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5 sales psychology tricks copywriters can learn from animals 

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I love watching animals. Out on the street (hello, sly city fox). At the park. In my apartment (hello, fish friends).

 

There’s actually a ladybird crawling across my laptop as we speak.

 

The point is, I really love animals. I even dreamed about becoming a vet when I was nine. Cue high-school biology with its dissected pig hearts and big words like “osteoblast” and turns out sciencey stuff just wasn’t for me.

 

But despite all the heavy words and bloody guts, my fascination with creatures has endured to this very day. Which is why I’m pretty excited about this blog. It combines two of my favourite things; animals and writing.

 

And delivers you a perfectly packaged bundle of sales psychology tricks that you can use to amplify your copywriting.

 

The teachers in question?

 

Animals. 

 

Peacocks, poison dart frogs, and all.

 

1. Get flashy 

 

Cue David Attenborough’s voice…

A cheeky male peacock vies for the attention of a female. His plumage – magnificent. His feathers – ruffling. His body – dancing.  A mouse serenades his love with ultrasonic sound.

 

Now those are grand displays of love. They’re flashy. Exuberant. Attention-grabbing. 

 

Remember that time your partner created a trail of red rose petals and guitar-strummed their way into your heart?

 

Me neither.

 

Point is, it would WOW you. It would pull you in. Intrigue you. It might even get you to move a little closer to their open arms.

 

It’s exactly the same with animals.

 

Birds and mice put on an elaborate courtship display for their boos to get them interested in what they have to offer (grade-A mate material).

 

The lesson?

 

Get flashy with your copy. Make like a peacock and craft your headlines in a way that demands attention. 

 

Here’s how:

 

  • Use power words

 

Play on emotions and trigger psychological responses with POWER words that reel readers in (e.g., new, free, exclusive, amazing).

 

  • Keep it simple

 

A headline is supposed to pique a reader’s interest, not feed them the whole damn cake. Feed in one attention-grabbing thought for every headline that you create.

 

  • Create a sense of urgency

 

Remember that ad that made you desperate to buy pink roller skates even though you knew you’d never use them? It probably played on a cheeky psychological trigger: urgency. 

 

A trigger that leaves readers feeling major FOMO. 

 

Top tip? Use words like “now”, “hurry”, and “instant” (time-related power words) to get readers to take action.

 

  • Use the curiosity gap to pique interest

 

We’re all fascinated by what we don’t know. And that’s exactly what the curiosity gap is all about – leaving readers wanting to know more.

 

This means not revealing everything. It means introducing an idea or a thought or a question and keeping your readers on a cliffhanger. 

 

(For a deep dive into the curiosity gap and how you can use it in your copy, check out our blog post.)

 

  • Use numbers

 

Give readers a sneak peek of what’s waiting for them with numbers (i.e., 5 ways to make vegan cupcakes).

2. Get pushy

 

Let me tell you a little story from eight-year-old me.

 

My family and I – born-and-bred South Africans – were just about halfway through a Serengeti safari cruise when our car stumbled across an elephant.

 

My uncle – the veteran safarier/bushman/everything man that he was – inched closer without a care in the world. I, however, had read up about charging elephants and knew that they liked their space.

 

“We should leave.” Even at eight years old, I was a party pooper.

 

But it didn’t really matter because my uncle didn’t listen. He kept advancing forward. 

 

And that’s when it happened.

 

The elephant’s ears pinned back and started flapping like crazy.

 

We left that spot pronto.

 

The moral of the story? Don’t invade an elephant’s personal space. 

 

This display of bravado and “Don’t come near me, I’m warning you” is pretty common in the animal kingdom.

 

It’s called aposematism (fancy biology talk for when animals show predators that it’s not worth attacking them via signals).

 

These signals can be colour-based (think yellow poison dart frogs) but they can also be behaviour-based.

 

Point is, this pushy behaviour gets other animals – namely predators – to take action.

 

To not eat that frog or come closer to the elephant, leaving said creatures all happy and safe.

 

The lesson?

 

Get pushy with your copy, specifically in your CTAs. Play it like an elephant and get your readers to take action. To subscribe to that newsletter. 

 

Think of it as the aposematism of the copywriting world but instead of pushing readers away with a sound warning, you’re spurring them on with a signal that’s imperative and direct.

 

A few tips:

 

  • Be crystal clear 

Keep your language simple and super easy to understand. As simple as ADD TO CART or SIGN UP NOW.

 

  • Stick to one command

Don’t bombard readers with multiple choices – give them one easy command they can commit to.

 

  • Don’t be shy

This isn’t the time or place to be coy. Be imperative. Be commanding. Cut out the fluff.  You’re not being rude – this is copywriting, not real-world conversation.

