7 Insights into the Consumer Mind

After seeing my favorite commercial last night during the hockey game http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owGykVbfgUE&feature=related I wondered why am I so affected by this series of commercials? More importantly, why have I switched my soap brand loyalty and started buying Old Spice?

Perhaps this article can shed some light on these questions and help you make a bigger impact with prospective & existing consumers.


In traditional marketing, we are told … “follow the proven formula of compelling headlines, benefits, satisfaction guarantee and a call to action, and your sales will skyrocket.” Yet, even top marketers can attest that successful campaigns are a “hit or miss” proposition to find those that generate big sales

“Our unconscious mind — not our conscious mind — drives how we respond to ads, brands and products and, ultimately, drives all our buying decisions. Customers don’t really know why they buy what they buy, which is why traditional market research fall short.”

According to neuroscientists, there are 3 main parts to the brain, each functioning as a brain unto itself. These “three brains” – nestled inside one another — are as follows.

The “Human” (“New,” or outer-most) Brain: Most evolved part of the brain known as the cortex. Responsible for logic, learning, language, conscious thoughts and our personalities.

The “Mammalian” (Middle) Brain: Also known as the limbic system. Deals with our emotions, moods, memory and hormones.

The “Reptilian” (Old) Brain: Also known as the R Complex controls our basic survival functions, such as hunger, breathing, flight-or-fight reactions and staying out of harm’s way.

The reptilian, or “old,” brain drives your customers’ buying decision
To strengthen your brand, loyalty and sales, you must understand your customers’ “reptilian hot buttons.” A “cortex” message — such as “Buy my product because it is 20% cheaper” — doesn’t buy customer loyalty. It all comes down to who triggers the first reptilian reaction. That’s why Coke, after all these years, continues to dominate the market.

The “Reptilian Brain” and Profits: 7 Critical Insights You Must Know About How and Why Your Customer Buys

1. The old brain is driven by emotions

The more senses you trigger and associate with your products/services, the more you will appeal to your customers’ emotions and influence their buying behavior.

2. The old brain “decides” on the basis of the gain vs. pain tradeoff
Marketing guru, Seth Godin illustrates through his Joy/Cash Curve that high value purchases often trigger increasing amounts of buying pain. His solution: add more joy and pleasure to the buying process, such as he did in his work with Lexus. According to Godin, when you make buying pleasurable, you actually reset the customer’s “value meter.” How are you adding more joy to your buying process?

3. The old brain is highly influenced by beginnings and endings.

In marketing, for your message to be accepted, it is critical to leave a strong first impression — like a compelling story, a big smile, etc. Also, if a customer has a pleasant or unpleasant experience with your product or company, that most recent experience will influence future purchases more than all other experiences combined. What impression are you leaving with your prospects in the first few seconds or words? How has your last customer contact enhanced or jeopardized repeat sales?

4. The old brain is visually oriented and responds rapidly to images

Enhance and deliver your core marketing message visually — eg., the design of your product, images in an ad, external packaging, etc. Where can you visually strengthen your brand and emotional connection with customers?

5. The old brain perceives the “pain of buying” in relative, not absolute, terms.

From various posts by Roger Dooley (Neurosciencemarketing.com), key strategies include:
Emphasize “sales” prices (which does not activate pain in the old brain)
Utilize “package” pricing over pricing of individual components (the latter shows greater “pain activity in the old brain)
Series of small “bite-size’ investments in place of one large investment (Netflix)

6. The old brain understands only what is tangible, physical and concrete.

To speak to the old brain, you must use tangible “benefits” — ie., what a customer will see, feel, hear, taste or smell as a result. Eg., a promise of “greater happiness” is gibberish to the old brain. Instead, tell your prospect how he/she will wake up every morning with a smile. Or use metaphors (such as referring to your service as the “Cadillac” offering) to make your benefits more tangible.

7. The old brain’s control over buying decisions varies from culture to culture.

Adapt your marketing communications to each culture and what part of their brain drives buying decisions. Use emotional appeal with Americans; use logic with European cultures

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