have started this series on negativity with a definition of it, so here it is (or at least Google’s version): “the expression of criticism of or pessimism about something.”.

Can you sell stuff using negativity? Hell yes. It’s why we started (in part 1) with Envy. If I envy something someone else has, it tells anyone willing to listen that I’m in the market for getting it myself. But is there really a desire for that thing?

Back in the 1970’s I was hugely envious of anyone with a 4 wheel drive vehicle, and in particular, the Range Rover (I mean, what’s not to like, anyone rich and famous had one, but all the plebs – ie. me, didn’t – and with very little chance of ever getting one either).

Then years later, I started associating them with people I didn’t like (ie. people I never wanted to be like – you know the type, arrogant, rich, and rude with it haha!). So I asked myself this question: if someone came along today and said, here’s the keys to this brand new Range Rover, do you accept? I think there’s a slight chance I might say yes. In fact, there’s a whopping huge great chance I’d say yes.

But what if they said, it will cost you $xxxxx. Now it’s become a transaction. If the margin between what they wanted and what I’d be willing to pay for it from the point of view of either a) owning it, or b) reselling it at a profit, I’d still say yes. But you can see quite obviously, the desire for the car has been replaced with an economic one (a desire is still there, but it’s not the same).

There’s another aspect though. If left unrequited, envy can turn into possibly the most negative feeling of all – destroying all desire in the process – more about that in part 3 on Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile, let’s talk about greed (with thanks to Mary Kay Temple who mentioned it in a comment). Unlike envy, greed is evergreen. With envy it’s something we haven’t got but desperately want. With greed it’s something we already have a little of, but want more of. In fact, not just more, we want it all.

It’s almost certainly the most useless need (and I hesitate to use ‘need’, but the need for greed is real and never seems to go away).

The vast majority of us on the planet cannot understand why a billionaire should want to accumulate more billions (is that envy?). But that’s what seems to happen to these people (even when Warren Buffett suggests all billionaires should give away half their fortune to good causes, he tries, but as of today, he’s worth more than ever).

So is it greedy to accumulate money? Here’s the definition of greed: “intense and selfish DESIRE for something, especially wealth, power, or food”. Now we have it, the D word itself – but better than that – it’s INTENSE DESIRE, and it applies to pretty much everything – wealth, power, food (only relationships and health seem to be missing – kinda makes sense really).

What we have so far then is this: If I know a group of people are envious of another group of people (or anything), I can write about it and ramp up that envy to the point at which they will become desperate to own it.

I can also use association to help them see that it IS possible for them to become part of the club (ie. the thing they envy – be it a person, group, or thing), that they can afford it, and that they can have it sooner than they ever dreamed.

And once they’ve bought into that, I can ramp it up still further using the greed factor by defining a future so full of it they’ll never be in need again. So whilst one negative will do, just as in maths, two negatives can make for an even more positive solution. But let’s go the whole way and introduce the third, and perhaps most vitriolic of all. Click here for part 3.


greed, negative

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