Write Compelling Messages – Think Greeting Cards

As Mad Men’s Don Draper so eloquently puts it,

“You are the product. You feeling something. That’s what sells. Not them. Not sex. They can’t do what we do and they hate us for it.”

greeting card

To sell, you must evoke emotion. Make your customers feel. Stoke their desire to buy.

But, how can you get a customer to feel anything when you cannot see them? You have no idea if you’re trying to reach a 75-year-old woman in Alabama or a salsa-dancing single in New York City. You’re waving your hands like a five-year-old child trying to capture everyone’s attention. First, stop that. Never yell at your audience or write desperate copy. Pretend exclamation points and all-caps are extinct. Second, stop thinking you’re going to reach the entire world wide web with your message. Not only is it impossible, this notion prevents you from writing a targeted message.

Narrow your audience

Narrow your audience down to a small select group (about three or four), create marketing personas, and then get inspired by greeting cards. What message will your persona listen to? What words will make them feel? Greeting cards sell feelings. Walk down that aisle of colorful cards. Spend sometime in the Happy Birthday section. You’ll laugh. Move onto the wedding cards and you’ll weep, giggle, or get hungry for cake. Every message was created to stir your emotions. Greeting cards are copywriting and the product is the emotion itself. You wouldn’t send a chimpanzee eating a birthday cake card to your Grandma (unless your Grandma is my Grandma). Just like you shouldn’t write humorous copy when you’re trying to reach a 55-year-old man who’s about to retire. You don’t know if Bob, the future retiree shares your love of fart jokes. You do know he’s a nostalgic empty nester who’s soon to set out a new adventure. That’s why all those Father’s Day cards have sailboats on them.

Can you tell the difference between the advertisement copy and greeting card?


“Don’t you just love the 12-seconds when all the laundry is done?”


For those nights you want everything to be just right…

The first line is from a greeting card and the second is from an advertisement for stereos in the 70’s. Both have a similar target: the middle-aged-bored-out-of-her-mind mom. Both make you long for a break, a little romance, or relaxation. Send the wrong message and your customers will feel nothing and move on. A good example of what happens when you send the wrong message to the wrong person, comes from my Uncle Jim, who once gave his wife a Far Side birthday card, complete with an egregious joke about cows and utters. She expected a flowery card full of tear-inducing sentiment. He gave her the humorous card he would want. Ultimate *FAIL*.

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