Do this, do that. Go here, go there. Act this way, respond that way. Welcome to world of imperative sentences, an important tool in the world of marketing copywriting. Seems strange, doesn’t it? On the surface, it may seem like slamming your target market with imperatives wouldn’t get you very far. After all, nobody likes being pushed around, right?
Actually, you’d be surprised.
Imperative language is simply telling someone to do something. Not recommending or requesting or asking pretty please with sugar on it, but not necessarily barking an order either. It’s a clear prompt, an unequivocal nudge forward. “Give yourself the dream vacation you deserve.” “Take advantage of our free offer.” “Ask not what your country can do for you, but for what you can do for your country.” You get the idea. In the marketing world, we commonly associate imperatives with the call to action in a piece of ad copy. You know and love it as the final kick in the pants to do what the advertiser wants you to do. “Call now! Operators are standing by.” Of course it only makes sense to start making such prompts toward the end, instead of screaming “Call now!” at the top of the ad. Why would I “call now” when I don’t know what I’m calling about or why I should buy the product or service offered? That’s putting the proverbial cart before the horse. But once you’ve stated your case and painted the appropriately rosy picture that gets your target reader excited, the call to action is the perfect spot to start laying in the imperatives.
Does this mean that imperatives are only good for the call to action? Certainly not! Imperatives can help you lead your readers all the way down the path you’ve marked for them. For instance, they’re great at encouraging readers to indulge in various sensory journeys that stir up their emotions: “Imagine having the green, lush, perfect lawn you’ve always dreamed of.” Well, if I lust after just such a lawn, I’ll be more than happy to follow that command. And once you’ve got me all giddy about that ideal lawn and then explain to me how you and only you can provide it, you’ve won. Old movie trailers seemed to revel in this sort of thing. You’d hear the narrator exclaim, “See the jungles of the Amazon close up! Hear the King of Rock and Roll sing his latest smash hit! Relive the battle of Normandy!” Imperatives don’t just order us around — they also grant us permission.
Take a look at your own marketing copy. See whether you’re using imperatives in a way that will work on your audience. Think about ways you can persuade and command without seeming pushy. Then watch as your revamped ads and web pages get results! (And if you see what I just did there — give yourself a cookie.)
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