The 7 Deadly Sins… In Your Marketing Toolbox!
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The 7 Deadly Sins… In Your Marketing Toolbox!

Ever since people existed, there’s been this tug of war between desire for something and the will to resist. Of course, most of us have been taught to avoid temptation, to delay gratification and to save for a rainy day.

But as marketers, it is our job to tempt, to “reward yourself“, to indulge, to go on that “shopping therapy” spree, to buy that wealthy status symbol. Watch any commercial or billboard to see this in action.

If we can’t convince and sell, we make no income and we have no business. So this month I’m talking all about persuasion and copywriting, and sharing how you can unlock the Seven Sins and transform them into marketing weapons to get better results for your business.

(For a refresher on great copyrighting strategies, listen to my podcast here on it.)

Our Powerful Marketing Toolbox

I’m going to give you a whole new idea to have in your toolbox for the next time you’re marketing any product. It’s fun to be consciously thinking about these “sins” when you are roaming around and absorbing different marketing messages that you see in the world around you.

I think the idea that I’m going to share with you here could dramatically change the way that you think about marketing and will give you an almost immediate effect if you start to roll this out in your different projects.

With Great Power…

Before we go any further, I want to mention that what we’re talking about here are powerful marketing techniques, and they need to be used responsibly. Uncle Ben from Spiderman summed that up nicely when he said “With great power comes great responsibility.” These are powerful ideas and I think you should definitely use them responsibly.

The 7 Deadly Sins

So, what are the seven deadly sins? They’re also sometimes known as the Capital Vices or the Cardinal Sins. They are a list of moral vices within various different Christian teachings, and they’re often seen as the origin of the other sins and the degeneration of one’s character.

Here they are:

1. Lust – An unhealthy desire or longing for something;

2. Gluttony – Overconsumption and indulgence;

3. Greed – The desire for material gain and abundance;

4. Sloth – Ease or avoidance of effort;

5. Wrath – Anger or frustration;

6. Envy – Desiring something that someone else has got;

7. Pride – An inflated sense of self-worth or ego.

We all inevitably carry some of these traits. Some have a larger pull on us than others. It’s just the nature of being human. From a marketing perspective, that’s good because it means we can tap into them and use these emotions and desires to help us get more sales of products that we might be trying to sell, or achieve different things that we are trying to achieve. It works brilliantly in negotiation, for example.

Here’s how we can use them for our marketing:

Lust is something that can create that longing for a product or longing for an experience.

Gluttony can be used to portray the success of abundance or material consumption.

Greed taps into that desire for material wealth, like having things, having a lot of things.

Sloth can be used to appeal to a customer’s wish for ease and convenience.

Wrath is something that you can use to tap into the pain points and frustrations that a customer may have and turn those into something that you can utilize from a marketing perspective.

Envy is often used to leverage the desire for showing a status, and oftentimes the status that someone else has got that you don’t have.

Pride is all about the consumer’s ego or self-image, and how to feed into that with status symbols.

As I go through each of these in more detail, I’m going to give you examples from big brands, the likes of Apple, Nike, Dove, and more who have used these in different ways.

I’m also going to share some ideas about how we might be able to apply this if we were trying to sell a niche product related to, for example, dog training (the classic affiliate product example!)

1. Lust

Lust is the desire or longing for something. Probably one of the biggest and most successful marketing campaign involving lust is from Apple.

As an example of one campaign, Apple showcased stunning images and videos that were taken on an iPhone by iPhone users, by everyday people. It created a longing in potential customers to be able to create equally beautiful moments themselves. They really associated high quality images with the iPhone.

Nike is another one. Their long-running Just Do It campaign evoked this desire to become a better version of yourself, and that there’s an athlete sitting inside every one of us. Their ads often picture everyday people who are achieving their fitness goals and it sparked that longing in viewers to experience similar personal victories.

With the Dove Real Beauty campaign, they showcased real women as opposed to professional models. They were at the forefront of portraying beauty as being something that was inclusive and attainable to all the consumers of Dove products and a desire for women in particular to feel confident and beautiful in their own skin.

Now if we relate this to dog training, I think one thing that we could do here is create a sense of longing or desire for the dog training product. It might be an e-book you’re selling.

This might be a bullet point on your sales page, or you might condense this down into a headline or a sub headline:

“Imagine coming home from a long day being greeted by your dog with not just affection, but also respect. Your shoes are untouched, your furniture is intact, and your dog is calmly waiting to be praised. Our guide can turn this dream into your everyday life.”

That’s an example of using the first sin, lust, to your advantage from a marketing standpoint. You really try to hammer home this idea of longing for something to happen and painting a really clear picture in someone’s mind about what that would look like.

