How To Trigger Buying Using Neuroscience in Marketing

April 4th, 2012   •   no comments   •   Author: Walter Lim   

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Wish to improve how you persuade your audiences to buy from you? Begin by diving deep into her brain.

Thanks to a podcast by Derek Halpern of Social Triggers blog, we can gain a fascinating glimpse into the world of neuroscience and its impact on marketing.

Interviewing Jonah Lehrer, author of “How We Decide”, the podcast explained that decisions are made by the interplay between the stimuli that we receive and their influences on different portions of the brain.

Include an Emotional Trigger

Emotions play an overwhelmingly big part in decision making. The curious thing is that we decide with our emotions even when we think that we acted rationally.

In studies where brain injury patients lose the use of their emotional brain centres (the limbic brain system), it was found that those individuals were unable to make the simplest decision.

Often, they couldn’t even decide where they should have lunch. Or which shirt they should wear.

The lesson for us is this: any form of marketing message which we churn out must have an emotional stimulus that influences decision making. Going solely on logical and rational benefits alone will not work.

Fear Of Loss > Benefit of Gain

Which is better? Help your prospect to avoid loss or help them to gain pleasure?

Apparently, there are two key protagonists at play in decision-making in any human being. These different parts of the brain are…

  1. Pain Centre: The insular cortex (or insula) which is the deeply embedded “pain centre” of the brain.
  2. Pleasure Centre: The pleasure centres which are linked to the nucleus accumbens and the pre-frontal cortex.

The fear of loss (or loss aversion) which involves the former is normally a stronger neural pathway than the potential benefit of gain.

Thus, advertisements that use loss preventive language (“Don’t Lose this Opportunity,” “Hurry, While Stocks Last!” “Season Ending Soon!”) often work better than those that proclaim any potential gain (“Enjoy 50% discount!” “Live a richer life today”).

In the same vein, people are often exquisitely sensitive to criticism. A negative experience will be remembered them far more strongly than positive comments and compliments.

The Endowment Effect

A related issue at play here was what Jason called the “endowment effect.”

If you provide somebody with an opportunity to “take possession” of an item, that person would often feel that it is a lot more valuable to her.

Therefore, if a potential customer walk into your fashion retail store, tries on a piece of clothing in the dressing room and liked what she saw, she would likely have a sense of ownership over that item. This makes that individual more likely to buy the item.

You can adopt such tricks in granting ownership by imprinting your potential customer’s name in your marketing materials.

Or you can personalise your advertising materials using your targeted customer’s vital statistics where available. For instance, you could highlight the place where he lived, or his former university, or other information.

Reduce Pain By Making Spending Painless

The other strategy that you can employ is to avoid triggering the pain centres of your customer’s brain.

Sideline them such that sensory signals hit their pleasure centres rather than their pain centres.

An example of this is the use of credit cards. By making spending more painless, they make it easier for people to purchase items relative to using cold hard cash.

Similarly, avoiding the fear of loss is seen in how continuous “value for money” messages like “Everyday Low Price”, or “Best Price Guaranteed” lulls people to purchase an item, even if the price is not discounted.

By reassuring consumers’ insulas that they’re not going to be ripped off, marketers can trick them into believing that they’re getting more bang for the buck.

Don’t Overdo It

However, you need to beware of overdoing such tactics.

The repeated use of discounts may end up “training” your consumers to only want to purchase during the sale and not normal rack rates.

In the same vein, the last thing you want to do is to infuriate your consumers by slashing a discounted price (because they have missed the sales period), and to show that only normal rack rates are available. You certainly do not want to piss off your potential customers!

Immediate Gratification vs Long-term Benefits

Finally, irrational decision making can be seen in how people prefer immediate gratification rewards vis-a-vis longer-term but less certain benefits.

Our proclivity towards loss aversion drive us towards lower hanging fruits rather than potentially larger but longer-term benefits. Many of us would sacrifice quantum for immediacy.

However, there is value in holding out for something better. Being able to delay gratification has been shown to be highly beneficial for us as individuals.

Experiments have shown that it is one of the greatest predictors of long-term success.

Thus, while marketers may want to trigger the impulse reflexes of the pain and pleasure centres of their customers, we should also think more carefully as consumers on the long-term benefits before pressing that “buy” button on our screens.

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