Does Your Copy Have Personality?

Some people don’t mind hard-hitting copy, while others prefer newsy copy. Some people prefer long copy to get as much information as possible, others prefer short, brief, to-the-point copy. Some like drama, stories, and testimonials; others data, statistics, and facts.

Does it all matter? Absolutely.

What makes one style of copy more favorable than another? Why does one person buy from one type of copy and not from another? It really comes down to the buying behavior of your market. And in fact, there are four major personality types.

Before I tell you what they are, remember that the style you choose will not appeal to everyone. It never will. Roy Williams, author of The Wizard of Ads, once noted, “Even some of the best ads miss the mark with at least half of their target audience.”

You may have heard me say this before, but it’s important. Don’t be all things to all people. If you do, you have no choice but to paint your copy with broad brushstrokes in order to appeal to everyone. Instead, give your copy personality. Even if it offends some.

Otherwise, ads crafted so as not to offend anyone will be counterproductive. They may even backfire. And more importantly, they might be more offensive than you think.

When your target market reads your bland, vanilla copy, it will often shrug it off because they feel you are not catering to them specifically — even if what you’re selling does.

Therefore, the more you try not to offend anyone, the more generic you become with your copy. And the more generic you are, the more your copy will be disconnected from your audience. In short, appeal to everyone and you will appeal to no one.

In other words, to your prospect, you appear as if you don’t understand them, because your copy doesn’t cater to their specific, individual needs, goals, concerns, budget, and unique set of circumstances. Even if the product is perfect for them.

As a result, you alienate most of your market that way.

Sure, your sales copy may avoid offending a minority. But in turn, by genericizing it you inadvertently offend the majority — perhaps in a subtle, indirect, or unconscious way — because you appear as if you simply don’t care.

You see, ads are distinctive. They’re alive. They’re like pieces of art. Each one has a certain personality. And no matter what you do, like it or not that personality may attract some people and repulse others at the same time.

Your goal, therefore, is to directly and distinctly appeal to the majority, in spite of the minority. Otherwise, try to be too general (or better said, “too generic”) with your copy, and the result will be copy that’s bland, anemic, and unproductive.

Your copy offers more than just information. It also presents that information in a way that the majority of your target audience better appreciates, absorbs, and acts upon it.

Catering to the majority won’t just be conducive to the greatest results but also begins the all-important process of building a relationship with your market.

A lot of marketers think that targeting your market means you must put your ad in front of qualified buyers. But it means more than that. It also means to write and mold the copy in a way that the message targets them, too. That is, it targets their personality.

Therefore, it’s not only best to target one market at a time but also to target one predominant buyer personality at a time, too. That way, your information is presented in a way that your market feels the copy is centered on them. And them alone.

So how do you do target your market’s personality?

Over the years, psychologists and behavioral scientists have categorized personality styles. They may have labeled them differently, but they are generally the same. They all come down to essentially four different personality styles.

Is this some new science? No. Around 400 B.C.E., Hippocrates, in “Air, Water And Places,” dubbed these four types as Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, and Melancholic.

In recent times, Roy Williams, in one of his articles, calls them Spontaneous, Humanistic, Competitive, and Methodical. Behavioral scientist and motivational speaker, Dr. Tony Alessandra, labels them as Directors, Socializers, Relaters, and Thinkers.

They are essentially all the same.

(For more, visit Dr. Alessandra’s “The Platinum Rule.” The Golden Rule states that you should do unto others as you would want to have done unto you. But Tony defines The Platinum Rule as: “Do unto others as they would want to have done unto them.”)

However, the most common labels given to them — the ones most marketing textbooks use, including the same textbooks from which I used to teach marketing management in college — are: Driver, Expressive, Analytical, and Amiable.

Those are the labels I prefer and will be using for the remainder of this article.

Where do these labels come from and what do they mean?

Essentially, personality styles are defined by two key behavioral characteristics, which are assertiveness and responsiveness. The category — or label, if you will — is based on one of four combinations of how assertive and responsive they are.

For example, a person can be:

  1. High assertive and low responsive, or a driver.
  2. High assertive and high responsive, or an expressive.
  3. Low assertive and low responsive, or an analytical.
  4. Low assertive and high responsive, or an amiable.

Responsiveness, which is expressed outwardly, is how well a person responds to others. Assertiveness is expressed inwardly, and it’s how well they assert themselves.

For example, some people are task-driven while others are results-driven. Some people are more emotional than factual, and others vice versa. Some are ego-driven and self-absorbed, others are people-pleasers and focused on those around them.

But to explain it visually, and one of the more popular models (and the best one for copywriting purposes), is by looking at these styles in the form of a quadrant. The key is to determine where one’s level of responsiveness and assertiveness intersect.

personality chart | Does Your Copy Have Personality? | Visibility. Marketing. Advisory.

With all things being equal, your target audience will predominantly fall into one of these styles. Granted, it may not precisely fit into a single, neat category, and your entire market may not fit one specific style.

But keep in mind, the keyword here is “predominant.”

(If they do fall into multiple categories, you might want to create different products, offers, and sales copy for each one. The more congruent your message is with your market, the more sales you will make. I’ll come back to this later as it is important.)

Nevertheless, depending on your product, your industry, and both the demographics and psychographics of your target audience, it is safe to say that the majority of them will likely demonstrate one particular style more than any other.

To give you an idea, here’s a brief look at them:

Drivers Prefer Results

They are practical, impatient, and time-sensitive. A Driver is a person who usually is more concerned with the bottom-line. They want to know how long does it take to get your product, what kind of results they can expect, and how much does it cost.

