How your deepest fears can help you sell

Dear Friends, 


Every week I volunteer to teach creative writing in my son's kindergarten class. 


One of the exercises I use is to have each kid reach into a bag, pull out a picture and write about it. Without fail, somebody pulls out a picture that they don't want to write about because it's too scary


I know what you're thinking.... What is your problem, Mandy? Do you just go around trying to freak out little kids? In my defense, I didn't deliberately scare the children. What seems "interesting" to me, might make a young child nervous: you never can predict what will be scary.


One of the pictures was the illustration from Little House in the Big Woods where Laura's cousin was attacked by bees. The little boy who drew the picture wanted to give it back and refused to write anything. I regret that I didn't have time to help him work through it. I should have sat down with him and asked him why he found it scary, and helped him write his thoughts down. Instead, he had a blank journal entry, which is a shame.


Another time, a little girl drew a cartoon symbolizing cognitive function, where you can see the profile of a head with clockwork inside. That time, even though she was uncomfortable and needed help spelling every single word, I sat down and helped her. She complained, "This picture is freaky!" and I asked her to write down that sentence. Then I asked what was so freaky about it, and she said that she "could see things squishing around inside" (yeesh!) and so she wrote that down, too. When she was finished she was clearly pleased with how she expressed herself. 


I'm not surprised that the kids' initial reaction is to get rid of the scary pictures. Adults do it all the time! But I am convinced that facing your fears is the only way to overcome them. Also, writing about things that scare you, make you uncomfortable, or puzzle you is the only way to grow as a writer and it's the only way to tell an exciting story. 


Have you ever read a story doesn't have a bad guy who can do some serious damage? It's boring! 


But what does this have to do with advertising? Everything!


If your ads are putting your customers to sleep, you should explore what is keeping them awake at night. What makes your customers nervous? Who or what is the enemy, according to your prospects? What are they running away from? (You hope that they are running towards your products?) 


Taking time to brainstorm around the topic of fear will help you come up with more compelling ideas for your ads. 



Mandy Marksteiner
Copywriter and Marketing Consultant

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