 

3. Shed it

 

I have a secret to admit…sometimes I think my boyfriend’s a werewolf. 

 

He sheds hair all over the place. On the sofa. On the bed. In the shower.

 

I didn’t think I’d be getting a second pet when I moved in with him, but I guess life likes to throw you little curveballs.

 

Like today. I walked to our sofa – a gorgeous new green velvet-esque chaise – and found a bit of hair on it.

 

It got me thinking about animals – dogs, cats, polar bears – that shed just like my boyfriend. And then I thought about copywriting. 

 

It was an odd connection to make, but it actually made sense.

 

Shedding is the act of “getting rid of”.

 

And “getting rid of” is a great sales psychology trick in copywriting.

 

Cognitive fluency – the ease of completing a task – is something copywriters can make great use of. The simpler and easier your writing is, the more readers are likely to believe it and be interested in what you have to say.

 

But what does ‘getting rid of’ actually mean?

 

Does it mean putting an eraser to your copy and making the page as blank as possible?

 

Not exactly.

 

It means shedding all the flowery, verbose language and keeping your copy simple and to the point.

 

It means keeping your structure digestible and oh-so-scannable.

 

Here are a few tips:

 

  • Write first, edit later

 

Sometimes editing and “getting rid of” is the hardest part. Be a clown and write without thinking and come back later to fine-tune everything.

 

  • Ditch fancy 

 

Fluffy intellectual synonyms like “promenade” or “ingest” are a bit weird and disrupt the flow of your copy. When looking for synonyms, stick to simplicity.

 

  • Break it up

 

Break up big chunks of text with regular paragraphs (a bit like in this blog post) and make everything easy to read with bullet points.

4. Communicate in the right language

 

Ever heard of a whale talking to a finch? 

 

Me neither.

 

A whale’s clicks and pulsed calls will sound like a blur of jumbled-up words and phrases to a bird. 

 

But to other whales, those pulses and clicks mean something. They’re understood. They bring clarity.

 

The lesson?

 

You’ve got to speak the same language as your readers, and that means understanding who they are. 

 

If you’re writing a technical piece for an audience of buzzy tech entrepreneurs, chances are they already know a lot about tech.

 

That means you need to speak their language, throw in a bit of jargon, and not keep explaining simple tech concepts that they probably already know.

 

If, however, you’re writing a tech piece for high schoolers or those who aren’t in the know (think Tech for Dummies) you’re going to want to make your language a lot simpler. 

 

But speaking the same language as your readers goes beyond jargon. 

 

You’ve also got to keep it conversational. Make your copy smooth as butter and relatable.

 

  • Use questions and get readers directly involved in the action.

 

  • Go for a casual tone over a stuffy, highbrow one.

 

  • Use pronouns like “you” or “we” to forge a connection.

 

  • Opt for the active voice.

 

(Check out this article by EcoConsultancy for a guide on active versus passive voice.)

 

5. Throw the bone

 

There’s something about dogs.

 

They’re so loyal. So affectionate. And they’re a whole lot easier to train and bribe with treats than all the other pets out there.

 

Now I’m not saying your readers are like dogs. Or that you should talk to them in that cutesy baby voice that you love to do when you see a sausage dog.

 

Nope.

 

What I’m saying is, you SHOULD reward readers’ good behaviour. Just like dogs get rewarded with bones and treats when they’ve rolled onto their belly or done a handshake.

 

Positive reinforcement – be it in the form of free subscriptions, bonuses, or special offers – will encourage your readers to act on your copy. To follow that CTA. To sign up for your newsletter early. To be one of the first who buys your amazing new product.

 

Plus, it’ll show them that you acknowledge their presence and that you’re grateful for their support.

 

Win-win.

My challenge to you

Find one animal or insect – basically anything with a living heartbeat – right now.

 

Even if that means taking a step outside and scouring your lawn for bees or ants. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot a cat or a dog, and for those who live in more exotic or tropical climes, we’re all very jealous.

 

Take a long, hard look at whatever creature you’ve chosen and think of one copywriting tip you can glean from them. Just like I did with all the showy courtship displays, ruffled feathers, and whale songs.

 

Get creative with it and let me know in the comments if you’ve got a really cool one.

 

Happy brainstorming!

 

Carolyn

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WANT YOUR BRAND CONTENT TO GROW, GRIP AND CONVERT MASS AUDIENCES?

Download our FREE, expert eBook to unravel the mysteries of high converting copy.

About the author

Carolyn McMurray
Carolyn is a freelance copywriter and brand novelist with a penchant for pretty words and anything matcha-flavored.

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