Is There a Psychological Trick for Marketing?

I was a kid when I first heard about subliminal advertising. Turns out that experiment was bull — they couldn’t replicate the results, and neither has anyone else since — but the idea is still tantalizing. Are there psychological tricks, subliminal or otherwise, that can increase the effectiveness of your marketing by a significant percent?

Flip the brain switch.I was a kid when I first heard about subliminal advertising from some TV infotainment documentary (I was that kind of kid). it was the famous 1950s experiment in a movie theater where they slipped in ads for soda and popcorn so briefly that people weren’t aware of them, yet they bought more soda and popcorn.

Turns out that experiment was bogus — they couldn’t replicate the results, and neither has anyone else since — but the idea is still tantalizing. Is there a psychological trick, subliminal or otherwise, that can increase sales by a significant percent?

Crack the Customer Mind Code ThumbnailThat came back to mind when i was reading Gary Hennerberg’s “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” If you’ve been reading his Reinventing Direct blog, you’ve seen a bit about it. However, what Gary goes into isn’t one or two tricks, but a whole system for walking 12 foundational personas through seven psychological steps that lead to a purchase.

The 12 personas Gary identifies as the ones he’s seen most often are:

  • Trailblazer/Early Adopters
  • My Brand/My Lifestyle/My Growth
  • Money Matters
  • On Financial Edge
  • Right Thing to Do: Taking the High Road
  • Love and Social Relationships
  • Adrenaline Seekers: Opportunists
  • Safe Players
  • Hiding My Compulsion
  • Fifty Plus
  • Business 8 to 5
  • Did I Matter?

The seven steps are:

  • Identify the Person (Persona)
  • Stimulate Emotion
  • Calm the Mind
  • Position/Reposition Your USP
  • Tell a Story
  • Interpret Features and Benefits for Them
  • Gain Permission to Act

Gary goes into how to walk each of those personas through each of those paths. How to message them, what verbs to use, and how to convince them it’s OK to trust you and complete the purchase.

It’s a good, thorough system with specific tips and suggestions on almost every page.

But what it’s not is a trick. In fact, after reading “Crack the Customer Mind Code,” what I came away with was a better understanding of just how complicated marketing really is.

It’s easy to say “You need to stimulate emotion to get attention from your prospects.” It’s a different thing entirely to identify the personas of the prospects you’re targeting and figure out exactly what stimulates emotions for each of them, then reach them with that message, and the next message and on down through the seven steps to purchase.

There’s certainly psychology at work, but it’s no trick.

And as I’ve gotten to understand marketing better over the years, That matches up pretty well with my overall experience. There are no psychological tricks to marketing, but there are plenty of good psychological insights you can apply to make your marketing more effective, once you know how to crack the code.

7 Reasons It’s Tough to Change Decisions

With each passing day, voters’ decisions are being made up, and not a lot is going to change their minds — no matter how much is poured into political ads. Changing minds is also a problem for direct marketers. The minds of our prospects are often made up before we have a chance to stimulate their emotion and present our message. Envelopes aren’t opened and are pitched. Emails go away in a click. The mind is …

FrustratedWith each passing day, voters’ decisions are being made up, and not a lot is going to change their minds — no matter how much is poured into political ads. Getting people to change decisions is also a problem for direct marketers. The minds of our prospects are often made up before we have a chance to stimulate their emotion and present our message. Envelopes aren’t opened and are pitched. Emails go away in a click. The mind is made up.

There are plenty reasons why our copy and creative hit roadblocks. Some days our message just doesn’t connect. We have to work smarter, and know that changing the mind is often an uphill climb. So today I offer seven reasons why it’s often tough to change a decision, along with ideas you can use to overcome each area of resistance.

  1. Childhood Experiences: At an early age, like a sponge, we start taking in information, all a part of life experiences. We take away feelings about many things. We form opinions to keep us safe. It’s the primitive brain. So make sure you consider how your product or service reassures and keeps your prospect safe.
  1. Long-Term Memory: Deep-seated long-term memories stick with a person for their entire lives. To minimize a bad memory, another memory must be created to neutralize it. It’s a tall order to change a memory of any kind. But if you’re going to get through, you must create a new positive memory, especially if you need to overcome a bad memory.
  1. Perception Rules: For some people, changing an ingrained perception is impossible, even if their perception is wrong. And when you probe more deeply, most people won’t recall why their perception rules exist in the first place. This one is tough to overcome, so acknowledge to your prospect that you’re challenging their perception.
  1. Internal Conflict: Reason and emotion are in opposition to each other. Emotion most often wins. You must interpret your offer for the metaphorical left brain, setting you up to win over with emotion in the right brain.
  1. Regretting a Past Decision: People reflect on past decisions that disappoint. Regret and remorse set in. A person’s gut reaction is usually a product of bias. You need to assure, likely in a guarantee, that you stand by your product and make things right, if necessary, so your prospect doesn’t dredge up past regrets.
  1. Intuition: Intuition is activated before our minds consciously understand, based on stored emotional memories that a person keeps secret in their sub-conscious. Therefore intuition often guides decision making without much conscious deliberation. Keep your prospect focused on your message and set up a logical flow so intuition doesn’t creep in and move your prospect off your message.
  1. Noise: With the noise of competitive marketing messages across media at every turn, the mind becomes confused and numbed, which results in sticking with a past decision. That’s why you must stand out. Have a strong unique selling proposition and use stories to solidify new long-term memory.

Like it or not, the human mind works in mysterious ways. Today more than ever, it’s tough to change a mind.

As for candidates, those who have led in polls and snag voter commitments early solidify their position. How? By expressing positions that make the voter feel good, whether the position is credible or not. Ultimately, whoever attracts the most raving fans wins, because it’s the candidate that makes them feel good about the future who voters will support. There’s a lesson here for marketers, too.

Use Neuromarketing in Your Direct Mail

So what is Neuromarketing? It’s marketing that focuses on the brain. Since the brain makes all of our decisions, we should target our marketing there. Most current direct mail marketing is focused on upper brain function that involves reasoning, sometimes with emotion. This is the wrong approach.

So what is Neuromarketing? It’s marketing that focuses on the brain. Since the brain makes all of our decisions, we should target our marketing there. Most current direct mail marketing is focused on upper brain function that involves reasoning, sometimes with emotion. This is the wrong approach. It involves too much thinking and is a turn off to many recipients. So let’s take a look at the brain and where we want to target our direct mail.

human brainOur brain:

  • Upper Brain: Your upper brain is the high functioning smart brain. It is rational and processes information slowly. This is your conscious thought area and is somewhat controllable. This part of your brain is off when you are sleeping.
  • Middle Brain: This is where your emotions are. When emotions are triggered here, they get processed in the upper brain.
  • Lower Brain: This is the fast processing area of your brain, but it is limited to all your unconscious systems, heart, breathing, nerves and so on. This is the oldest part of the brain. This area focuses only on what is happening immediately. It is your auto pilot and is always on. We cannot control this part of our brain. This is all about system response such as fight or flight.

Now that you know what part of the brain controls what functions, you are ready to see where we should be targeting our direct mail. That target sweet spot is the lower brain. Since it deals with immediate processing and does so without our input, marketers have a better chance at eliciting a quick response when we can tap into that area of the brain. You have about five to six seconds for your message to be understood before the recipient moves on to something else. Because of that, you need to keep it simple.

How to target the lower brain:

  • Self — The lower brain is all about protection and is selfish. Tap into that with concise statements including the word “you.”
  • Limited Choice — Provide a two-choice scenario, one where disaster strikes and the other where your product or service either prevents it or fixes the problem.
  • Connect — You need to connect your product or service with a real world example. This must be believable, not a far-fetched story.
  • Start/Finish — You need to start fast and effective, and end the same way. Limit the middle message so you don’t move to the upper brain.
  • Visual — You need to convey your messaging visually with images and graphics using a very limited amount of words. The eyes are the gateway directly to the lower brain; use that to your advantage!
  • Emotion — It is important to use emotion that starts out in a negative way and is solved by you in a way that creates positive feelings.

You need to factor all six of the above elements into your direct mail campaigns in order to reach the lower brain and increase your response. Direct mail is very visual, so keep your message simple and incorporate that into your images and graphics.

One more thing to keep in mind is to not overwhelm the brain with too many images or graphics. Give the eyes one focused focal point that gets your urgent message across fast.

Lastly, stay away from using numbers, they bring in the use of the upper brain. As with all marketing, direct mail works best when messaging is repeated, so find your focus and go after it.

If you are interested in learning more about neuromarketing check out www.salesbrain.com.

Why Facts Don’t Matter

Why do politicians and their followers dig in their heels and cling to their beliefs even when there is overwhelming factual evidence to the contrary? Everyone has, and is entitled to, an opinion. But what about facts? Most people aren’t going to change their opinion because now more than ever facts…

Triggering the Unconscious Mind for Unthinkable ROIWhy do politicians and their followers dig in their heels and cling to their beliefs even when there is overwhelming factual evidence to the contrary? Everyone has, and is entitled to, an opinion. But what about facts? Most people aren’t going to change their opinion because now more than ever facts don’t matter.

Why? It’s less politics and more science about how the brain responds.

Let’s begin with this: You build your opinions to keep you safe. It’s the primitive brain. Psychologists call it “motivated reasoning,” “confirmation bias” or “cognitive dissonance.” Still, in an exchange with someone who has a mistaken belief about any topic, and when the facts are laid out to them thoughtfully and without being confrontational, the conversation often hits a brick wall.

It’s the same with any of us selling a product or service, or raising money. If there is a wall surrounding an opinion, it’s not going to move easily because most people resist changing their opinions.

Why? At an early age we start taking in information, all a part of life experiences. We takeaway feelings about many things. Remember the Maya Angelou quote? “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We accumulate life experiences. We turn raw, meaningless data into judgments, views and opinions.

And we’re stuck. Just like politicians and their voter followers. The other side is always wrong. Once something is added to a belief system, it is defended from change.

And as marketers, we’re stuck with the challenge of changing people’s opinions who haven’t drunk your Kool-Aid yet. The human mind instinctively, unconsciously and earnestly resists change.

What to do?

Remember: You’re trying to create new long-term memory grooves. Which means you may need to approach more slowly and deliberately, working your way through, first, glance-and-forget messages, then short-term memory, and finally, the most desired of all, the coveted long-term memory.

My recommendations:

  1. Understand underlying feelings
  2. Build trust
  3. Make it simple to understand
  4. Stories can help
  5. Stir emotion

Give your prospects plenty of opportunities to feel good about themselves and their decisions, and you may be able to open the door with enough facts to change an opinion.