Two philosophers ran a contest on increasing donations.
Eric Schwitzgebel and Fiery Cushman wanted to see if anyone could get research participants to donate more.
But the catch was that entries had to increase donations using a philosophical argument — rather than an emotionally moving narrative.
In his research, Eric had tested philosophical arguments that “charitable giving is good or is your duty” — but they’d failed to increase donation rates. Instead, research had shown emotionally moving narratives were the most effective for increasing donation amounts.
Now, any salesman could have told you that. People make decisions based on a feeling and justify it with logic. If you try to logic them with some grand philosophical argument about being a better person, they’ll remain unmoved.
In the philosophy contest, the winning argument came from one of the most famous philosophers in the world, Peter Singer, in collaboration with Matthew Lindauer.
And here’s where it gets interesting from a marketing perspective:
The winning argument is actually just good copy:
Many people in poor countries suffer from a condition called trachoma. Trachoma is the major cause of preventable blindness in the world. Trachoma starts with bacteria that get in the eyes of children, especially children living in hot and dusty conditions where hygiene is poor. If not treated, a child with trachoma bacteria will begin to suffer from blurred vision and will gradually go blind, though this process may take many years. A very cheap treatment is available that cures the condition before blindness develops. As little as $25, donated to an effective agency, can prevent someone going blind later in life.
How much would you pay to prevent your own child becoming blind? Most of us would pay $25,000, $250,000, or even more, if we could afford it. The suffering of children in poor countries must matter more than one-thousandth as much as the suffering of our own child. That’s why it is good to support one of the effective agencies that are preventing blindness from trachoma, and need more donations to reach more people.
I suspect their entry won because it employs key principles of copywriting:
Uses clear language
If you’ve ever read a philosophy book, you probably understand the feeling that the author is trying to impress you. They’re filled with big words and long sentences.
Philosophers (in my experience) tend to use complicated language to explain relatively simple concepts.
But in this example from Peter and Matthew, you’ll notice that the language is clear. The word choice is simple and direct. Which is what makes it effective for landing each idea, point by point.
Unlike other contest entries (which can be found here), this copy isn’t making some broad statement on morality. Peter and Matthew were smart to choose a specific ailment to focus on. And then get specific about it, which makes it more tangible and interesting for the reader.
Follows a proven format
You might have noticed that — whether purposeful or not — the copy follows one of the most popular copywriting formulas in existence: PAS (Problem, Agitate, Solve)
- Problem (trachoma)
- Agitate (bacteria gets in the eyes + what happens if not treated)
- Solution (cheap treatment for just $25).
Tells a story
Unlike the other entries, Peter and Matthew take us on a simple journey. They introduce us to the main villain (trachoma) and its impact on children. And then they enlist us heroes by giving us a way to help.
Anchors the price
People are bad at judging value in a vacuum. That’s why it’s important to provide perspective in your copy.
Peter and Matthew anchor their suggested donation amount against how much a parent would pay to help their own child.
After all, what is $25 compared to $250,000?
It’s great to see smart copy being used for good. And interesting (but not surprising) to see that even in philosophy, good copy wins.
Read the original article here: