Let’s step a bit back to our brain.
What is it made of? The word “neurons” may have come to mind. But do you know exactly what they are?
I remember drawing them in Biology class as sparking suns, or using the word in phrases like “You are missing some neurons!”, But I knew very little about them until I began to study them thoroughly.
In fact, I did not know that we also have neurons in the stomach (endocrine system) and sensory neurons in muscles, skin or joints. I also did not know that glial cells (the cousins of neurons) existed, which nourish and protect them.
And why am I so interested in them? Because neurons are messenger cells. Thanks to them we can speak, run, write (motor neurons) or perceive smells, temperature, shapes (sensory neurons). Neurons make life possible, and thanks to a special type (mirror neurons), we can use certain words to connect with the minds of our readers.
Mirror neurons were discovered in 1996. A team at the University of Parma, led by neurobiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti, was investigating motor neurons and movement control in primates, but ended up finding something new and unexpected.
They found that the same area of the monkey’s brain was activated when it performed an action by itself as when it saw a human being perform the same action (as if it were a mirror).
These very special cells are distributed in key areas of the brain: the empathy, pain and language centers. But why can they help us when writing if we are supposed to “see” the action?
This fragment of an interview7 with Rizzolatti himself by the Spanish medium El País can clear us up in doubt:
“Mirror neurons are activated even when you don’t see the action, when there is a mental representation. Its implementation corresponds to the ideas. The most important part of mirror neurons is that it is a system that resonates ”.
In other words, when you imagine an action, your mirror neurons fire. And if you write a text capable of evoking the reader the action you are looking for in it, you are more likely to be “seen” performing that action. So what we need are proper words, power words.
If we literally translate power words into Spanish we have something like “strong words”, those persuasive elements that incite and impact the reader in some way.
The first time I used this term on my blog was in 2016 when talking about neurolinguistics in digital copywriting, citing a guest post by marketing expert Gregory Ciotti on the Copyblogger website, where he talked about the importance of power words in sales texts.
There was nothing else written on the subject in Spanish, so I thoroughly investigated the provenance of the concept and it led me to the father of modern advertising, David Ogilvy.
His book Confessions of an advertiser is a must read for my mentoring students, and it is precisely there that he published his list of the 20 most influential words in 1963.
These are Ogilvy’s 20 power words:
|Suddenly Now Announcing||Suddenly Now Announcing|
|Presenting Improvement Incredible Sensational Extraordinary Revolutionary Alarming Amazing Magic Offer Quick Easy Desired Challenge Compare Bargain Hurry||Introducing Improvement Amazing Sensational Remarkable Revolutionary Startling Miracle Magic Offer Quick Easy Wanted Challenge Compare Bargain Hurry|
As you can see, the problem with this list is that it is adapted to its time (who buys something with the word “bargain” today?). The current reader-client closes before a traditional sales pitch that sounds forced.
More than half of the words on this list are adjectives (extraordinary, amazing, incredible, revolutionary…) and although they can serve us well and in droppers, it is better to prioritize other types of grammatical categories, such as verbs or nouns.
I continued researching the concept and found two books where power words were mentioned before the Internet revolution: Words that sell, the advertising dictionaryby Richard Bayan (Words That Sell, 1984) and Jack Griffin’s communication manual (How to Say It at Work, 1998).
Both used this concept to emphasize the importance of using certain words when selling ourselves or a product or service, but they did not take into account how to adapt those texts to the online world, which is what you and me do. we are interested.
This is how I came to two key books: Copy web que sells by María Veloso (Web Copy That Sells, 2004) and Writing to sell by Andy Maslen (Write To Sell, 2007), focused on connecting through web pages and email .
These two books do take into account the particularities of the digital reader and the 2.0 environment. Veloso emphasizes that the key to successful web text is that it does not look like an advertisement and is scannable, concise, and objective (citing Morkes and Nielsen’s 1994 study on how to write for the Internet).
Although I was able to extract very interesting information from these authors, there is another problem to face: they all focus on the Anglo-Saxon world.
I explain my position to you. I speak 4 languages, but when someone has asked me to write copywriting texts in one other than Spanish, I always say no. I believe that each language (and indeed each target) needs a copy specialized in the culture it faces.
For example, it would seem like a mistake to take texts in English, translate them into Spanish and sell them as a book on copywriting. There are things like that in the market, and I think that instead of copying and pasting an American author, it is better to experiment in the Spanish-speaking market.
Luckily for us, I have been writing for the online world for almost 10 years, so
I share with you some of my favorite power words in Spanish, organized by categories:
Verbs: imagine, enjoy, create, win, risk, succeed, believe, feel … .
Nouns: life, destiny, pain, fear, sex, well-being …
Adjectives: free, new, exclusive, incredible, easy, fast …
Adverbs: now, now, never, yes, no, soon …
In His book Words That Sell, Richard Bayan shared more than 6000 terms. And is that if we stop to think about the objective of each sentence, we can get hundreds of power words.
If I do not share 6000 power words with you, it is because my main interest with this chapter is that you understand what they are for and their relationship with mirror neurons, that is why I am going to give you an example that will leave you with your mouth open (unless you have heard some of my presentations).
Have you ever bought a lottery ticket? In Spain – I do not know how it is in other countries – we have an incredible amount of games of chance and bets (Primitiva, Bonoloto, ONCE coupon, Euromillón, Soccer Quiniela …). The premise is clear: you invest a small sum of money and, if you are lucky, you can earn much more. And in the best of cases, become a millionaire in a second.
Do you remember what we said at the beginning of the chapter? Seeing someone do something activates mirror neurons, as if you were doing it too. For this reason, especially in recent years, in advertisements for this type of game we can see people winning the prize and then receiving questions that impact our minds, such as: “What if it’s your turn? Imagine what you would do with 100 million… ”.
Daniel Levine, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, had this to say in an interview for the scientific journal Nautilus8.
“The ads connect because fantasizing about winning the lottery activates the same parts of our brain that would be activated if we really won (…) Imagining ourselves in a limousine activates the visual areas of the brain, while imagining the clink of champagne glasses illuminates the auditory cortex. These areas have links to the brain regions involved with emotion, decision-making and motivation.
And we come to the most important part. What happens when the potential customer feels the benefit of the product before owning it? That to feel the same, yes or yes, you must pay for it and get it. It is clear that with words we can evoke mental images and guide the reader towards the purchase. But can we also build trust? Let’s see it with another practical case.