Copywriting Psychology 101 – What Makes Customers Buy?

Copywriting Psychology 101 – What Makes Customers Buy?

Copywriting is an art.

When you’re writing copy, think of yourself like Picasso or Leonardo Da Vinci.

However, there’s another side of the coin: psychology.

Copywriting has many psychological components that make customers tick.

Specific words and strategic phrases are enough to make a customer whip out their credit card, call you, or book a meeting.

But, what are they? And how can you use them?

Keep reading to see. 👇

Copywriting psychological triggers

These are some of the most effective psychological triggers in copywriting you can begin applying today.

Try them for yourself.

1. Tug on their pain point

Every customer wants to buy a product for one single reason…

To solve a problem.

And, that problem has symptoms.

For example, look at the product description for this hair loss supplement:

Hair loss product description

It mentions various symptoms that the customer would be experiencing, such as:

  • Thinning hair
  • Hair loss
  • Lost luster
  • Hair being healthier in the past

A customer reading this copy would relate the writing and be more likely to take action.

This is not only because clearly the product is right for them, but also because it creates emotion.

In the case of something like hair loss, it’s tied to self-image, confidence, and self-esteem.

Thus it’s going to be an emotional experience for the customer from start to finish.

Copywriters take advantage of this psychological trigger by clearly identifying the symptoms of a customer’s problem and positioning a product as the cure.

2. Create a common enemy

Humans love being on teams and fighting for a cause.

It makes us feel supported and that we’re making the right decision.

Think of politics or sports. Some times you can’t tell them apart!

Both parties are yelling for the other team to win. 😂

It’s also a powerful copywriting trigger.

Creating a common enemy for you and readers to team up against builds trust and loyalty.

Not only that, but opposition implies a pain point—as I spoke about in the first section.

That person or group is causing the customer discomfort or some sort of problem. And, together, you can take them down and come out on top!

After all, all humans are wired to avoid pain on a neurobiological and psychological level according to a study from Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

A great example is the advertising battle that car manufacturers Audi and BMW had in the past.

They are two luxury brands with similar customer bases, so naturally, they’ve been butting heads.

In previous campaigns, both brands poked at each other like this:

Audi Le Mans ad

Audi and BMW would make advertisements that subtly mocked one another’s performance and achievements.

And, what does that do?

Create an enemy!

Audi customers would see that advertisement and think “Yeah, let’s get em’!” while BMW owners team up to defend themselves.

It doesn’t have to be this direct, though.

It can be as simple as saying “Pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know this secret diet technique.”

Who do your customers feel are suppressing them and stopping them from achieving their goals?

Address this party in your sales copy and fight along with them.

3. Visualization and imagination

Unless you can physically hold a product in your hand (which doesn’t happen often with the internet), customers need as much detail as possible.

Otherwise, they can’t see themselves using it or what it’d be like experiencing it.

That’s where imagination and visualization come in the picture.

According to Abigail Brenner M.D., “The subconscious mind is a programmable “hard drive”. The “programs” of our lives, which are largely stimulus-response behaviors, are downloaded into our subconscious.  The subconscious does not rely on the outside world for its “knowing,” and so it can’t differentiate between what is real and what is imagined.”

Yes, that’s right.

We can program our brains through the subconscious mind because it isn’t aware of what’s real and what’s visualized.

But, how does that play into marketing and writing copy?

Let me explain.

When you write about a product in so much detail that the customer can practically feel and smell it, it will ignite their senses.

They will be able to strongly visualize the product and what it feels like to use it.

This doesn’t take into account that you can literally tell customers to imagine X, Y, Z.

“Imagine waking up every day and being your own boss.”

That sentence alone will make people picture waking up in their pajamas and working from home along with the related emotions.

Look how Ferrari does this subtly in their advertisement for their new car, the Roma:

Ferriar Roma official video

Multiple times throughout the video, we see bystanders stop and stare at the man driving the exotic car.

Needless to say, who wouldn’t enjoy a little attention when driving one of those things?

Furthermore, it shows the inside of the car, the daily life owning it, and more.

A.K.A it helps customers imagine themselves using it!

Both the visual and written components of an advertisement help customers imagine themselves use a product and the experiences it will bring.

4. Social proof never fails

Be honest.

Have you ever bought something or did anything in general after seeing someone else do it?

You’re not alone.

Most humans do this and it’s because of social proof.

You can also think of it as groupthink.

These are both evolutionary mechanisms that keep us safe and save us time. Who doesn’t want that?

Copywriters use this psychological trigger to make customers at ease knowing they’re buying a product others enjoy from a brand they can trust.

It usually manifests as reviews or testimonials like on this sales page:

Social proof on sales page

If others are making money through this course, interested customers will be more likely to buy as it relieves objections and worries.

It also gives them insight into what to expect using the product.

I recommend that you leverage reviews and testimonials as much as possible because of this.

Place them on any page where you want users to take action and convert.

5. A sense of urgency

Imagine you want to purchase a product.

But, here’s the problem…

There’s a countdown clock ticking away until the product is no longer available! 😱

You’d be moving fast as lightning to make sure you check out in time.

That’s what we call urgency. Another powerful copywriting psychological trigger.

It means that customers feel urgent to take action in fear that they will miss out on a deal.

Nick Hobson Ph.D. put it best by saying:

“You’ve been invited to go out for dinner and drinks with co-workers (the fun co-workers, not the annoying ones). But instead, you decide to stay back at the office to put in more work. Of course, you can’t help but wonder: what exactly are you missing out on? How much fun are they having without you there? Will there be inside jokes that you’re now not privy to?”

We’ve all felt it at some point. And, you should put it in your arsenal of tools to use.

Look how Nordstorm does this with their sales promotions:

Nordstorm urgent copy

The first banner reads “Ends 2/28 at 8AM Pacific” and the second says “Ends In A Day”.

This will make users feel that they are going to miss out on a great opportunity if they don’t shop soon.

The key is to restrict the amount of time a customer can take action to purchase a product, use a discount code, etc.

Clearly state the benefit (like a discount) and when it will no longer be available.

That brings me to my next point.

6. Feast and famine (but specifically famine)

What’s the opposite of abundance?


A.K.A lack or low supply of goods.

Similar to urgency, a sense of scarcity can make customers jump the gun and take action before they miss out.

This works perfectly for physical products because there may be limited supply, low inventory, or special editions.

Have you ever seen an ad that said: “While supply lasts”? You’ve seen this strategy then.

I use to wear Kappa all of the time as a kid, so here’s a cool example:

Kappa clearance page

The official Kappa online store has a low inventory clearance page where customers can buy products that are nearly unavailable.

Let’s say you wanted those cool turquoise track pants.

Well, they’re not going to be around for long!

So, you have to buy them fast.

See how that works?

Copywriters can utilize this psychological trigger by clearly stating things like:

  • Low inventory
  • While supply lasts
  • Clearance
  • Low stock
  • X left in stock
  • Nearly sold out
  • Etc.

7. Strategic storytelling

We all love a good story.

It’s like that Kermit the Frog meme.

Kermit the Frog tea meme

Everyone loves a little bit of tea. (Gossip.)

Heck, we evolved sitting around a fire telling stories.

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we love them equally today.

Storytelling goes all the way back to cavemen painting art on walls to Plato telling tales of Atlantis.

They are all about emotion, triumph, mystery, collaboration, and connection.

Stories help us imagine experiences as if they were real and generate behavioral responses.

In fact, stories engage the right side of the brain and release neurotransmitters like oxytocin which makes readers feel a connection to the storyteller.

With that being said, copywriters use storytelling to gain the reader’s attention, increase their emotions, and make them feel connected to the product.

Here’s a simple example:

Storytelling example in marketing

This is a quick blurb about an instructor who teaches a course on trading stocks.

Note how it explains he left his job as an elementary school gym teacher and become a self-made millionaire.

It also touches on his celebrity clients and other achievements.

There are many people who are working a job and would love to quit to make a living trading, so this short story offers hope and relief.

That’s the beauty of stories in copywriting, as well.

They can be a small paragraph or span many pages.

The goal is to help the reader see themselves in the story and generate emotion.

This helps warm them up to take action afterward.

Final thoughts on the psychology of copywriting

Copywriting is part art, part psychology.

You need to use both or your words lose power.

It’s like pasta and tomato sauce. You need both!

There’s a skill to strategically using certain words, phrases, and strategies.

But, you need to know what makes customers tick and why, too.

These psychological triggers are used to increase engagement and campaign performance.

So, what are you waiting for? Try implementing the copywriting sales triggers you learned today.


Hey! My name is Carmine and I'm a Toronto Copywriter that's written for Neil Patel, Dan Lok, GoDaddy, and more. I've helped clients generate $100k+ in MRR, 400%+ organic traffic, and 100%+ MQLs. Reach out to me at any time if you need copywriting services.