2. Gluttony

Gluttony refers to the promise of abundance, this promise of wealth, and in the case of marketing, often a wealth of knowledge or even an overload of satisfaction in some way. We’ve seen lots of different companies use this in their marketing.

Netflix uses this a lot, where they advertise that you can watch an absolutely enormous library of TV shows, movies and documentaries. It’s almost like you have an endless choice. No one would ever need so much content, but it’s all there anyway.

Costco uses this idea with their bulk buying experience. Their entire marketing strategy revolves around this idea of abundance. Their customers aren’t just buying a product, they are indulging in the savings and the satisfaction that comes from bulk buying (and, some would say, over-abundance).

Spotify does something very similar to Netflix with the Music for Every Mood campaign, where their ad campaigns again emphasize this vast library of music that is at the user’s fingertips. Not just music, but podcasts and much, much more. And you could never get through all of this music. There’s an unlimited amount of music on there, and it works really well playing to this idea of gluttony and overindulgence and more than you could ever possibly need.

Imagine now, going back to the dog training book. You could say something like “Dive into this smorgasbord of insights with our e-book. Over 500 pages of advice, training plans, and solutions. It’s a never-ending buffet of dog training essentials, designed to satiate the most ravenous of pet parents.”

Or you could say something like, “Get ready for an overload of dog training wisdom. Our e-book has everything from tackling minor misbehaviors to managing serious issues. It’s a veritable banquet of knowledge that leaves no question unanswered.”

These two examples are promising the reader everything and the kitchen sink. It’s like an encyclopedia of vast knowledge, more than you could ever need.

In reality, the reader might just have one thing they’re trying to solve with their pet. It might just be teaching them to stop digging in the backyard. But human nature, especially when gluttony comes into play, will convince the prospect of all this additional value. “Oh well, yeah, it does have that tip, but it’s also got all of these other side benefits as well!” They’re sold.

3. Greed

Greed is a really big one. It’s the overwhelming desire for material wealth or gain. There have been a lot of different campaigns that have used or tapped into greed.

Amazon Prime has the Fast Free delivery campaign which effectively offers not just a vast range of products to buy, but also fast and free delivery.

The emphasis is that Amazon Prime is all about saving money, no delivery charge and fast delivery. It appeals to the consumer’s desire to get more for their investment. (As well, there is Amazon Prime video with its huge amount of shows, so it also appeals to gluttony.)

This also plays well with discount deals and sales. You go into a shop and they have a sale, and all of a sudden you’re like, “Oh, I can get that for half price!” Just think of Amazon Prime Day, it all appeals to this greed emotion. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are also perfect examples of marketing campaigns that really appeal to greed.

Think of Groupon, the discount website. Their entire business model revolves around consumers wanting to get the very best deal humanly possible. Rolex has used greed as well, but it’s almost like a more refined version where it’s a desire for status symbols and luxury items. Their marketing focuses around the prestige and the elevated status that comes with using or being seen with their product.

Now, from the dog training perspective, if we wanted to leverage greed, we could do something like “Why waste money on individual dog training sessions that might or might not work? Our e-book offers proven methods and expert advice at a fraction of the cost. It’s a treasure trove of savings and success in training your dog!”

We could apply a discount as well, such as “Get it today and you’ll get it at 50% off,” so we’ll be layering on different elements of greed on top of each other.

4. Sloth

Sloth is a powerful one as well. This is all about the ease or avoidance of effort. Looking at some famous campaigns, Uber had a Get There campaign which was basically offering easy, convenient and quick transportation at someone’s fingertips. This was built around the idea of avoiding the effort of driving or having to hail a cab.

We’ve seen similar things with Blue Apron, which is a meal delivery service where they send you meal kits with all the ingredients all in the right portions, as a super easy recipe cooking plan. That has eliminated a lot of the effort that would otherwise be required to cook a meal.

With the dog training marketing, we could have something like “Why struggle with hit and miss training methods? Our e-books offer tried and tested techniques that work without the hassle. Simplify your dog training journey.”

Another one is “Save yourself the time and energy of deciphering your dog’s behavior. Our e-book provides easy to follow guides and solutions, turning the tedious task of training into a breeze.”

5. Wrath

This is all about anger or frustration, and it can be used in a number of different ways. One is by coming up with a common enemy.

In a lot of online training in the past, I’ve spoken about the frustration of dealing with the likes of Facebook. Anyone who has had a Facebook account banned in the past is going to have a lot of emotions inside them around it and know how annoying that is and how frustrating it can be.

So I can say “With this new marketing method, you can forget about the headaches that you would have if you were leveraging Facebook.”

Some great examples from large and successful campaigns include the Domino’s Pizza Turnaround campaign, where they used customer dissatisfaction as a springboard. They acknowledged the frustrations and wrath from customers about delays in their pizza delivery, and followed thorugh with promises about solving this.

Apple computers in the mid 2000’s had their famous Get a Mac campaign. In the ads they had a slightly dowdy guy as the PC (personal computer), a character who would frequently encounter problems, crashes, lags and errors that would be frustrating and causing anger for the user.

Right next to the “PC Guy”, you had a younger, fresher and “hipper” looking guy representing the Mac. He, of course, was completely problem-free, happy and got things done quickly and more creatively.

The campaign was promoting and positioning Apple as a potential solution to common computer tech frustrations and complications, and it was definitely one of the more famous commercial series of the decade.

If we were thinking about this from the dog training example, and you want to hammer home the wrath, you could have something like “Enough is enough! You’ve struggled with your dog’s behavior for the last time. Our e-book is the solution transforming your frustration into progress.”

6. Envy

Envy is the desire to have someone else’s status, situation and things. We’ve seen lots of examples of this used in marketing as well. In fact, the entire Instagram platform is pretty much built on envy because people were seeing other people’s perfect lives, perfect products, perfect everything, all through curated highlight reels which sparks desire for their experiences, products and lifestyles.

Mercedes Benz is another comany that used this with their campaign called The Best or Nothing. What they did was showcase their cars as the absolute epitome of luxury and high status. Mercedes induced this envy and created the desire in consumers to elevate their status through owning a Mercedes.

So from the dog training perspective, you could have something like “Have you ever looked at a well-behaved dog and wished yours was the same? Our e-book and our secrets will share how you can become the perfect dog owner!”

As you can see there, the start of that was “Have you ever looked at a well-behaved dog?” so we are looking at someone else’s pet with envy. Then, turn it around and have other people envious of you with the statement “Are you ready to be the one with the obedient dog in the park? Make others green with envy as you master dog training with our e-book.” The word envy is even used in that one, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to sort of spark here with that kind of verbiage.

7. Pride

The 7th and final deadly sin is pride. Pride is lke this inflated sense of self and ego. We see this in American Express with their Membership has its Privileges campaign. This is all built around American Express and the card itself being a status symbol and something that sets card holders apart from everyone else.

BMW had something which they called the Ultimate Driving Machine. It was really appealing to people who wanted not just a mode of transport, but they wanted excellence in what they were getting.

Gillette had their famous The Best A Man Can Get campaign, which positioned a shaving razor as a reflection of someone’s high personal standards.

Apple use this a lot as well with their different Apple products. People buy Apple because it’s perceived to be the best, which makes the owners feel more pride about themselves. Whether or not you agree with that, it doesn’t really matter. From a marketing standpoint, it’s quite obvious what they’re doing and they’ve been extremely effective with this perception of pride of ownership for decades.

From a dog training marketing perspective here you could have something like “Elevate your status as a pet parent. With our e-book, you’ll not only train your dog, but you’ll become the go to dog advice guru among your friends!” Something about how your perception is going to be elevated as a result of doing something.

That’s what all of these things have in common. For American Express, your status is going to be elevated because you own the card. If you own a super yacht, your status is going to be elevated. If you drive a fancy sports car, your status is going to be elevated. For some people, these things really make a big difference.

Typically, companies like American Express and BMW are not trying to appeal to everyone. They’re trying to appeal to a very specific group of people, and the marketing works.

Knowing the seven deadly Sins gives you a framework for successful copywriting. I like to think about these anytime I’m writing down bullet points for a sales letter or an email or any kind of marketing that I might be doing. You can tap into any one of these, and when you do that, you’re tapping into deeply ingrained human desires, human behaviors and human emotions.

We’ve seen over and over again how marketing campaigns be incredibly successful when they just focus on one of these simple ideas here.

What do you think about the 7 Deadly Sins, and do you think that tapping into one (or more) of them can greatly improve your marketing? Please comment below!

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6 Comments so far:

  1. Steven says:

    These are awesome, Aidan! I never thought of using the 7 sins as a marketing tool, though it’s pretty obvious once you think about it. I remember those Apple ads from back then, I wonder what those actors are up to?

  2. Dieter says:

    Great article – thank you Aiden! By applying the 7 deadly sins marekting tool, we tap into the same concept😉.

  3. Eileen Faulkner says:

    Very interesting! And, like Steven, I hadn’t thought of using it for marketing. I have used them to illustrate character’s attitudes, etc., when writing a short story, though. Plenty of food for thought here. Thank you.

  4. Heather W says:

    Clever stuff! Now I gotta think of these sins when planning my marketing plan!

  5. Jake Taylor says:

    Love the actual real examples here. There’s a reason these are famous and successful campaigns!

  6. Annie says:

    Just realizing I have fallen for these ‘sins’ a lot of times and that I’m a pretty easy target market, LOL! Nice read, Aidan.

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