There was a time when the fact that the Hershey’s Kisses logo had an actual ‘Kiss’ nestled between the ‘K’ and the ‘I’ was cause enough for great speculation. Subliminal influence was a topic of debate and there was a clear divide in the masses. Some believed that slipping in provocative images and connotations beneath the conscious radar resulted in a greater proclivity for certain products while others rubbished the suggestion.
Since then neuro-marketing emerged as a valid science, bolstered by the efforts of prestigious research teams, and marketing as a practice was changed forever.
What is Neuro-Marketing?
It sounds complicated and positively evil. But neuro-marketing is something quite logical and progressive. It simply stands for analyzing the decision making process in human beings and then using the findings to boost the effectiveness of promotional campaigns.
FMRI scans have shown conclusive evidence that different factors influence how and why we choose to espouse particular brands and purchase their products even at a higher price than those of competitors. And unfortunately, logic and rational thinking have little to do with it.
Human beings are visceral creatures and they react to how a particular stimulus makes them “feel.”
Remember the Frito Lays campaign where Chester Cheetah encouraged people to commit subversive “Random Acts of Cheetos” with the snack? Well, that seemingly childish decision was based on hard facts. Neuroimaging of Cheetos fanatics showed that the orange dust from the puffs that smeared their fingers and their clothes caused them to relive childhood memories where they were reprimanded for being messy and simultaneously gave them the satisfaction of knowing that there was no “authority figure” to comment on their clumsiness this time around. The 30-second spots reinforced this independent guilty pleasure capitalizing on an emotion that was already causing sales spikes.
And it won the 2009 Grand Ogilvy Award from the Advertising Research Foundation.
While it is not feasible or financially viable for every brand to bring in buyers and prospects for neuro imaging, there are a few ground rules of neuro-marketing that have been spotted as a common thread across multiple experiments. These triggers are known as “cognitive biases” and they pre-dispose us to acting in a certain way when exposed to certain stimuli.
The Biggest Tenet of Neuro-Marketing
Even if businesses disregard everything else neuro-marketing propounds, they need to keep one truth in mind: Emotions trump logic. Especially in today’s fast paced world of information overload.
Buyers and prospects struggle with similar problems of dwindling attention spans. There are too many demands being made on the mental resources of an individual and unable to cope with this onslaught, people delegate more and more decisions to the infinitely powerful subconscious (which, by the way, can process 40 million bits of information in a second compared to the 40 bits that the logical brain supports).
But here’s the catch: the subconscious is not persuaded by statistics or arguments. It has a knee-jerk reaction to inputs and responds strongly to emotions of all kinds. Persuasion marketer Bushra Azhar calls these emotions the “8 Persuasion Switches” and they include Prestige, Urgency, Curiosity, Believability and Relatability among others.
If an advertisement can reach and touch any of these persuasion switches in a way that is direct and simple, yet powerful, then closing a deal or pushing the lead towards conversion becomes child’s play. This hypothesis has been extensively tested and confirmed by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. In fact, emotional campaigns have an effectiveness quotient of 31% while logic centered promotions score a low 16%.
Image attributed to Neuromarketing by Roger Dooley
Shaky About Diving In? Give Personalization a Shot.
Some marketers might be in two minds about diving straight into neuro-marketing. If you’re in this category, a small taste of the benefits can come in the form of personalization. Personalization is the process of tailoring generic content so that it appeals to specific users or user groups and flips the relatability switch for greater interest and engagement.
It can be something as simple and effective as using triggered emails to offer a discount on items in an abandoned shopping cart or as complex as tailoring the whole homepage to visitors’ preferences according to their buyer personas. The former can be done using an email marketing platform like GetResponse that allows for behavior-based list segmentation and the setup of emails auto initiated for particular events/actions while the latter is the specialty of suites like Personyze, which offers customized search, product recommendations, layouts sorted and filtered in real-time, and other advanced options.
Some Obvious-But-Clever Neuro-Marketing Tricks
Both B2B and B2C marketers can see a potentially tremendous difference in their campaign results and content engagement if they can apply the following techniques smartly and ethically:
A picture speaks a thousand words; a video, a million. It’s no secret that the human brain processes visual content 60,000 times faster than dry text; if that content is primed to deliver a powerful subliminal message, then it’s a match made in heaven.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign was a testament to this fact. It showed advertising visuals running backwards and drove home the futility of bringing in recalled governor Gray Davis who would simply regress California to more trying times. There were no numbers screaming the sincerity of Schwarzenegger’s efforts. Nor was there any mudslinging involved. The promotional team simply captured the worry in the hearts of Californians and gave it voice (and eyeballs).
We humans are hardwired to believe and set store by the first bit of information that we encounter. We take it as the foundation to base our future opinions on. This is why it is important to carefully “screen” the thoughts and beliefs that children (and shoppers) develop over their formative years because the inputs they assimilate contribute to their personality in a big way.
Marketers already leverage anchoring bias to price their products. Astute business owners always display their most expensive package first to condition prospects into believing that the other bundles are more affordable! Setting a reference point is essential, because it has the potential to positively affect what comes later by making it seem better, more lucrative, and more efficient than it actually is.
In the image above, the monthly option is actually not as cost effective as the yearly payment. But the 9.95 seems insignificant compared to the 95.50, which brings in a 20% saving, yet is disregarded by prospective clients.
Social Proof (with video)
Social proof is everywhere. It has the potential to "drive" the bandwagon effect.
But very few marketers manage to get it right. Social proof is not a Facebook Like button. Although Facebook is an integral part of our lives, it hasn’t yet grown a pull and familiarity that we subconsciously relate to.
The best kind of social proof is a video testimonial. Because humans are unerringly drawn to other human faces. As a matter of fact, WebDAM has found that video testimonials boost conversions by close to 86%. Statistics show that 4 to 7 video snippets can tip the emotions of a buyer strongly in favor of the featured product; their mere presence is a game changer.
Thus, it’s a no-brainer for businesses to ditch phony text testimonials and like-gathering for real video recommendations from actual customers – that’s what lends real credibility and trust.
Marketo does an amazing job of utilizing the bandwagon effect in the form of video proof. In fact, they mix this potent bias with influencer marketing to score a home run.
When an individual invests a large sum of money (or any personal resource like time or effort) somewhere, he or she often goes to great lengths to uphold the validity of the decision, even at the cost of losing better service or more affordable pricing from other providers.
In persuasion language, the “prestige” switch flipped by the acquisition of the costly product refuses to shut down. It is difficult to look beyond the glamor and the exclusivity of the item and consider practical pros and cons. Under such circumstances, if an iteration of that same product with purportedly better features hits the market, the evangelists are compelled to upgrade, even if their conscious mind is well aware of the limitations of doing so.
Is anyone else reminded of Apple’s strategy and how well it fits this curve? As a marketer, you’d do well to embrace the pro-innovation bias, which Steve Jobs was probably afflicted by.
Over to You
Neuro-marketing will soon be ubiquitous as businesses realize there is a lot to gain by appealing to culturally and societally pre-programmed biases. Are you ready to ace your competition?