Welcome back to Braintalk. A series of brain-related topics for marketers looking for business growth. By teaching you the basics you will get a better understanding of your customer’s brain. In the last two blogs, we talked about dopamine and serotonin. This time we will explain some basic facts about the brain’s structure and functions. Keep reading if you want to know what is happening inside your consumer’s head!
Mapping the mind
I remember attending my first psychobiology class. It was a collection of odd-sounding words and strange-looking drawings. I was confused. The brain is a complex organ. Scientists make discoveries every day and still we don’t know everything there is to know about it. In a simple and understandable way, we will show you how the brain was formed and how it functions. Don’t get discouraged by all the names. The point is to understand it is more than grey mass resembling a walnut. This walnut makes it possible to do everything we do. Talking, reading, thinking, running, dreaming. The brain is the headquarter of the body. It consists of many different parts and interrelated areas that work together as one system.
Let’s start off with the largest part of the human brain: the cerebrum.
The cerebrum consists of a left and right part called hemispheres. The outer layers of the brain also belong to the cerebrum. These are the cortices, better known as the cerebral cortex. Last, there are also structures deeper inside the brain belonging to the cerebrum. With our cerebrum, we can control all our voluntary actions in the body.
The cerebral cortex
Let us zoom in on the cerebral cortex. This is the part of the brain that handles the functions we use every day. It consists of grey matter; the outer grey and tangled looking layer of the brain. All the tangles and caverns are the work of evolution. It allows for a larger surface into a limited space, which results in greater diversity of functions. Remember we talked about neurons in our dopamine article? Most of them are located here. If we zoom in even further we arrive at the lobes.
The cerebral cortex can be divided into four main layers—or lobes—that organise the connectivity of these neurons. They are:
Frontal lobe: problem-solving (e.g. solving a puzzle)
Parietal lobe: movement (e.g. moving our fingers)
Temporal lobe: auditory perception (e.g. listening to music)
Occipital lobe: visual perception (e.g. looking at a painting)
The exact functions of our brain areas are more complex than we described, but in this article, we will focus on what’s relevant to you.
The different structures are highly connected and work together closely. An example is listening to music. Vibration-sensitive neurons in your ear give a signal to a specialised area of the brain, which passes it to other areas to extract notes, instruments and voices. Eventually, all signals from different sensory systems are processed and fused together for you to consciously perceive the song.
Humans are distinctive from other animals. We walk on two legs, talk, show a greater range of emotions, and are able to send rockets into space. There is also another crucial difference: we have big brains. Actually the biggest of all primates in proportion to our body. Our cortex is the source of our intelligence and resourcefulness. But what caused this? The answer is evolution.
Our brain has developed extremely fast compared to other primates. Scientists believe our brains grew to accommodate to a fast-changing environment, which enabled more advanced functions such as language, to evolve. The way we speak has changed enormously. From the time we lived in our caves to where we are now; using Emoji’s and learning a second or even third language.
When looking at the evolution of our brain, there are three phases—or—brains that have developed to where it is today:
The reptilian brain
The oldest part of the brain is called the reptilian brain and handles the most basic functions related to survival and instinct. Breathing and heart rate are examples of functions regulated by this part.
The limbic system
The limbic system—also called the middle brain—is responsible for memories and emotion. A lot of mammals have a limbic system, meaning they hold memories and feel emotions.
Remember we talked about the outer layer of the brain holding a lot of different functions? This layer is also called the neocortex, the latest addition to our brain. Most advanced functions like reasoning and abstract thought are located here. Simply put, the brain is built up beginning with the most simple functions and ending with the most complex ones.
Our instincts drive our decisions
When it comes to consumer behaviour, it might seem logical that our new brain—the neocortex—makes rational choices by looking at relevant information. Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux argues that this is not true and that our brain signals flow from the old brain to the new. This means our decisions are way less rational than we think. Even though we have a new and more developed brain, our instinctive brain is still very active. Read more about this distinction and conflict in the consumer’s mind here.
We know that our brain has developed significantly over the last million years. But did you know you can change your own brain within a few weeks? This is because of a powerful ability called neuroplasticity.
It is possible for the brain to modify connections, make adaptations and rewire itself. People who recovered from brain injury are a perfect example of this. If damaged, the brain will look for new ways to function like it did before. Simply said, our brain can remap parts to work together to make something happen. If there’s damage somewhere, a different area can take over that function. So how can you improve your wiring and connections? In short: new experiences.
The key to this is environmental enrichment that relies on sensory and motor stimuli. The brain is like a muscle. If you want to improve a certain skill you can strengthen it by practising. Research shows that the more a person seeks out new experiences, the stronger the wiring in the respective brain areas becomes. Because the brain is so malleable, it is important to keep it fit. We used to think there was a critical period for brain development only during childhood, but neuroplasticity is something we can benefit from throughout all of our life. A few ways to stay fit are through meditation, physical exercise, and learning a new language. How do you keep your brain fit?
A sneak peek in your consumer’s head
So far we have discussed some brain areas- and functions, but how do we even know these things? There are a lot of different methods that enable us to analyse this. We can inspect the effects of brain damage or look at brain activity. Information about the brain is also becoming more and more valuable in marketing. It can give you insights that are typically not accessible through standard methods like questionnaires. As you probably already know, neuromarketing is the relatively new field that combines neuroscience with marketing. Let’s look into one method to give you an idea of how brain research works.
We explained how evolution makes us smarter. We have evolved to the point where we invented a machine that tells us what brain area is active in which specific function. This is called functional Magnetic Response Imaging or fMRI. When you put someone in a scanner and let them perform a task you can see what area of the brain shows activation. With this information, you can conclude that the area (or areas) are involved with the execution of this task. This means the neurons in this area are communicating with other neurons (what is a neuron). How are we able to measure brain activity? We do this by detecting changes in blood flow in the brain. When our brain uses a certain area, blood flow to that specific area will increase. Simply said, if someone in a fMRI scanner moves his or her right arm, you can see what area is active, because blood flow to that area has increased.
Even though fMRI is not a frequently used tool in marketing, it is a promising tool able to reveal subconscious processes and aspects that are not visible by the naked eye. We have already introduced you to this combination with the classical Pepsi versus Coke experiment in this article about wanting versus liking. This experiment shows that brand positioning is based on emotions and memory; brain processes that can be researched with fMRI.
There’s still a lot of improvement to be made, but the first principles for neuromarketing are there. If we are lucky, we might experience a moment when we can peek inside a consumer’s head in an instance (this also sounds a bit scary, to be honest). Until then, we will inform you about the brain with the knowledge we have, give you neuromarketing tools and help you optimize your marketing strategy. If we made you curious, keep following our Braintalk series to learn more about the brain, neuromarketing and other interesting developments!
A lump in your throat. Laughing so hard your belly hurts. The feeling you’re the only person on the planet. These are all examples of feelings you will have felt at least once in your life. They are examples of emotions: our reaction towards an object, individual or surrounding.
Emotions are accompanied by behavioural and physiological changes in our body. Feel your heart pumping out of your chest when doing something scary? This is a natural reaction. Ever felt the urge to dance after hearing the good news? You’re not the only one! As with almost everything, our brain handles these reactions. It works together with our body to make sure we respond in the most effective way. In this article, we will tell you more about emotion and why it is interesting for marketing.
Fight or flight
Imagine standing on top of a bridge. The view is amazing, the sun is setting, but you also signed up for a bungee-jump. In a few minutes, you will take the plunge. You can feel your palms starting to sweat. Your heartbeat is going up. Your muscles tense.
