Let’s talk about how and why people buy things. By Dr Leon Alexander
There is a wellspring of new knowledge that has been pouring out of the neurosciences over the last few decades, especially the last five years. These are remarkable times. It is a rare event when science, technology and real practical problems come together. It happened with chemistry in the eighteenth century, physics in the nineteenth century, microbiology in the twentieth century, and now neuroscience in the twenty-first century.
Human brains process much of their sensory input subconsciously. This is, of course, counter intuitive because we can’t think about how we think when we are not aware of the thinking we’re thinking about! Most of the work our brains are doing occurs below the threshold of our personal conscious awareness.
Our senses are taking in about 11 million bits of information every second. Most of that comes through our eyes, but all the other senses are contributing as well. Our conscious brains – that part of thinking in which we are aware of thinking – can only process, at best, 40 bits of information per second. All the rest is processed subconsciously.
The challenge to marketers, retailers and salon owners is, how do I get into the 40 bits of conscious considered information? Brain science is nice, but so what? How do we use this knowledge to change my brand strategy? How do I market product design, services and pricing? How can I make sure I get the return on investment in advertising?
We need to motivate consumers to try or continue to use our brands or services by activating their pleasure/reward circuit and focusing on powerful images of the emotional “payoff” elements of our services. When the brain is exposed to too many messages, or is interrupted in its drive, it drives distracting messages or images into the background so that it can focus on the task in hand. The brain can ill afford to attend to each note of the cacophonous barrage it encounters.
Frustrated, the brain ignores all the messaging. Whenever possible, position your message or product in scenarios without clutter.
Women, particularly mothers, are supreme at empathetic skills, watching others and knowing what they’re feeling and often, what they need. The female brain is hard-wired to seek community and uses this enhanced empathetic ability to foster it. When presenting a message, service or salon environment to a female, engage her empathetic mind. She engages immediately with faces, particularly when they are making direct eye contact with her. She cannot look away from a baby making eye contact with her.
The human brain is a network of a hundred billion individual cells, called neurons. Complex and intertwined, those neurons, each electrically charged, could be compared to the night sky. But the metaphor is incomplete. Imagine instead that every one of those stars is pulsating with electricity, communicating with other star systems through a complex interplay of signals and brain chemicals. Imagine further the star system sets in motion every aspect of humanity, from breathing, to creativity and insight, to charity and love. It sets us apart from all other species by allowing us to walk on the moon, to compose symphonies, to fall in love and to ponder the universe.
How to appeal to the female brain
- Pay attention to facial expressions and tone of voice, not just text or spoken word.
- Because her hemispheres are so connected, and because she filters ideas through her emotions, present material with some emotional component.
- Women recruit brain areas containing Mirror Neurons to a higher degree than males do.
- Social connections are crucial. Help her to feel included; appeal to her through shared stories.
- Above all, be vigilant as to how you present your brand: it truly is like a person to her, and she will embrace or discard it passionately and completely, depending on how well your brand maintains your promise to her.
The Perfect Storm Brain
Sometimes, very rarely, as history moves us along, a confluence of events occurs, and new vistas appear. These are horizons we see at the end of “perfect storms,” crackling with clarity and tingling with the electricity of new ideas and methods for implementing them. For example, when astronomy and the ability to navigate by the stars coincided with our ability to build ships that could sustain life in the open sea for months at a time and the world changed from flat to round.When steam and electricity were harnessed and made available to the populace, our agrarian society formed cities and the Industrial Age was born. When Watson and Crick discovered the double helix in 1953, they set in motion a flood of new discoveries about the human genome that has revolutionized medicine.
Today, the ability to monitor the full brain in real time, combined with the computational capability to make sense of the results, applied to the needs for more effective and accountable marketing expertise, has launched us into our own perfect storm of consumer insights. In the future, neuroscience insights will impact everything. Alarm clocks will wake us in concert with our REM sleep cycles. Exercise machines will coach and motivate us as we stride toward fitness. On the way to work, the car will monitor our moods, and provide us with music, information, or phone conversations depending on how we feel. Those salons, manufacturers, advertisers and retailers who take time to know us at our deepest subconscious level will survive. Those who don’t will fall swiftly to the wayside. It’s not hubris, but rational optimism, that leads me to believe that the advances we see today will make all our lives a little bit better in the future.