In part 1 of this series we looked at fear as one of the four cornerstones of copy. Today it’s the turn of Greed – perhaps the most exploited human emotion of all (when it comes to copy villains).
To understand it, we use the concept of First Principles (which itself is deeply embedded in philosophy, the first pillar of which is called Metaphysics – or “what is it?”). So that’s where we start. Here’s the definition according to Google:
“Intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.”
That sums it up perfectly. Note the keyword DESIRE (see my 4 part series on that a few weeks back). When we NEED something, we need it in order to survive (ie. without it, we will die one way or another, Richard Dawkins called it “The Selfish Gene”). But when we WANT something, it’s the opposite (even though we’re often heard to say “I’d die to get that” or “I’d die to be like that”).
Greed plays on our wants – not our needs (that’s the first thing to know about it). It’s why it’s used so much by the internet marketing fraternity to get people to part with their money (sending it, ironically, to the very people who end up getting it – definitely not a win win situation, although that’s often stated as a benefit).
The second thing to know about greed, is it’s a hope enhancer (we’ll get to hope in the 4th part of this mini series). If someone is shown a solution that fixes a problem they’re currently experiencing, their hope level is raised (as is their desire to have it fixed). But add on a few bonuses, and their greed level is raised too (suddenly we not only get our cake, but we can eat it and a whole lot more too).
And the third and final thing worth knowing about greed is that we all have it (which is why it’s so exploitable). Even the most pious of people sense its presence and do their best to ignore its strong pull.
Should you also exploit it in your copy? That’s up to you. Your moral compass will tell you what to do, but bear one thing in mind: the third pillar of philosophy is Ethics, or, “how far are you prepared to go to get what you want?”. When push comes to shove, that is one hard decision.
Part 3 follows below.
I've spent my working life starting and running a whole variety of businesses, from my first QPL Express Couriers where I travelled over 100,000 miles every year delivering packages on a motorcycle (along with a whole bunch of colleagues) to Accountz.com which made a major in-road in the UK, to ProofMEDIA my current business that focuses on Copywriting and the International Copywriters Association, which helps copywriters learn more about copywriting and the copywriting industry around the world.
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