Everyone is nervous in this situation. Our body prepares itself for a scary and dangerous situation. Jumping off a cliff means putting yourself in danger. It is not natural, and that is why it activates the fight or flight system. This is a physiological reaction to any situation that might be harmful and a threat to our survival.
After the fight or flight system activates, our sympathetic nervous system takes over. This system regulates the unconscious actions of our body. These are functions like breathing or blinking your eye. You don’t think about them, they happen. In a dangerous situation, it prepares your body for either fighting or fleeing. It can make you sweat, give you goosebumps or dilate your pupils. To make this happen, the brain works together with the body to prepare you for what’s coming. These actions of the body are the most basic emotions related to survival and instinct.
Why we blush
As explained before, emotions are an experience of our brain and our body. We perceive a certain situation and this leads to a reaction of our body.
Chemical reactions in our brain prepare us to react in the most effective way. A simple example is blushing, which seems to have an evolutionary purpose. In an embarrassing situation, blushing can be an automatic and uncontrollable response.
Psychologists explain this as a way to show our regret over a wrongdoing. By blushing the negative social impression of others might reduce.
The universal language of emotions
Without a doubt, you know Charles Darwin, the godfather of evolution. Darwin was a major fan of biology. Another area that fascinated him is emotion. He was the first person who conducted research on how we recognize facial emotions. Darwin studied emotion by photographing human faces with different expressions. He wanted to prove that we perceive and express emotions in identical ways. He discovered that emotions are innate and that animals also have emotions.
Now you know more about the basics of emotion, let’s see how it relates to marketing. Most people think the choices they make are rational and well deliberated. Yet, in reality, our emotions are the main drivers behind our decisions. There are two types of emotions that influence our decisions.
Emotions we experience while making a decision are immediate emotions. Our body and face add an automatic reaction (like blushing). Immediate emotions are often more intense and can have a bigger impact on a decision.
Anticipated emotions are not experienced directly. They are the expectations about how someone will feel after making a decision. Thinking about gains or losses influence these decisions.
In marketing, anticipated emotions are the most interesting. Anticipation can lead to customer engagement and more response. There is more time to respond to someone’s thoughts or feelings about a purchase decision in the future.
How do you anticipate your consumer’s emotion? Emotional branding focuses on building a brand that appeals to your customer’s emotions and desires. This type of marketing can be successful when it triggers the right emotional response. Your customers will create a strong attachment with your brand if you manage to do this.
Trees and lungs
Have you seen the beautiful images of our planet in WWF commercials? They try to increase donations by evoking positive emotions. A good example is a campaign against deforestation, which leads to reduced oxygen levels. The ad shows a forest in the shape of two lungs to make the message personal. As you can see, the left lung looks healthy. The lung on the right looks unhealthy and is damaged by deforestation. With this image, they try to evoke emotional responses by linking the lung to our own health. They’ve created emotional content by making the advertisement personal.
The importance of brand association
Emotional marketing is extremely important if you want to have a successful product. Why? Emotional ads make people buy. Research shows that we rely on emotions to make brand decisions, not on information. One example is we are willing to pay more for brand-name products. If you think about it, this is pretty strange. The product is often of the same quality. Yet, because of the brand people prefer it over others. This preference is a result of emotion and positive brand association in our memory. For example, we prefer the taste of Coca-Cola if we know the brand. If we are unaware of this, we tend to like the taste of Pepsi. Neuroscience shows that different brain areas are involved in both situations.
Big brands like McDonald’s, Airbnb and Google are a big hit because of their emotional connection with the consumer. Remember that a brand is basically nothing more than a mental representation in the consumers head? The key here is to create emotional content that makes an impact and lasts in the consumer’s memory. The better the emotional content, the more likely sales will rise. To do this, it is important that the representation feels authentic and honest. You will need to fully understand your customers and brand’s identity to choose the right strategy.
How to create emotional content
Now you know how emotions work and why it is important for marketing, let’s put it into practice and make some applied neuromarketing yourself. Remember, it is very important to connect with your target audience. So how do you do this?
Direct emotional association
The most obvious way to do this is by direct emotional association. Humans have six basic emotions: happy, surprised, afraid, disgusted, angry and sad. If you choose one emotion, happy is the most logical one. Be careful, this is not applicable to all products! Think clearly about what emotion suits yours. In our priming article, we explained that positive priming can lead to more sales. The use of happy, smiling people creates a positive association with your product. Consumers will feel more attached and connected.
Make your customer feel involved
Make your advertisement personal and make your customer feel involved. Coca-Cola mastered this tactic with their Share a Coke campaign. They replaced their logo with the most common names. This way people could share a coke with a person that matters most to them. They had over a thousand names on their bottles, leading to enormous shares on socials and more than 150 million sales.
Make them feel proud
Be inspirational, so your customer feels a sense of pride. When we feel inspired, we are motivated. One way to do this is by associating your brand with a role model or a certain goal your customer can reach. An example comes from Adidas, who created a campaign around the Olympic athletes. Seeing them as fit and determined winners create feelings of inspiration and motivation.
In this long-read, you will read about the ethics of neuromarketing practices and learn how it can improve –instead of ruin– your reputation.
In the summer of 1957, social psychologist James Vicary shook the world with a controversial experiment. In a cinema, he secretly flashed messages about Coca-Cola and popcorn on the big screen. These messages were so short (3 milliseconds), that viewers were not aware of them. Yet, Vicary claimed that sales increased without a doubt: Coca-Cola by 58% and popcorn by 18%. He got the media and the world hysterical.
His subliminal advertising got the reputation of manipulating people’s minds. Vicary later denied the experiment ever took place and distanced himself from all the fuss. Subliminal advertising is still a technique that marketers use to convince someone of the benefits of their product. But why does this work? How can it be that we respond to something we can’t even see?
Research from a new interesting field can give you the answers: it’s called neuromarketing. This new branch of marketing uses brain research to get a better understanding of consumer behaviour. In particular, it can provide insights into processes we are not consciously aware of. Some questions we are often asked are: “Is this ethical? How far can we go using this for marketing? And what practices are there that don’t impact my reputation in a bad way?” We will discuss them all in this article so you will fully understand what’s good, and what’s not.
Combine brains with marketing
Before getting to the ethical side of the story, let us give you a brief history lesson in marketing. You can pretty much say that marketing was invented alongside money. Before the digital era, shop owners already displayed their products as appealing as possible to increase sales. In the 80’s TV and radio commercials appeared. Later on, researchers started conducting marketing research and developed important theories and models. During the 90’s, the first interest in the brain for marketing purposes arose. Ten years later, neuromarketing was born. The first research on how the consumer’s brain works were presented. The term was officially coined in 2002 by Professor Smidts of Rotterdam University. Slightly patriotic side note: this explains why many of the leading neuromarketing experts and companies are Dutch!
Neuromarketing vs marketing
Let’s compare neuromarketing with traditional marketing for your understanding. Neuromarketing gives us information about the strengths and weaknesses of marketing strategies. By measuring brain activity you can determine the power of advertisements, websites, commercials, flyers and everything else related to your business. We are not aware of these processes and call them subconscious. A simple example is that you can predict if someone likes a certain colour or not while looking at their brain. This gives a lot more objective insights about consumer behaviour.
Traditional tools, like a survey, will not always provide a complete answer. People are not always honest, sometimes they will provide answers they think the questioner wants to hear and sometimes it can be hard to accurately express how you feel. Over time, we will only get closer to making more accurate predictions of consumer behaviour with neuromarketing. Where traditional marketing focuses on what works and what does not, neuromarketing focuses on the why and how. It brings the field of marketing, neuroscience and psychology together. This gives us new, interesting insights into the consumer’s mind. You can apply neuromarketing to a broad spectrum of tools. E-mail flow, website design, video or communication are a few examples of how to improve your business.