Bankers, sales managers, purchasing agents, businesspeople, corporate executives, and so on are typically Drivers. They don’t care how to get from point “A” to point “B.” They just want to know if and when you can get them to point “B.”

Analyticals Prefer Details

They don’t care much about results. They’re driven by facts and far more interested in the inner workings of your product. They might want to know what is its exact size, where and of what is it made, what are the ingredients, what features does it possess, what kind of guarantees do you offer with it, and what, precisely, makes it work.

Scientists, developers, mathematicians, engineers, computer programmers, doctors, and so on are mainly Analyticals. They want facts and just the facts. So give them statistics, data, specifications, ingredients, measurements, etc. The more, the merrier.

Expressives Prefer Feelings

Status and recognition are important to Expressives. How they perceive things and how other people perceive them take precedence. They are mostly impulsive, colorful, ego-centric, undisciplined, and spontaneous. They prefer to talk than to listen.

Actors, teachers, musicians, artists, graphic designers, movie directors, comedians, etc fall in the Expressive category. They buy mostly for the sake of prestige of ownership, or to boost their standing in their communities, organizations, or peer groups.

(For instance, Expressives are the types of people who intentionally park their brand new luxury car on the street so that the neighbors can see them.)

Amiables Prefer Relationships

They are emotional, caring, and humanistic. They’re social-minded and care deeply about the relationships they hold. How your product will help others and strengthen the relationships they maintain with them will be of utmost importance to Amiables.

It’s not uncommon for Amiables to hold careers as salespeople, social workers, human resource personnel, consultants, and so on. If your product solves a problem, that’s good. But if it allows your prospect to solve other people’s problems, that’s even better.

So how do you appeal to your buyer’s personality?

At this point, you should have an idea of how to cater to buyer personality styles.

With Drivers, be pithy and give them the bottom line. With Analyticals, offer cold, hard information rather than hype and stories. With Expressives, tell them how you will make them look good. And with Amiables, use testimonials, stories, and anecdotes.

For instance, avoid lacing your copy with feelings and emotions when your audience is comprised of Analyticals. Be specific, objective, and factual, and refrain from hyperbole or drama. Analyticals are also highly skeptical, so offer as much proof as you can.

Sure, you can — and must — be emotional. All humans are. Even analyticals make purchasing decisions based on emotion first. But don’t do so at the expense of facts. Back it up with logic and lots of it with which they can justify their decisions.

While an Analytical will never have enough information, don’t drown your visitors with needless details when they consist of Drivers. Be quick, pithy, and straight to the point. If you use long copy, make sure it makes a point and sticks to the point. Consistently.

However, be sensitive and friendly when pitching to Amiables. Use stories, case studies, and testimonials. Take your time with them. Be warm and interactive. In fact, your relationship with them is just as important as the benefits of your product.

For Expressives, talk about how the product will make them feel, boost their status, and get others to notice and compliment them. Or how the product will make others around them cringe in horror, turn green with envy, or even be humiliated.

Here’s a real-life scenario. A patient visits a dentist for an initial consultation.

The Analytical will be preoccupied mostly with the details of dental work. Knowing precisely how much freezing will be applied, which specific teeth (and parts thereof) will be repaired, and what kind of filling will be used are of enormous interest to him.

On the other hand, a Driver will want to know how long will the procedure take, how fast can he return to work after the procedure is done, and, of course, how much will it cost. Everything else is unimportant and irrelevant.

But for the Amiable, they are mostly concerned with their ability to please their spouse, friends, or boss with their improved appearance. They want to know if going ahead will improve their relationships and make others happy, as well as secure others’ approval.

The Expressive, however, will be interested with how good will their new teeth look, how much pain such a procedure might incur, how their teeth will change their appearance, and how attractive the procedure is going to make them.

Again, your market will likely fall into one predominant category. In other words, the majority of your market will fit into one category more than any other.

Depending on your type of industry and the kind of product you’re selling, the style of your message should chiefly appeal to that one specific personality style.

For example, if your product caters to expectant mothers, you will definitely speak to them differently than if you were to cater to entrepreneurs or sports fanatics.

But what if your market consists of more than one?

What if your market consists of strong, identifiably different groups? In other words, what if you have more than one predominant personality type in your target audience? If so, I submit that you can have a different ad or salesletter directed at each different market.

It’s market segmentation, pure and simple.

You split your market into groups, and cater to each one separately and individually. Large corporations and retailers have been doing this for years. Take Coke versus Diet Coke, or Levis’ Red Tabs sold in high-end stores, versus Wal-Mart’s Orange Tab Levis.

Even if it’s the same product and they happen to fall into more than one category in high enough numbers, then you might want to cluster your market into groups, and create a new offer and sales copy that target each distinct segment.

For example, a clever entrepreneur can take a product and package it, price it, and sell it to two different audiences on two different websites — and thus maximize sales from all potential market segments. Even creating her own competition, in some cases.

The bottom line is, give your copy personality, and your response will shoot through the roof. Sure, you might alienate a few. But what would you rather have: generic copy that pleases more but sells less? Or targeted copy that offends few but sells more?

As the late, great copywriter, Gary Halbert, used to say in response to his detractors regarding his pointed, discriminate personals ad: “Don’t be so preoccupied with upsetting the dogs when you’re trying to sell the foxes. Concentrate on the foxes.”

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By Michel Fortin

Michel Fortin is a digital marketing advisor specializing in SEO, communications, and strategy. For over 30 years, he helped hundreds of thousands of clients increase their visibility and their revenue. He is also the VP of Digital Marketing at Musora, the company behind award-winning platforms Drumeo and Pianote. He is the author of the More Traffic Memo™ SEO email newsletter.