Brainfluence: Persuading with Neuromarketing

Probably the biggest advantage of speaking at conferences is that it helps you establish stronger relationships with the other speakers. A side benefit this time was that Roger Dooley handed me his new book Brainfluence: 100 ways to persuade and convince consumers with neuromarketing.Brainfluence

Some of the highlights:

  • Time “wants” vs. “shoulds.” When most of us think of the future we see ourselves as people who exercise, eat right, and act responsibly. However today most of us want chocolate and to watch TV. So if you’re selling vitamins or gym memberships, promotions should focus on great long term deals which sell to the person we want to be. Big discounts when buying a six month supply of vitamins, or a 12 month gym membership. When you’re selling impulse items focus on how quickly you can get the item to the user. This is why supermarkets start you out at fruits and vegetables and sell you candy bars, soft drinks, and gossip magazines at the counter.
  • Free beats almost free. Amazon’s free shipping deal led to a large jump in sales. Except in France. Turns out the French site had altered the program to offer ‘One Franc’ shipping (about 20 cents). When they dropped it to free they saw the same benefit as the other countries. [I think there’s a larger point. There’s a huge difference between being something and being almost something. Many of us consider ourselves rationalists and moderate. But the human brain often seems to react to three compartments: ALL, SOME, and NONE. And even a penny puts you in the SOME category]. Dooley gives one exception where you should go with almost free: when you’re trying to dissuade the people who don’t need the service (and who are of little value to you) from participating in the deal.
  • Serving hot beverages makes you seem warm. Cold beverages don’t. [Speaking for the minority that don’t drink coffee, offering me hot chocolate would definitely warm me up].
  • Tell people they can trust you. Just adding “you can trust us to do the job for you” to the bottom of an ad caused people to rate the firm higher in every category: fair price (7%), caring (11%), fair treatment (20%), quality (30%) and competency (33%).
  • Don’t price in round numbers. When we hear a price of $500 we wonder if it should really be $400. $499 is a better price not because it starts with a 4, but because we instinctively perceive it as a more exact value of the object. [I’ve been pricing in round numbers. I’m going to stop doing that.]
  • On a website, the first 50-milliseconds are crucial. Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink was right about some things. We reach extremely quick first impressions and then filter all subsequent information through a confirmation bias. [BTW, Google recently announced that they’ll be releasing algorithm updates that take into account what a user sees in the first 50 milliseconds.]
  • Credibility before claims. First convince people that you’re credible, then make your claims.
  • Women (and pictures of women) affect men. Who knew? But Dooley gets specific:
    • Short term thinking: Viewing an image of an attractive woman makes a man more short-term oriented. In a controlled experiment a bank found that putting a picture of a pretty woman on their mailing significantly increased the number of men who took out loans. “The education levels and income of the customers did not affect the performance of the psychological features.” In other words, successful and educated men are just as dumb as the rest of us.
    • Sexy images hurt brand recognition: Sexy images generally reduce men’s ability to remember the brand. It seems their minds are elsewhere (or unavailable) [Though I think some companies like GoDaddy found ways to counter this.]
    • Romantic priming: Romantically primed men show off by buying visible things. Romantically primed women show off through visible altruism.
    • Peacock Effect: When around women, men instinctively feel a need to demonstrate power and competence.
    • It’s in the eyes: Men rated pictures of women as more attractive if their pupils were dilated. Dooley refers to this as a sign of arousal, but Daniel Kahneman refers to this more generally as a sign of engagement.

Use it only for good

What to do with this information? Well, you can just view it as a Defense Against the Dark Arts course, and try to be more aware of how people may be using your instincts against you. I appreciate that Dooley instructs readers to use this power only for good, though of course he can’t actually enforce that. It can be a thin line between manipulating someone and satisfying their psychological needs. But ignorance of neurological principles is probably not better for us than knowledge of what makes us and others tick.

The book is presented as 100 2-3 page lessons like “Simple marketing for complex products” (give buyers a simple reason to buy your complex product). He takes some of the best ideas from authors and researchers (I think 5 lessons are from Dan Ariely) and puts them into engaging and informative action items. It was a fun read that gave me some good takeaways.