How they practically differ
Let’s go back to Coca-Cola to show you how brain imaging can be useful for marketing. A well known experiment by McClure et al. is perfect for demonstration. They gave their participants samples of both Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Afterwards, they looked at the preference they indicated and their measured brain activity. They noticed that there was a difference in brand preference when the participants were or were not aware of which brand they were drinking. Interestingly, they also found a difference in brain activity. When participants were unaware of the brand they were drinking, they favoured the taste of Pepsi. Also, the brain was active in areas involved in reward. Yet, when participants were aware of the brand, they favoured the taste of coke. The brain now showed activity in areas associated with memory and emotion. The researchers concluded that the preference for Coca-Cola is influenced stronger by brand image than taste. This is a perfect example of the insights neuromarketing can provide in terms of what works best for your product and marketing. Using traditional surveys or interviews, this information would never have come to light. Why do you like a certain colour or song? It’s hard to say. Modern brain imaging techniques can give us insights into preference, liking and satisfaction.
The ethics of neuromarketing
The main goal of marketing is to match a product with a person that shows interest in this product. This means marketing shapes the design and presentation in a specific way. As a result, products are more compatible with the consumer’s preferences. Now, the question is whether the information neuromarketing gives us is ethical. In the end, these insights tell us something about processes we are not consciously aware of. This means we can’t control them either. Questions that consumers will start to ask themselves are: “if marketers have access to this information, can they discover the ‘buy button’ in my brain? Will they try to tempt us in order to see their sales rise?” It is not surprising consumers will ask these questions. In the end, science and technology will get to a level where they will play a huge role in our lives. They are actually already doing this: Facebook is violating our privacy by selling our information to other companies and Google knows where you are 24/7.
The important thing for you as a marketer is to know how to react to your consumer’s questions. How can you explain to someone that neuromarketing is ethical? And why it is a very interesting source of information.
Why neuromarketing is not necessarily wrong
Simply put, every form of marketing is—to a certain extent—a way of subconscious influencing. If you own a business, without doubt, you are influencing your consumers in various ways. One example is priming. Priming enables us to subconsciously recognise information that we have previously been exposed to. This means that exposure to one stimulus influences a response to another stimulus. It is a result of the way our memory stores information and creates associations that are automatically activated when we see, hear or smell.
A simple example is the packaging of a healthy product. Whenever this package is green, the consumer is primed with more healthy feelings and associations. Priming is present in an enormous amount of information around us, and you too will be influenced by it! Even the smallest detail can influence how we feel, think or act. This is a good example of why neuromarketing is not necessarily wrong. Why? Because neuromarketing explains how an effect like priming works. Long before neuromarketing even existed, priming was already used by marketers. Think back to Vicary and his subliminal messages in the cinema. Or the smiling faces appearing on television ads in the 80’s.
Every argument against neuromarketing is thus an argument against marketing in general. It’s not about what neuromarketing does, but what people –researchers, marketers, politicians, etc.– do with the information it gives us. Another argument is that marketing is the matchmaker between a product and someone that already has an interest in this product. You are not forcing anyone out of the blue to buy your product. Marketing and neuromarketing only make products more compatible with your consumer’s preferences. They were already looking for it or thinking about buying the product. With the information neuromarketing gives us, connecting consumers to products or services becomes easier.
We will give you a hypothetical example with research based on drinking bottles. Apparently, people with a high BMI prefer a thin-shaped bottle, even if this drink is higher in price. This would imply that soda manufacturers could sell more when offering their drinks in thin-shaped bottles. Is this ethically acceptable? You are not forcing anyone to buy your product. However, you are influencing people –who already have an unhealthy BMI– in the direction of consuming even more unhealthy products. This is an example of where some ethical questions may arise. How far should you go with influencing vulnerable people in an unhealthy direction? What if your influence is bad for the environment? Or if you make people unhappy?
At the same time, this information could be used to support healthy behaviour. By offering healthy drinks in thinly shaped bottles, you could increase the sale to people with an unhealthy BMI. Again, it’s not what neuromarketing tells us, but what people do with this information. Let us further explain with two unethical and two ethical cases.
There’s a big chance neuromarketing is used to shape the campaigns of politicians. Like products, politicians will present themselves in the most favourable way to get votes. During the US election of 2004, one study looked at brain activity and political judgment. More recent research focuses on the appearance of political candidates. If people look at a losing candidate, they show more activity in the insula (a specific brain area associated with pain). The researchers concluded that negative attributions play a critical role in the elections. Furthermore, considerable neuroimaging work is done on the perception of human faces. Researchers investigated facial symmetry, skin colour and attractiveness related to brain activity. Even though this research might seem innocent now, it could have a major impact in the future. What if important, corrupt politicians know what kind of picture will lead to the most votes? Or how to shape a speech that will prime voters so strong they will win the election no matter what? This is an example of a case where neuromarketing might lead to unethical consequences.
Research shows that people with a high BMI are prone to be more vulnerable to visual aspects of a product. Because they make impulsive decisions, labels or text will influence them more effectively. Due to the existence of fast food, sugars and processed food, the group of overweights is growing. According to the World Health Organization, 39% of the adults worldwide are obese. This means a huge amount of people is easily being influenced in the supermarket. A 2011 study shows that brains from obese people respond differently to nutrition labels. When given an identical milkshake, they show more brain activity in reward areas if the label reads ‘regular’ compared to ‘low-fat’. This evidence shows that consumers will behave differently depending on the label or design of a product. Will obese people also respond differently to colour? An image, or touch? If marketers gain insight into these findings, they might design and offer their unhealthy products in such a way, that the vulnerable obese group will be more likely persuaded to buy them.
If you have travelled the world, you may have noticed the difference in messages on cigarette or tobacco packaging. Here in the Netherlands, we see shocking images of physical damage caused by smoking. In Australia, a personal story about a man named Bryan is described. Bryan died 6 weeks after starting smoking. Indonesia’s messages are almost comical: a smoking man with a careless attitude and some skulls on the background is shown. Although there are big differences, the goal of these messages is the same. They need to inform smokers of the effect of smoking and support quitting. The fact that there is so much variety in communication, shows that we do not agree on which message is the most effective.
Despite the variety, there is a large group of countries that use scary images and see a positive effect on changing behaviour. This effect is especially present whenever the fear that the images create, is taken away. Cialdini describes that this happens because people often deny they will encounter the dangers of smoking. However, when you give them step-by-step information on how to change their bad habit, they face their fear and take action.
Knowing this, neuromarketing could add important insights about the brain to improve campaigns even more. In fact, neuroscience has already been active in anti-smoking campaigns. In 2011, a study by Berkman and colleagues looked at brain scans to predict what message would most likely get people to call a quit-smoking line. They concluded that when looking at brain activity, they could make better predictions about the effects of anti-smoke messages compared to traditional surveys. This shows that people often give answers to surveys that in fact are not completely ‘true’ or reliable. Neuromarketing can reveal this important information and complement existing marketing tools. This can help in restricting unhealthy behaviour like smoking.
Another ethical practice of neuromarketing is to use it for charities. We often see charity advertisements on television showing ill and starving children in Africa that should persuade us to donate. But does this really make us donate (more)? A recent study by Schlosser & Levy (2016) shows that we are more willing to donate whenever we view ourselves as being better off than someone else. This phenomenon is called downward comparison and is most effective whenever a charity highlights the benefits of the donations for others. This means that an advertisement that shows happy children who are—due to the donation—able to go to school will be more effective in raising donations. When looking at the brain, neuroscientists found that the striatum is activated while donating and experiencing feelings of reward. This means that donating or being kind to others results in more happiness for the donator too. A win-win situation if you ask us!
