Freud on the Rebound

This is another article written by one of my associate copywriters, Joe Valente, as an introduction to one of mine — which I linked on this blog entry further down. But Joe’s article is so good, I decided to reprint it here.

Essentially, it’s about appealing to different buyer personalities with your copy. Some people are driver types. Others are more analytical. Some are expressive and colorful. Others prefer the warm-fuzzy type of copy. Either way, your copy should chiefly appeal to the predominant personality of your market.

So before I go any further, you better read this article. (There are also many great lessons about copywriting used — and some hidden in the article itself. About storytelling, about the power of metaphor, and about human behavior. I suggest you read it, then read it again. Look for them. It’s that powerful.) Take it away, Joe!

So I’m clearing out some space on my shelves to make a little room for hiding presents (or as my wife, Heather, likes to call it, “Thinning out the collection of crap”) when my mind starts to wander.

Now, this is not an unusual thing, because I’m a sentimentalist (a.k.a. “packrat”). So, as I sort through the boxes and bags, I drift, I remember the good times, I think about stuff, and I generally get a bit of a rosy haze going.

Ah, the good times we had…

I’m shaken from my bliss by the crash. It seems the box I had been balancing precariously on my knee while reaching for some sort of mounted singing rubber fish (where the heck did that come from? And can I regift it?) has forsaken its resistance to the gravitational pull of my floor, and has instead decided to meet the challenge head-on.

It was a noble idea, but the box loses.

Startled from my daydream, I look down to discover that finally, and bit disturbingly, some of my university text books have hit the top of the delete pile. Meaning, of course, that I need to find a reason to save them from this almost Stalinist purge. And fast.

I bend down and start picking them up, flipping through them as I do…

Here, a well-worn copy of Psychology Today (well, maybe not today, exactly, but it was au courant a scant 25 years ago)…

There a less-used copy of Today’s Isms (a political diatribe no less weighty — not to mention out of date — than its psychology contemporary)…

And finally an exceptionally well-preserved 3rd Edition Abnormal Psychology.

Ah, at last, a book that is completely relevant today. I mean, have you been to the malls? Man, if that’s not aberrant behavior, I just don’t know what is. I’d love to tell you about the nightmares I’ve been having lately in which the overhead speakers just keep droning “An associate to Aisle 3 please, associate to Aisle 3…”

Okay, Joe, shake it off…

Anyway, thumbing through these tomes, I come across a section on Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego. And it occurs to me that a few issues back, I gave you the Pop Psychology 101 version of Freud’s theory.

Did you miss it? I’ll recap…

Freud said that the human being has but one steering wheel. Unfortunately, there are 3 crazed maniacs all clutching at each other to wrestle control of it for their very own. They are (in order of appearance):

  • The Id, who simply says “I want it,” when he sees something that gets him excited.
  • The Ego, who, being more practical, says “But you can’t get to it,” when the exciting thing is out of reach.
  • And then the Superego, who says “And besides, it wouldn’t be nice to just take it.”

Now, I realize I used a genderalization there, and that wasn’t intentional. But thinking about it, I always kind of thought the Id was the classic impulsive male, the Ego, his more level-headed girlfriend, and the Superego — well, the jury is still out on that one.

Although I can’t help but picture Sister Mary Louise from my kindergarten year. Don’t ask why. You know, my knuckles hurt even typing that name.

Again, don’t ask why.

And anyway, none of that is all that important. What is important is this: The Id, the Ego, and the Superego, they all have very specific motivations and hot buttons. And they all pretty much hate each other.

So it should come as no surprise that they also tend to be shocked or offended at what each of the others find attractive.

An interesting love triangle, no? Now there’s a made-for-TV movie!

Look, I’m not a Freudian by any stretch, and his vision of 3 separate heads fighting over the steering wheel just makes me think of the final scene in Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers (if you’ve read it, you know exactly what I mean; If you haven’t, go borrow it from the library, and never look at D-cell batteries the same way again!) But it’s interesting to me all the same.

I mean, think about it. What gets the Id going? Shiny things! Get his heart pumping, and he reaches for his wallet. Get the adrenaline flowing and he’s reaching for the bonuses. Get the sweat pouring, and he’s buying the deluxe, 22-part, members-only, super-duper-never-to-be-repeated Diamond Package!

In other words, dear friends and faithful readers, for the Id, the hard sale sells!

What do the others think of that? Let’s ask, shall we?

  • Ego: “Well, that’s all well and good, but do we really need it? And what’ll it do for me? Will it even fit in my garage?”
  • Superego: “How crude and morally repugnant that you should speak to me that way. Now don’t ever call here again.”


Well, I did mention that they weren’t each other’s best friends, didn’t I?

So what makes the Ego reach for the Visa (or the Master Card when the Visa’s maxed out)? Just the facts, ma’am. Ego doesn’t want to hear hype and hyperbole. Ego wants to know the practical truth. Show ego a fundamentally important piece to her future plans and she gets interested. An excellent potential return with minimal risk, and she’ll buy you dinner. A good cost-benefit analysis, and you’ll be staying for breakfast.

And the others?

  • Id: “Screw that, where are the shiny things?”
  • Superego: “Getting warmer, but will it help me sleep at night?”

As an aside, is anyone else out there wondering just where the heck these ideas come from? If you figure it out, let me know…

And finally, how do you get after the Superego?

Dust off the halo, sprout some wings and sing like an angel. Helping the environment? Okay, here’s a quarter. Helping the poor and underprivileged? There’s an extra dollar. Saving mankind from himself (and that ghastly Id character) and… Well, will you take a check?

The others, of course, have a different take:

  • Id: “No! NO! NO! SHINY THINGS!!!”
  • Ego: “Yeah, yeah. But will it slice, dice, and julienne in just a fraction of the time?”

Yes, it’s a weird little world that I live in.

But I’m kind of heading into a point here, and that point is this:

You gotta know who you’re talking to if you want your copy to sell.

Seems simple, but we all too often completely miss it, because we are distracted by this other interesting fact: If you hit your target audience square in the chin, scoring a first-round knockout, at least one group who is not your target audience will despise you for it.

Or, more precisely, they will hate the way you’ve done your job.

Because no one really hates writers. We’re the good guys, right?

Anyway, in this article, Mike talks quite a bit about the target audience dynamic, and shows you why it’s not only good, but may actually be something to shoot for, to get hate mail about your copy.

Because chances are, if someone hates it enough to write a letter, there are a thousand others who love it enough to write a check.

Hey! Looks like maybe those books are going to survive another purge after all! Now I guess I’d better go through Heather’s stuff if I’m gonna find more room for presents…

About The Author

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Michel Fortin

Michel Fortin is a certified SEO consultant, content strategist, and marketing advisor helping plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, and medical aesthetic clinics attract more patients. Since 1991, he helps cosmetic and aesthetic professionals increase their visibility and grow their practices. He is the author of the More Traffic Memo™ SEO email newsletter.

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