Marketing Classroom: a quick lesson on how the brain works

As a marketer the only way to can cut through the noise is by knowing how the brain works. You’d be surprise the number of marketers that lack of this essential knowledge. Even though the brain is a really complex system—and its study would take you years to perform—let me show a quick lesson of how it works so you can rethink the way you market.
There are several ways to classify the parts of the brain. There are some interesting models like the Brain’s Dominance by Herrmann, where the brain is divided into four quadrants. However, let’s stick with MacLean’s brain theory to get the basics.
There are three parts in the brain:

  1. Lizard brain: oldest one. It’s intuitive, fast and totally unconscious response. It’s the one that keeps you alive. And it’s also the one that wants you to maintain the status quo.

  2. Limbic brain: emotional responses. It doesn’t talk, but it feels. Also, it’s the decision maker. Very powerful.

  3. Neocortex: this is the youngest brain. It’s rational, and the one that talks. Even though it feels like the decision maker—it doesn’t have a purchase control.

What does this mean for you?

1. People don’t know what they want

As Henry Ford once said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.
When you ask people what they want they’ll tell you something different. They don’t actually lye, but the problem becomes when the brain that gets the decision—the emotional one—can’t get those feelings into words. The brain that responds to the question is not the same as the one that makes the decision.

2. A purpose with emotion thrives

As we’ve seen in books like Start With Why, few companies communicates—or know—their WHYs, that means their purposes where emotion flows in the limbic brain.
What most companies do is communicate what they do, or even how they do it. That means a clear communication to the Neocortex—like making clear the specifications of a product as a top communication.
It’s like when Apple launched their iPod. They didn’t say a MP3 with 5GB. Instead, their commercial was 1000 songs in your pocket.
We are emotional machines. And emotion thrives.

3. The lizard brain fights to keep the status quo

As Steven Pressfield says, we have an internal force that prevents us for doing the work (or whatever that challenge the status quo), and it’s called Resistance.
Well, considering that the lizard brain is the one that keeps you alive, it’s one of the most powerful constraint against you. It doesn’t like changes. It’s managed by fear. And if you communicate in a way that doesn’t calm this force, your product would be rejected.
You have to figure out how to quiet and ignore their own fears that they’re preventing them for buying you. You  have to calm that inward force.

4. Neocortex ends up overthinking

If you ignore these points, you’d end up doing what consumers tell you that they want. Thus, your communication will be rational, just explaining how superior your products are in a technical way.
Then, you’re forcing people to make a decision with the Neocortex. Which means that they don’t have the emotional backup, so people will overthink their decisions—sadly, ending up with a price benefit.
And this happens more times that we’d want to. When companies don’t communicate properly, we end up overthinking our decisions.
Never communicate first to the neocortex. You’d be rejected. You want to talk first with the one in charge, and that’s the limbic brain—the one that controls decision-making and the part of the brain that rationalize those decisions in its own language.

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Depending on the language you use, you’d get the attention of one brain or the other. So it’s your job to find a communication’s balance in order to coordinate the mind.
In the end, marketing is about creating a piece of content, deliver it through a channel until you reach an audience. It’s not manipulation. It’s making that piece easier to process and to go through the channel.
And when you communicate properly, your audience will thank you. They’ll thank you because you make the communication easier to process and in a way they get interested.
What are you going to do then?