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21 March 2014

Neuroscience – it’s marketing, but not as we know it

As marketers, we like to think of ourselves as ‘creatives’, but, believe it or not, we are also psychologist and scientists too. Understanding the way that people think and respond is a vital part of what we do.

And it all comes down to the neurons.

Neurons are cells in our brains that are designed to transmit information to other cells. When we see something that connects with us in some way, those little neurons are at work creating little pulses of electricity.

These little neurons are powerful in the world of marketing as they move people from merely looking at an ad, or reading a brochure, to responding to it.

Here’s how they work.

Imagine for a moment that you’re watching an Olympic gymnast perform on the beam. She spins high in the air, but then the unthinkable happens. As she lands, at speed, her toes slip. Her legs splay either side of the beam as she lands with a thud. Her face clenches as she winces with pain.

“Ouch!” You can just feel yourself cringing at the thought. That’s the power of mirror neurons. They are at work when you observe something happening and then transfer some of that feeling onto you.

Pain is a universal emotion we’ve all experienced. But most of our decisions are based on some sort of deep-rooted emotional motivation, which we then justify with logical processes.

We see this at work in advertising all the time. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising recently conducted research into 1,400 adverts to see which had the greater impact. Campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well, in terms of profit gains, as those with only rational content and about five percent better than those with mixed emotional and rational content. Pringle and Field in their book Brand Immortality attribute this to our brain’s more powerful recording of emotional stimuli.

A great example of neuroscience in action is the latest ad campaign from Pancreatic Cancer Action. The ad features a victim of pancreatic cancer alongside the words “I wish I had breast cancer”. Like it or loathe it, the ad has drawn response from commentators as diverse as Ann Widdecombe and Matthew Wright and certainly achieved its goal of raising the profile of one of the lesser-known and harder-to-detect cancers.  

When putting the campaign together, the creatives at Team Darwin, tested ads on their audience and monitored the activity of brain neurons. When the ads were released, they knew they would elicit an emotionally charged response, and indeed they did.

As marketers it’s our job to understand our customers needs and then satisfy them with our products. When you know what makes your customers tick emotionally, your messages will be much more powerful. 

If you’d like to find out who we can help you to connect with your customers give us a call on 01892 541111, email us at hello@ifour.co.uk or visit our design agency studio in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

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