Marketing Psychology & The Reptilian BrainUs humans always think we’re such logical creatures, but this is not the case at all. We feel emotion, we make snap decisions, we make mistakes and we have regrets.

Neuroscientist Paul MacLean theorised in the 60’s that our brains are layered by function, kind of like an onion. The most fundamental survival instincts such as fight-or-flight, friend-or-foe responses are based near the centre, nearest to the spinal cord, in an area that he called the “triune brain” or “reptilian brain,” so called because it is theorised that this part of the brain developed during the reptilian stage in our evolution.

This very basic part of the brain is the centre of our emotions, our snap decision making and our first impressions. These are all things that occur within milliseconds, so understanding this very crucial part of the brain is key to appealing to people on a fundamental level.

Know your audience’s concerns, both conscious and subconscious.

First of all, we should all know how important it is to know your audience’s motivations and what makes them tick. Use solid market research to highlight the reasons clients buy from you; the more you understand your prospects, the better able you will be to address their concerns, empathise with them, and appeal to their better judgement.

Also knowing in very real terms what intangible problems you solve for your clients is imperative. Yes, you provide the product or service that you provide, but what additional benefits does that come with? Here are a few examples of what a purchase can intangibly provide:

So take a look at your whole sales process; where are you providing added value to your customers? What are you doing that will be that cherry-on-top for someone out there? By all means mention it in your promotional materials.

We’re all just self, self, self.

Our self-preservation instinct makes us very much averse to loss and risk. This inherent risk aversion means that it is of paramount importance to portray one’s business as a safe bet. Maintain a level of helpful, friendly professionalism at all times, especially when dealing with enquiries and complaints. Make sure that your website looks clean and professional, and that your branding carries over to email signatures, social media, and printed materials. This all helps you to appear dependable and efficient, and as a low risk option to a prospect.

Loss aversion is a slightly different animal. Our fear of missing out (“FOMO”) is stronger than some of us might like to believe. The easiest way to harness the power of FOMO is to offer limited time reductions or packages, adding a certain urgency to the customer’s decision.
To echo an interesting point from this Psychology for Marketers article if you provide a free trial or sample, people will more readily envisage themselves already owning the product, so therefore closing the sale will seem more of a natural step.

Now we come to a fact that some people are quite uncomfortable with; every one of us is fundamentally egocentric. It sounds awful, but even the most generous of us will instinctively think “what’s in it for me,” especially when it comes to marketing efforts. It’s all a part of our human self-preservation instinct. Remember this when putting forward your proposition to the client – “what’s in it for me” will be top billing in your prospect’s mind.

Emotions control the purse strings, not logic.

We’ve all bought something that we didn’t really need, and many purchases are made on a basis of emotion and feeling rather than pure logic. Advertisers have been taking advantage of this for decades, by highlighting how their product will make us feel rather than any tangible benefits or features that the product provides.

A great example here is perfume adverts on television. They can’t pump the smell out at you though the TV screen. 4HD might be nice, but we haven’t quite reached smellovision just yet. So what’s a marketer to do? They try to appeal to us by presenting a sleek and sexy short film, implying that their particular brand of toilet water will make you feel confident and attractive.

Car adverts on TV also do this to a smaller extent. Some models may have things that they can boast about like proximity meters and self-parking features, but when it really comes down to it, they all get you from A to B. So how do they make one “A to B machine” seem more appealing than another? They appeal to feelings of safety, security, and dependability.

The lesson here? Paint a picture for your audience, help them envisage a life with your product. Detail how it will solve their problem on a personal level and show them how much better their lives will be with your product in it. Fundamentally knowing your customer through market research will help to really nail the emotions and rationale behind the purchase, and the pain points that you soothe.

Blue reptile on a rock. "You humans think you're so clever..."Embrace your zany side.

This is my favourite bit of advice to give. Don’t be afraid to use bizarre similes and odd turns of phrase to appeal to novelty and instil curiosity. Don’t go over the top and never be fake about it, but injecting your text with personality immediately makes it more welcoming and human, and encourages people to read more.

And as a weird man once said “Dare To Be Stupid.”

For example, whenever I start talking about the so-called reptilian brain and the part it plays in marketing, I expect that some people will sit up and take notice. Our scaly friends aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when talking about marketing, so a small element of curiosity is raised in the mind. Why “reptile?” What have lizards got to do with advertising? If I’m writing about the topic, I like to lead with that because it makes people curious.

Obviously there are certain industries that may not work well with a bit of lighthearted japery, such as those where strong (especially negative) emotions are inextricably linked. But when done well, there’s nothing to say that a dry topic like accountancy or stock brokerage can’t be pepped up with a bit of eccentricity.

Be a bit zany and don’t be afraid to subvert expectations. That’s my advice – for marketing, and for life.

So remember the legacy of our fork-tongued cousins whenever you create marketing materials. Reptilian marketing is less about being scaly and cold blooded, and more about being empathetic, understanding, and dare I say it, human.

What does human evolution have to do with marketing? It's surprisingly simple... Click To Tweet

Image Credits: lynnmarentette0 and PublicDomainImages on Pixabay and Homero Nunez Chapa at FreeRangeStock