How To Use The Psychology of Pain And Pleasure To Sell More?

Noman Shaikh
3 min readJun 2, 2021
Image by TheUjulala from Pixabay

We make decisions based on two things: pain and pleasure.

We decide either to move further away from the pain or closer to the pleasure.

For instance, When someone purchases a book on how to improve public speaking skills. It is because they want to face their fear of speaking in front of a hundred, thousand, or a million people. They have taken this decision to avoid pain. The pain of the fear of facing the crowd.

Similarly, When someone purchases tickets for a Lakers game, they have an objective of feeling entertained or feeling relaxed. This purchase is based on the objective of pleasure.

Not just shopping. Every decision we take is either to move away from the pain or to move closer to pleasure. We procrastinate on important work because subconsciously we have associated the activity with the pain of doing the work, and scrolling through Instagram is a more instant pleasure.

How Do Advertisers Use Pain and Pleasure To Sell?

Advertisers, Copywriters, and Marketers understand the psychology. They understand how to use this trigger to market their product or service to you.

Let us discuss some examples of how copywriters and advertisers have used pain and pleasure to sell…

Examples Of Campaigns That Used Pleasure to Promote Their Products


Smoking is dead harmful. Yet, there are millions addicted to it.

Smoking is promoted in such a way that it has brainwashed us to think it is for good.

“Blow some my way” is a cigarette ad campaign that went successful.

This beautiful girl asks for the guy to blow some smoke on her face, as they sit on a romantic evening staring at the stars as moonlight fills the sky.


When Pepsi wanted to acquire more market share than their soft drink competitor Coca-Cola, they used this technique to associate their product with happiness and peak emotions. They promoted Pepsi at a Michael Jackson event, when the event was at its peak, they flashed the product. This created a link between the emotions and the product.

How To Use The Psychology of Pain and Pleasure For Selling?

If we break down any successful ad campaign, we come to realize that they have used either trigger of pain or trigger of pleasure.

There is still this debate in the copywriting world about what sells better. The pleasure or the pain.


Here’s the answer. Both.

You have to paint the picture for the reader and create an urge to either avoid the pain or desire for pleasure.

One of the methods to implement this is Problem — Agitation — Solution.

Dan Kennedy couldn’t stress enough this methodology for writing killer sales letters and ads.

How does P — A — S work?

Step: 1: Grab the reader by his shirt and make them aware of the problem and trigger the pain they feel.

Step: 2: Agitate the problem and make it emotional, so that the reader couldn’t just resist the urge of avoiding the pain.

Step: 3: Give them the “pleasure” of solving all their problems.

Wrap Up

If you break down any successful advertising campaign you realize there is a strong connection of the ad with emotions that either connect with the pain or the pleasure.

P-A-S is just one of the methods to use pain and pleasure to sell. The classic AIDA technique focuses on creating and building a desire for the product.

That’s the secret to great ads.



Noman Shaikh

Copywriter & Marketing Consultant | Crazy about psychology and human behaviour | Web: