Brain Research: The Next Direct Marketing Breakthrough

What will be the new exciting breakthrough for direct marketers in 2016? I believe its brain research. Insights from the BRAIN Initiative can give direct marketers new perspective and ideas for creating more attention-grabbing and emotion-based messages that lead our prospects to give themselves …

Gary Hennerberg's upcoming book, "Crack the Customer Mind Code," goes deeper into the neurological mysteries of marketing.
Gary Hennerberg’s upcoming book goes deeper into the neurological mysteries of marketing.

What will be the new exciting breakthrough for direct marketers in 2016? I believe its brain research. Insights from the BRAIN Initiative can give direct marketers new perspective and ideas for creating more attention-grabbing and emotion-based messages that lead our prospects to give themselves permission to take action.

Why is brain research in the spotlight now? Because millions of dollars are being poured into brain research that exposes fresh perspectives on how we think, and how we respond to marketing messaging. In a moment, I’ll share three primary benefits for direct marketers that are expected as an outcome of continuing brain research.

This new research is recognized as the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. It’s intended to massively deepen our understanding of the human mind. The goal is to uncover new ways to treat, prevent and cure brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury.

At first glance, brain research may seem to have nothing to do with direct marketing. But look closer, and the implications are game changing.

The links between how to understand deeper thinking and how the pathways in the mind motivate people to take action are spelled out in my new book, Crack the Customer Mind Code, Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES! It will be published soon by Morgan James Publishing and available to readers of Today @ Target Marketing.

I’ve long had a curiosity about the mind. Here’s why:

I have lived with a mysterious obsessive-compulsive disorder since the age of 6. Having consumed me since I was a child, it has driven a lifelong curiosity of how and why the mind is wired and works as it does.

The compulsive — and uncommon — disorder that has highly influenced my life comes with a rather unflattering name: trichotillomania, or compulsive hair pulling. As a child, I believed that I was the only person in the world who pulled my hair. Yet today we know the medical and psychiatric communities estimate that perhaps 2 percent of all children will pull noticeable clumps of hair. Most of us live with the disorder in silence, full of shame. I was no different. But in 2007, I resolved to go public with my disorder and be a role model for children and adults who suffer in shame. I shaved my head, lifting decades of burden from my shoulders. I wrote a book, titled Urges, about my childhood of living with this disorder, and have met with other hair pullers at conferences from coast-to-coast.

Knowing my brain was different from others, I’ve always wanted to peer inside and see if a wire was crossed. I dreamed that my brain could be opened up, the misguided wire that created those urges to pull hair would be gently moved to its proper place, and that I would stop pulling and my life would be normal, just like everyone else.

But of course, the brain can’t be opened and misconnected wires and pathways uncrossed to change the code. And certainly, a “normal” brain is a matter of perspective.

Since the BRAIN Initiative was announced in April, 2013, dozens of technology firms, academic institutions, scientists and other key contributors to the field of neuroscience have made significant research commitments. Millions of dollars continue to pour into the BRAIN Initiative.

The impetus for funding the research was borne from a disturbing World Health Organization statistic, and with this additional reporting of the economic impact of brain injuries, diseases and disorders in the Washington Post:

One in four families worldwide includes someone with a brain injury, disease or disorder, including psychiatric illnesses and developmental disorders, according to the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. In the United States, the economic burden for neurological problems is nearly a half-trillion dollars every year.

The good news is that research is already in progress. The findings and treatment could have a profound impact on the health of people everywhere.

But the findings of these studies could also reshape how marketers approach how to access deeper emotional, and logical, levels of thinking through our messaging. Studies are already revealing insights about how short- and long-term memory influence how the brain processes information and makes decisions.

Three benefits of the BRAIN Initiative to direct marketers are:

  1. Economic Improvement. When one in four families is impacted with brain injuries or disease, their financial wherewithal or attention to engage with and respond to our offers is likely diminished. If some of these families are helped, it follows that the entire economy benefits.
  1. What Influences Emotion and Decisions. By understanding brain function, marketers can better understand the influences of how people absorb messaging, react with emotion, and make decisions. It can also deepen our ability to better imagine personas of our prospective customers.
  1. Focus Marketing Messaging. By unlocking mind mysteries, findings from research can help marketer’s better focus marketing messaging that connects and resonates more deeply with people.

The opportunities for individuals, families, our culture and the world will most surely be expanded because this research promises a better future for us all.

In 2016, more exciting breakthroughs in brain research will surely occur. New findings may well lead you to new insights about your marketing strategies and messaging. Get more insights on this topic and the seven mind pathways revealed in my new book at