Is neuromarketing interesting for you?
Neuromarketing is interesting for every marketer who is curious about how their consumers’ brains work. Do you want to know more about the emotional aspect of your products? Dig deeper into the question of why people would or would not choose to use your product? Or are you curious as to why people seem to visit your webshop but leave the funnel before buying your product? In all these cases, neuromarketing might be the answer. Big companies like Google, Walt Disney and XBOX (Microsoft) use neuromarketing to see how engaged their consumers are. Of course, there are differences in the budget for every business. Brain imaging is not the cheapest option, but more simple and usable tools are becoming available. With neuromarketing becoming more popular, the number of experts is also growing. Furthermore, new research done on the consumer’s brain is published frequently. The brain is hot and will be even better understood in the future. The brain is involved in everything we do and therefore plays a huge role in your business. Be smart and anticipate before the rest of the marketing world does.
Keep your reputation with trust
With all this excitement neuromarketing gives us comes a threat. Consumers might start to believe the knowledge about their brain violates their privacy. They might feel manipulated towards something they don’t consciously support. Apparently, consumers perceive the use of neuromarketing as less ethical if a company uses it for purely profit-driven motives. Yet, when used by companies that add value or are non-profit organizations (NPOs) they perceive it as a good thing.
Why do consumers make this distinction? Because NPOs are, in general, viewed as more trustworthy. A stronger feeling of trust towards the NPOs results in the acceptation that they use neuromarketing for their business. This also is related to the thought that with neuromarketing, NPOs will reach their goals that will add value to public goods. If an organization has a primarily profit-driven motive, neuromarketing is viewed as less ethical. What does this mean for your own company? If you publicly use neuromarketing, make sure you build trust with your customers. Give your customers reasons to believe your product or service can help or add value to the public. For eCommerce, there are various ways to do this. For example, you can add trust badges, testimonials or a chatbot. Read more on how to create trust
Code of ethics
The reason why people perceive neuromarketing as being either good or bad supports the ethical and unethical cases we described. Is a company that produces unhealthy soda drinks using it to increase sales to obese people? Bad. There is no added value, they don’t help others (they actually support unhealthy behaviour) and their goal is purely profit driven. Is a company using information about the brain to increase a charity campaign? Good! This definitely helps others, so it adds value to society. Again, it’s not about what neuromarketing does, but what others do with the information it provides. Various researchers therefore plead for a strict code of ethics.This aims to protect groups (like the obese) that could be harmed by neuromarketing. A good example is the NMSBA Code of Ethics. They created this code to make sure that the highest ethical standards for the neuromarketing industry will be maintained. For a smaller online business, make sure that your customers trust you. If this trust is not present, they might view neuromarketing as a manipulative tool. High levels of trust and low levels of perceived risk are the keys to success.
The pros and cons of neuromarketing
We’ve covered a large part of the ethics of neuromarketing showing some of the advantages and disadvantages it can entail. Here is a final pros and cons overview.
Provides fresh, innovative insights; neuromarketing is innovative because it gives new information that traditional marketing is not capable of. It provides us with knowledge about the brain that is not visible with the naked eye
Neuromarketing can add value to consumers and society; If it’s used for products and services that help others, support healthy behaviour or makes the connection between consumers and products easier
Able to investigate subconscious responses; with its techniques, we can look at brain activity and reactions to marketing tools (like an advertisement) that consumers are not aware of
Gives more objective measurements; especially when you ask consumers about preference or taste, their answers are often very subjective. Neuromarketing gives more objective results
Measures emotional responses; emotion plays a huge role in our decision making, but it’s often difficult to measure. With techniques like facial coding it’s possible to measure emotions related to a package, website or colour
Findings from techniques like fMRI are hard to generalize; because samples are often relatively small (around 15 people) it’s difficult to draw conclusions that relate to every consumer
Brain imaging has its limitations and is still relatively new; a big disadvantage of fMRI, is that it doesn’t give you ‘live’ images. Researchers can not see how the brain reacts to an advertisement or photo in real time.
The brain is still a big mystery for researchers; we usually don’t know anything 100% for sure. There is no one-to-one map available of the brain. Different functions will always show overlap with different brain areas
Despite the disadvantages, neuromarketing has, it still can provide some useful tools. Especially when looking at the future, some of the cons might disappear when new developments are made. Techniques will become more advanced but also more affordable. It is already possible to buy your own eye-tracking glasses!
We hope this article gave you insights into the ethical and unethical sides of neuromarketing. As a marketer, the techniques and tools you choose can either make or break your product. Think smart and keep the needs of your customer in mind. Both traditional marketing and neuromarketing have their own advantages and strengths. They tell us something about how consumers (or people in general) make decisions, conscious or subconscious. If we made you curious about neuromarketing, contact us so we can help you with integrating it into your business. Any questions? Get in touch!
Advertisement in 2018 means competition. If you want to sell, you need to stand out. Be original. Push the right buttons. Convince your target audience. Luckily, marketers have been trying to look for the best and most efficient ways to do this since the beginning of the previous century. This is how they invented the AIDA-model around the early 1900’s.
You might have already heard of AIDA because it is a very broad model. It applies to various fields like communication, marketing, and copywriting. You have without a doubt been a target of the model because advertisements are everywhere (unless you live in a secret society somewhere in the mountains). In this article, you will learn about the AIDA-model in more detail. How it relates to marketing and eCommerce and how you can use it for business growth. And all that with a neuromarketing twist.
The 4 steps of AIDA
The AIDA-model describes the process an individual goes through when buying a something. This process takes place over time and will often not happen in a day. There are all kinds of influences, changes and fluctuations during the buying process. The worst thing that can happen, is that your prospect leaves before buying your product. There can be several reasons why this happens. For example, your competitor offers a similar product that created more desire. Or the individual saw another advertisement that evoked more interest. To reach the last phase of the process —an individual buying the product— all 4 steps need to be fulfilled in a specific order. The model is an acronym consisting of the following steps:
Grab someone’s attention, get the customer interested and hooked, make sure they desire your product and then get them into action so they will buy it. It is important to remember that one phase needs to be completed before you can reach the next one. Creating desire if you haven’t grabbed someone’s attention is not going to happen. Also, the shape of the model is an upside-down pyramid because you will reach the attention of most, but will not persuade all to eventually buy. We will now discuss every phase in more detail so you can start applying AIDA yourself!
AIDA step 1: Grab their attention
The first phase of the model starts with grabbing someone’s attention. This means your message needs to be noticed by your prospective customer. You need to make them curious and make sure they want to know more. We want to warn you: the importance of attention is often underestimated. Of course, as a marketer, you believe you sell the best product on the market. Keep in mind that you only provide value when others know about this. Your product can be genial and wrapped up in an excellent marketing plan, but if no one ever heard about it, what’s the point?
“Superior sales and distribution by itself can create a monopoly. An extremely superior product without good sales and distribution cannot. — Peter Thiel (co-founder Paypal, Palantir, and Clarium)“
Apply it yourself
Human attention is an interesting area explored by psychologists, neuroscientists and biologists. A lot of this research focuses on consciousness or being aware of an external object. How do you attract someone’s attention? By stimulating the senses. The most obvious organ to stimulate for marketing purposes are the eyes. You can advertise on television, publish a website or place a billboard next to a busy road. The key is in making the visual message striking. Here are two ways to do this:
use disruption; you literally grab their attention by disrupting them. You can do this by placing ads in unusual locations or situations. An example of this is the latest campaign by Suitsupply. It evoked a lot of reactions worldwide! The company exposed kissing men to show the attraction between humans. Despite a lot of negative reactions, Suitsupply definitely grabbed the attention of thousands of people.
make your message personal; it’s always nice when someone remembers your name. You can grab their attention and make your customer feel special by using their name in communication. One example how to do this, is starting an email from a campaign with “Hi Milou! Here is our monthly newsletter again” grabs my attention more than a message like “Our monthly newsletter is out again“. Don’t be afraid to get personal with your customers! Emotional marketing is making its uprise.
AIDA step 2: Make them interested
Good, now that you have your customer’s attention, the next step is to make them interested. This step can be a bit more complicated because the product might only be interesting to a specific group of people—your target audience. It is therefore very important to determine this group. Who will need my product and how can I make these individuals interested? In practice, you will have someone’s interest when they pick up your folder or click to your website to read more about what you have to offer. How do you get people to do this?
Use the right frame for your content; the way you communicate your message can have a massive impact on your target group. By using the right words and images, you can win or lose someone’s interest. The use of a long, dull text will result in the latter. Try to write original, entertaining or mysterious content.
Use social proof to invite questions. We are social animals. When we see that many or similar others are positive about what you offer, we want to know why. This can be a review, case study, or even a statistic. Want to truly optimise your message? Try combining framing and social proof.
AIDA step 3: Create desire
The attention is there. The interest is there. Now it’s time to make your customer want the product. You can create this desire by accumulating positive arguments. Our brain works on associations and we turn everything into stories. Even a purchase. As a marketer, your job is to build a persuasive story in which your offer enhances the quality of life of your buyer. Just remember: features tell, benefits sell.
Show off advantages; you can do this by putting your product in a positive context. Why is your product better than the one from your competitor? A technique you can use is positive priming, where you create a positive association for your customer. Showing an image where a happy person uses your product, creates feelings of positivity. You could also combine authority and social proof and ask an influencer for a positive review.
Create the feeling of scarcity; we view a product as more valuable when we believe it is scarce. People generally have a Fear of Missing out (FOMO), meaning that we feel regret when not being able to seize an opportunity. Adding a product as a limited edition will increase FOMO and desire.
AIDA step 4: Action!
Congratulations! Now that your prospective customer has completed 3 levels of the AIDA-model, we come to the final one: making sure they act on their desire. Some people have already left the process, but the ones interested will need that final push to make it happen. Often there is a barrier that prevents the prospect from buying. In this phase, your job is to overcome any potential objections and motivate action. What can you do to finish it?
Make sure your product is easily accessible; even the smallest detail like product positioning in a supermarket can be a gamechanger. For a webshop, a frictionless product selection and purchase process are vital. Any errors or confusion can lead the customer to click away from your page.
Write a clear and inviting call to action; you may need to help prospects make the decision. Most people hope that when their offer is good enough, others will act, but any interruption can lead to forgetfulness and a missed chance. If you believe that what you have is good for them, call them to action. It’s even okay to make them feel a little pressured by applying scarcity. The simple fact is, you have to ask for the sale.
With this article, we hope we made you understand one of the most notorious marketing models out there. The AIDA-model is old, but gold. If you master the 4 steps we just explained, your product will be a success. Need any help, or have questions? Contact us!
Subconsciousness. You’ve without doubt seen this word pass by a few times in our blog. This is not a coincidence. Why? The subconscious state of the brain plays a huge role in our daily life and in neuromarketing. From the moment we learn to walk, start driving our first car or develop a hobby. At some point, we own these skills naturally and without thinking. A little brother of subconsciousness is priming, a phenomenon related to learning and our memory. Priming enables us to subconsciously recognise information that we have been exposed to. This means that exposure to one stimulus influences a response to another stimulus. For psychologists, priming is a Valhalla for research. It’s mysterious, complex, and influences a major part of our behaviour. In this blog, we will describe the basics of priming and how you can use it for online marketing.
A pile of associations
When we mentioned that priming plays a huge role in our everyday lives, we were not exaggerating. Imagine that your friend returned from a trip to Italy and tells you all about it. During the chat, it’s not unusual to find yourself craving a plate of pasta. Waiting for your doctor’s appointment in a room painted in a calming tone of blue? This will make you more relaxed when seeing the doc. Even after reading this article, you might recognise prime numbers faster. How do psychologists explain this?
Human memory is pretty amazing. We are not only able to memorise words. Also, things like feelings, smells and sounds are present in our memory. Like thinking, we have both conscious and nonconscious memory. The latter is called implicit memory and plays a major role in—surprise—priming. Our implicit memory is programmed in a way that it links and associates everything we store in it. If your friend is talking about posing next to the Tower of Pisa, your memory activates associations. Words like the sun, ancient buildings and—drumroll— the pasta will show up. This automatic activation of related words and thoughts results in priming. Without us noticing, it affects our behaviour or reactions to other stimuli.
Different types of priming
There are different types of priming. We will mention three types here to give you an impression of its complexity:
conceptual priming: the meaning of the stimulus activates associated memories in semantic tasks. Reading the word banana results in a faster recognition of the word mango compared to chair. This happens because they belong to the same category (fruit).
positive priming: being exposed to certain stimuli makes a particular response to second stimuli more likely to happen. Remember that we talked about smelling bread in the bakery leads to a higher chance of buying it? Yes, this is a perfect example of positive priming.
kindness priming: when being exposed to an act of kindness, you will notice more of the positive features of your environment. If you receive a free Ice Tea from a promoter on the street, you will experience everything more positive. This happens because kindness activates related positive words and thoughts in our memory.
As you can see there are different types of priming, but sometimes they overlap each other. The main idea for all types of priming is the same: one certain event or stimuli subconsciously influences another.
Persuasion guru Robert Cialdini wrote a book about influencing, priming and communication. His book Pre-suasion explains how you can guide someone’s attention to get their agreement with a message before they experience it. Cialdini writes that numbers, background information or words can influence how someone reacts to a message. These are a few examples out of the pre-suasion communication list. You can also apply this knowledge to online marketing. Are you interested in how you can improve your online communication with priming? Have a look at Cialdini’s tools.
It’s will not be a surprise that a lot of commercial companies use priming for marketing. An effect can already be reached with the smallest detail. You can use colour, your brand logo and typology to reach this effect. Because everyone is a consumer at some point (yes, you included!) we all will be primed when buying a product.
For example, McDonalds’ big yellow M is without a doubt present in the memory of most people. When we see it shining somewhere, our brain activates associations. A tasty burger, coke or ice-cream will pop up. For some of us, McDonald’s wins and we start driving towards it to get stuffed. Besides unhealthy behaviour, priming can also result in more healthy decisions. A green food package associates with healthy and natural food. Health freaks will buy it more often. Do you own a liquor store and do you want to increase the sales of French wine? Play some French music in the background! Research shows music can prime people. For example, restaurants can influence how fast their guests eat their meals. More upbeat music causes us to eat our dinner faster.
Red Bull gives you wings?
We will further show the power of priming and a brand logo with a fun research project on Red Bull. Researchers aimed to influence the driving style during a computer game. They did this by creating two different types of cars. One group of cars showed the Red Bull logo, the other a logo from Guinness or Tropicana.
They found that when people drove the Red Bull car, they indeed got wings. They drove fast, powerful and aggressive compared to the people in the other cars. People also took more risks and were unaware of their driving style in the Red Bull car. This shows that Red Bull’s brand priming is a very powerful one. People are subconsciously changing their behaviour towards their brand image. So be warned: don’t put their logo on your car if you don’t want to be in a crash!
Boost your online marketing
Now that you know how other companies use priming, it’s time to put it into practice yourself. As mentioned before, there are different types of priming. If you are creative enough, the use of priming for your marketing strategy can be endless. Even the smallest detail can have an effect. If you own a webshop, visual priming will be your biggest point of focus. We will give you some examples and tools on how to do this:
use associative priming as a conversion booster for your webshop. You can prime your visitors using visuals that make them feel more comfortable, positive or luxurious. Example: the online basket of H&M’s webshop does not look like a basket, but a real-life shopping bag. This small detail increases the positive association with shopping, leading to more online sales.
if you add pictures, use positive priming and show happiness. Because smiling people will prime the visitor with other positive associations, this can increase your sales. Have a look at the next 2 pictures. Which one do you think will boost the sales of a hat webshop?
look out for negative priming: you can subconsciously prime someone in a positive direction but the opposite is also possible. So, negative words or images will activate related associations in your customer’s memory. Example: offer them the possibility to sign up for a newsletter and promise that you will not send any spam. The word spam will activate negative memories and associations, with the chance of no sign up at all.
When you think about it, almost every aspect of your webshop or website is related to priming. It can really boost your online marketing! Specific words, colours and images will have an influence on your visitors. This might sound a little bit overwhelming and you can’t decide what’s best for your shop in just a day. It will take a lot of time and effort. Choose wisely and keep your brand in mind! As a result, you will optimise your content to the fullest.
Do you need any help? Contact us so we can help. Combining psychological knowledge with marketing gives you the best results!
You’re watching a movie and a Colgate commercial is shown during the break. “Stronger and whiter teeth, a fresh breath and healthier gum. Switch now to Colgate, the number one toothpaste recommended by dental professionals”, as told by a smiling dentist. But is this really a dentist? He is wearing a white coat, so he must be. Do you believe him? There’s a big chance you do. In the end, he looks like the professional that knows everything about a healthy looking smile. Following the lead of an expert is called authority, another of Cialdini’s persuasion principles. Authority can be a powerful tool for both offline and online marketing. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know and give you some tools how to use it yourself. Keep reading if you want to learn how to show off your expertise!
Judge a book by its cover
The most important fact about authority is that it’s mainly based on perception. We are visual creatures. To show off authority, you will need to convince others you have the right knowledge. If you are able to do this and people believe you are trustworthy, you are able to influence their behaviour. You doubtless have heard of this master in authority: Dr Phil. Yes, he is a doctor. Hence why he is showing off his title. Yet he is not licensed as a psychologist, even though he has helped thousands of people in his show. Dailymail even calls him a tv shrink. Dr Phil convinces his fans with his title, nice suit and trustworthy attitude. Is he licensed in what he does? People don’t seem to care. Dr Phil gets away with pretending to be a psychologist, when in fact he is not. He is the perfect example that we value visual aspects more than facts. Be careful though, we don’t want you to misuse authority! Always remember to be an expert. Otherwise, it will backfire and result in negative outcomes.
First impressions are the most lasting
Now you know that visual appearance is important, it will not be a surprise to you that your website should visually stimulate your customer. This happens within an eyeblink: we can assess the visual appeal of a website within 0.05 seconds! It is important to give your online shopper a positive, first impression within this timeframe. You can lose a customer by just one mouse-click. If you do it right, the visual aspect of a website can even be so strong, that it draws away the attention from usability problems. This shows that the first impression is a very important one. Consequently, this first impression will leave a mark about how much customers enjoy your website and products. This will have an impact (positive or negative, depending on the impression) on the chance they will pay for their online basket.
Be an expert
Do you have a product that you support completely and know everything about? Are you able to share your knowledge about this product with others? Good! You are ready to become an authority on your product. We especially want to make you realise it’s important to not just be an advertiser. You must be an expert. The more specific your area of expertise, the better this will show off to your customers. Let us explain this through the idea of Stephen Covey who created two circles: one of concern and one of influence. As their names suggest, the bigger Circle of Concern holds everything you are involved with. The Circle of Influence lays inside the Circle of Concern and holds everything you can have an influence on. Which one should you focus on?
If you put too much energy in the Circle of Concern, you focus on stuff you can’t influence. In return, this will lead to frustration, anger and disappointment. As a consequence, your Circle of Influence will shrink, meaning the impact of your influence will become less and less. If you put your energy in the Circle of Influence, you are being proactive. You will see improvement, get satisfaction and energy. Your Circle of Influence will grow and the influence you have will be more effective. In conclusion, if we can give you one advice: it is to stay within your Circle of Influence. Focus on the stuff you know, so your influence will increase. Eventually, this will show off to your customers, leading to more trust and increased conversion.
How to use authority
You already know that authority is one of Cialdini’s persuasion principles. We previously showed you how to use social proof and scarcity for business improvement. We will now further explain three examples mentioned by Cialdini to show you how to put authority into practice:
Use of titles; Such as Founder, CEO or PhD assuming there’s a high level of expertise and knowledge and you know whom you’re talking to. Example: Apple launched their Genius Bar, where you can speak with an Apple expert to get immediate support;
Use the right visual design; Wearing a suit, uniform or other forms of clothes are ways that express authority. Think about the dentist in the white coat. For eCommerce, the suit or uniform of your website is its visual design. Therefore, make sure that the layout, images, typography and colour match its purpose. Example: adding an About Page including a photo to your website. Research shows that a photo results in more trustworthiness;
Use of trappings or accessories that add authority; In the offline world, a powerful trapping can be a badge for a policeman. This badge, therefore, makes people respect the person in a suit more. For your website, you can add a badge in the form of social media or a case study. Example: Airbnb added a community centre to their website where customers can discuss problems and ask questions.
These tools are examples of how you can show your expertise to your customers. Remember you have to back up the expertise claim if you want it to be long term. If you can’t meet your customer’s expectations, your so-called expertise can backfire and result in disappointment. However, when putting your focus on the right areas where your knowledge is already present, your work will pay off! See your conversion increase if showing off the right expertise.
Do you think you are able to show off your expertise, but you’re not completely sure how? At Neurofied we can help you with finding the most suitable solution. Contact us so we can discuss the options!
Welcome back to Braintalk! A series of brain-related topics to give you, as a marketer, more insight into the brain. With this knowledge, you can improve your marketing strategy and ROI. Last time we talked about dopamine. We hope this excited you because we will continue with these interesting things called neurotransmitters. This week, we will discuss serotonin, a neurotransmitter that shows both similarities and differences with dopamine. We will show you its social function and how you can use this in marketing and eCommerce.
Another happiness chemical
Both dopamine and serotonin are happiness chemicals and can make us feel good. As you learned in our previous Braintalk, dopamine makes us motivated and excited. Serotonin makes us more relaxed, satisfied and suppresses pain. It is amongst other things involved in a few basic activities we (probably) all like to do: sleeping, eating and socializing. Furthermore, serotonin is also involved in cognitive functions like learning and memory. Simply said, without serotonin our brain would not be able to function.
Fun fact: we are not the only one carrying this chemical. Biologists found serotonin in other animals and even insects and plants. They argue that it plays an evolutionary role and for some species has a similar role as for us. As far as we know, insects are not happy or sad. But, as an example, for honeybees serotonin seems to play a role in learning and their swarm behaviour.
There are many ways to increase your brain serotonin levels: by embracing past achievements, eat healthily or go for a run. Do you experience a little winter depression during the dark months? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. During these months a lack of sunshine lowers our serotonin levels. When we go to summer, exposure to the sun will increase our serotonin levels back again. No wonder we like to go on holiday to sunny destinations. A healthy balance of dopamine and serotonin in the brain results in positive mental health. Whereas an imbalance can lead to insomnia, anxiety and depression. So, if you want to feel good, make sure to keep them balanced!
Selfish versus selfless
You might have heard of Simon Sinek, motivational speaker and marketing guru. In his inspiring video (watch it, it will “change your life” as Sinek says), he discusses modern leadership with a hint of neuroscience. Sinek believes that evolution has shaped us to seek out qualities in leaders. This is important to protect ourselves from danger. Our neurotransmitters tell us what those characteristics of leaders are. Sinek calls dopamine the goal achievement and selfish chemical. Why is it selfish? Because it motivates us to do things for ourselves. Serotonin, on the other hand, is the leadership and selfless chemical. It is selfless because it strengthens our social bonds with others. In our first Braintalk article, you can read what dopamine does in the brain and why it is important for goal achievements. But why does Sinek see serotonin as the leadership and social chemical?
Sinek explains that serotonin is released whenever we feel respected and admired. These feelings boost our confidence and make us feel great. Think about a moment where you were admired by others: it sure didn’t make you feel bad! Serotonin is a leadership chemical because it increases whenever others respect us as a leader. In return, their serotonin will also get a boost because they trust you. It strengthens our social bonds.
Leaders high on serotonin
Remember that we talked about balance? Yin and yang? Just like with most stuff, too much or not enough of something will result in negative outcomes. Sinek explains that leaders who have too much serotonin in their brain—but don’t take their responsibilities—eventually will lose the trust of their group. Once this trust is gone, their serotonin drops, together with their confidence. Leaders that take care of their people will have a healthy balance of serotonin in their brain and are more confident in taking on challenges.
Increase social bonds and trust
Neurotransmitters can influence the behaviour of your customer, too. Remember how sunlight makes you feel happier? This mood change can also impact consumer behaviour. For example, researchers found that when temperatures are low, sunlight can increase sales. We will now focus on how to strengthen social bonds with your customers to get better results. High levels of serotonin will increase feelings of empathy, it connects people and increases trust. There is a lot of research showing that trust can influence your internet business. If you want to make your product more appealing (and your customer happy), make sure your customers trust you. But, just like with the leaders, you need to kéép their trust. High levels of trust and low levels of perceived risk make the magic happen. Here are some examples of how to do this:
Add testimonials from satisfied customers; you might have already done this, but did you also include a picture and their name? Make sure to make the testimonials as personal as possible. In this way, your customer will identify more with the testimonial and as a result empathize more with your product. If you add a picture, try to use positive, bright pictures. Trust in combination with positive priming is a success formula.
Add trust badges to reduce perceived risk; would you buy something from a website that might look a bit dodgy? The internet is still a place where people take advantage of others. Examples of effective trust badges are the ones that show a safe payment method or money back guarantee. With the badges, you create more trust and increase conversion rates. This study found that even 71% of the customers look for a trust badge before doing an online purchase!
Use payment gateways; again, the internet is a playground for criminals. Credit Card fraud might be your worst nightmare and there’s still a chance this happens if you shop online. If you give your customers the option to pay with a safe and well-known payment service, this increases the chances they will buy something. Paypal or Afterpay are examples of these services. If you choose to use a payment gateway, always add a corresponding trust badge too to show this.
Make it simple to get help. Funnel optimisation is crucial for webshop growth. A customer can—with one click—easily leave the funnel. One factor determining the optimisation is how effortless doubts of the customer can get clarified. All relevant info should be easily accessible. Can they send the product back? If so, do they get a refund? Also add contact details like your phone number, email and address in case they want to reach you. It might be most effective to add a chatbot so their questions and doubts can be easily solved. Curious? Read more about how to create a chatbot here and how to optimise one here.
Now that you know what serotonin is and how you can use it, it’s time to implement some new features to grow online! Still have questions? Contact us and we’ll help you optimise your conversion with persuasive design, content, or a chatbot!
It is nothing new for companies to offer ways to get in touch with someone from their team for any questions or comments. You can speak with a team member from Vodafone about your mobile contract, search Spotify for your favourite music or ask Apple what’s wrong with your Macbook. You probably experienced this: it’s quick, simple and easy. However, did you notice that sometimes answers can be a little strange? Not fitting the question? Or maybe you don’t get an answer at all? There’s a big chance the person behind the other screen is not a human, but a chatbot: an automated conversational partner.
If you haven’t seen it, read our previous article on chatbots in eCommerce here. It’s becoming easy to build your own chatbot with services like Quriobot. But do you know how chatbots can help your eCommerce grow? Keep reading, because at the end of this article you will know how and when a chatbot helps you grow online.
Shaping your chatbot
One of the most important things you should think about when implementing your chatbot is its tone of voice. This doesn’t mean you need to choose between a male or female voice, but how your chatbot reacts to customers. Is this tone serious, funny or a combination of both? Does your chatbot show empathy, or does it not show any emotion at all? There is not one correct answer to this question, because it completely depends on the situation and context where the chatbot is used. Let’s tackle this.
There are three factors determining this:
the personality of your chatbot
the personality of your customer
the questions of your customer
The personality of your chatbot
If your chatbot helps people that have questions about their bank account, it will have a more serious personality than when your bot helps people find a concert. MailChimp developed a platform called Voice and Tone, where you can find what tone of voice is suitable for your use case. For example, for a public site visited by impulse shoppers (e.g. a webshop with gifts) you can use some sense of humour and show your personality. For legal content, on the other hand, you should stay serious and don’t joke around. Another way that could help you select the right tone of voice is to think about your product as if it was sold in a real-life store: how would you like your customers to be approached by your salespeople?
When Quriobot created a chatbot for the Dutch travel insurance company Interpolis, their chatbot showed some personality. If you say your holiday destination is Italy, it responds with “Nice! I’ve heard some nice things about Italy”. However, it still reacts professional enough to give the customer trust and clear guidance in choosing their travel insurance.
The personality of your customer
As more and more shopping takes place online, webshops are growing rapidly. Especially for this kind of eCommerce, chatbots can be useful in assisting and delighting the customer. This will lead to more sales. Chatbots can already recognize human personalities. This study found that personality recognition of the customer can have a significant, positive impact on webshops and improves customer satisfaction by 26%. Use this!
Questions of your customer
Another factor that determines the tone of voice, is the specific question that the customer asks. Sometimes customers will (on purpose) ask a random question or make a typo, that could confuse the chatbot. The Dutch company Informaat conducted a research to see when to use what tone of voice in a situation like this. They experimented with two kinds of voices:
funny and juvenile
serious and neutral
They concluded that the funny voice is more effective and leads to more forgiveness in moments where the user is clearly pushing its boundaries. A sentence like “I would like to meet you on the moon” doesn’t make any sense to a bot. However, by reacting in a funny way like “I’m also only a chatbot, this concept is new to me” you can camouflage the restrictions of the chatbot in a way that the customer will show forgiveness. In more serious situations, the use of a funny voice is less suited and can even lead to irritation of the customer. If your chatbot can’t find the right answer, a more neutral response is better. Your customer will show more forgiveness if the bot gives a clear answer about what it knows and doesn’t know.
Adding some Emoji to your chatbot 🙂
Originating from Japan in the late 90’s, Emoji have become incredibly popular and are considered to play a major role in worldwide online communication. This is actually not a strange idea: speech and facial images play an important role in our emotional expression during real conversations. Smartphone developers, computer companies and social media channels allow us to use Emoji to express a certain feeling or emotion. Amongst its popularity, the diversity of Emoji is also growing. It’s possible to send someone a dark-skinned surprised face, an avocado, a bald guy or a peace sign.
Emoji and mental health
Emoji even make communication easier in high-stake environments like mental health. For people struggling with mood disorders, it can be hard to express themselves with just words. Emoji can help them express how they really feel. Furthermore, chatbots can give patients instant information. Seeing a real doctor often means making an appointment and getting in line, while a chatbot is available 24/7. They can give a more interactive experience to receive information, complete diagnostic tools and are used for counselling. Research also shows that the use of Emoji improves the overall user experience of patients.
This information shows that chatbots make the lives of patients or people that struggle with their health a little bit easier. But what about the use of Emoji in a commercial chatbot? One guy we all know gives a great example. Jamie Oliver’s chatbot asks you to send an Emoji to get recipe inspiration. Are you uninspired but need to cook your mother-in-law an impressive meal? Just send Jamie an aubergine, pineapple or hot pepper and he will tell you what to do.
So why is this a good example? The reason is simple: the exclusive use of Emoji narrows down the conversation and makes sure the bot can answer every ‘question’ the person asks. If you ask him a question in words, it will tell you to only speak Emoji. This makes sure the person can’t ask any random or miswritten questions. In return, this is a fun and straight to the point interaction between a human and a chatbot.
Flesh and blood or wires and metal?
The thing that’s probably most controversial about a chatbot, is the fact that you’re talking to a machine instead of a real human. This machine helps you, gives you answers and all this happens in a nice and friendly way. This might sound strange because machines don’t have emotions or intelligence – as far as we know.
Back in 1950 the father of modern computer science, Alan Turing, already questioned whether machines could ever own these instincts. This led to the creation of the famous Turing Test. This method checks whether a computer is able to think like a human. During the test, a computer and a human will individually speak and try to convince a reviewer they are human. If the reviewer can’t decide who is human, the computer wins. So far, some chatbots have passed the Turing Test. Cleverbot is probably the most famous one, passing it in 2011. This test might not be as useful in identifying Artificial Intelligence, but it sure is for testing chatbots.
Turing proof or not, something that is more important is whether people care if they are talking to a machine. Does your customer find this annoying and does it affect your sales? Are people comfortable talking to a machine? Research shows that people do send twice as many messages to chatbots compared to people, so apparently, we are not shy towards them. Furthermore, they saw a significant growth of ‘dirty language’ towards a chatbot. This shows they didn’t lose sight of communicating with a computer. The experimenters concluded that many people are willing to have extensive interactions with chatbots, but that computers cannot yet simulate a real human conversation.
Another study shows that students’ interest in a learning domain drops if they chatted with a chatbot compared to a human partner, potentially due to a lack of passion. However, it seems that opinions are divided. If people are learning a language, they are more happy learning from a chatbot because they are accessible anywhere and will not judge if you make a mistake. Duolingo is the perfect example that makes it possible to do this. Using the help of a shop assistant also has positive reviews. Users find it easy to use, feel like the computer did all the work for them and found that the system reduced the interaction time.
Whether people prefer to talk to a machine or human depends on the situation, the product and the person on the other side of the screen. For eCommerce in particular, it seems most likely that a chatbot is suitable as a virtual assistant for your customer. It can communicate with your target audience, provide customer service, recommend products, drive sales and make sure you can get that extra holiday break you need.
Let’s meet Beirem
If you visit our website neurofied.com you are able to meet our own founder-inspired chatbot, Beirem. We created him together with Quriobot to determine the interest of our visitor (online marketing, a workshop, or something else?) and to easily get in touch with us. Beirem – as a chatbot – used to be very proactive and social and popped up every page in 7 seconds. We toned him down a little bit: he only says hi now after you’re engaged for a while. In other words, we lowered his intrusiveness. Why did we do this?
Imagine walking into a calm shoe shop in London. The shoe shop allows you to take your time and wander around. After a while, the friendly shop-assistant asks if you need any help, but it’s fine if you say no. Now replace this image with a busy market in Marrakech. Traders are trying to sell you their products by holding spices, gold and fabrics under your nose. They don’t take “no” for an answer and give you the best price—or so they say.
Which situation do you prefer? Which situation do you think your customer prefers? Exactly! We don’t like to have someone pushing us towards buying something. Our sense of freedom is tainted if people force us to do something. This works the same for your chatbot: don’t make it too intrusive. If people are looking for help, make sure the chatbot is easy to access. Beirem is just one click away.
What was your name again?
Every time I visit my 92-year old grandma, she asks what my name is at least 5 times. Unfortunately, her brain is not working that well anymore, affecting her memory. A chatbot shouldn’t have this problem, its ‘brain’ consists of numbers and algorithms. This is why you should make sure your chatbot will not forget your customers details like name, gender or location. Asking for someone’s name makes the conversation much more personal. There’s nothing more frustrating than calling customer service and repeating your details and problem every time you’re being passed on to someone else. If your chatbot is able to remember personal information, it will look way smarter and professional towards your customers.
Now that you know more about creating an effective chatbot, we will give you five final tips that should get you started:
Make sure your chatbot shows a certain level of empathy. No one likes talking to a robot-like person, even if the other person is actually a robot.
Use simple and natural-sounding language. Showing off with expensive words and complex sentences will not take you anywhere. Your customers want a quick and easy response to their question.
Add some small talk to the conversation to make it less formal and more natural. For example, let your chatbot ask the customer how his or her day went so far.
Add personality to your chatbot by giving it a name, picture/avatar and some biographical information.
Let your chatbot respond at human reading speed. If your bot talks too quick and too much, the conversation will feel less natural.
Still want an expert opinion on building your ideal chatbot? Get in touch with Neurofied and we’ll make it happen asap!
Imagine being at your friend’s birthday party. You have a drink, a chat, and then you notice this amazing looking buffet. You want to fill up your plate with all the delicious treats. However, your personal trainer who drags you into the gym every day is looking over your shoulder. Thinking about him and all the effort you made to be healthy makes you like the buffet less and less. This is an example of a conflict between two different motivation systems in your brain: wanting and liking.
Wanting it, but not liking it
The major difference between wanting and liking has to do with how our mind operates: conscious or unconscious. Liking is a conscious state of the brain, meaning that you are aware of external stimuli or processes within yourself. Wanting is an unconscious state, meaning that processes in the brain occur automatically and without you noticing. Unconsciousness is also the place where most of the work in our mind gets done: automatic skills, information processing, intuition and dreaming are all examples of unconsciousness events. Some neuroscientists even believe that 95% of our cognitive activities happen in the unconscious mind!
Let’s go back to the buffet. If you want to fill up your plate with the inviting food, you’re probably hungry and your stomach is telling you to do so. This is your first reaction after seeing the table with food. In our dopamine article, we told you about the motivation to look for food. It’s a natural reaction that happens automatically and unconsciously. This means that our wanting system can be influenced without us noticing.
How often do you walk in a supermarket and smell all the delicious, fresh baked bread? This is not a coincidence, the supermarket uses the smell of bread to unconsciously make you want to buy more. You can’t tell yourself to not like this smell. It just happens. What about liking? Standing in front of the buffet, you start to consciously think about it. How much will you take? Should I try the apple pie or the pumpkin soup? Or maybe both? The fact that you are (probably) on a diet makes you think twice about it. Eventually, you decide to stick with just the soup. You consciously made this decision.
A conflict in the sweets aisle
What on earth have this table full of food, and bread from the supermarket to do with your business? In a lot of cases, what you want is what you like. However, as shown above, in some cases this is not what you do. Consumer choice is an example where wanting and liking are often in conflict. We go back to the supermarket to further demonstrate this. Eye-tracking research – where researchers look at the eye movements of their participants – shows that there is a so-called approach-avoidance in the sweets aisle. Customers in a supermarket know what they want to buy, but still keep looking at other products too. In specific, this happens in the sweets aisle. Apparently, only 20% of our eye movements are related to what we actually buy, the other 80% we are just looking at our favourite candy. This again shows that our unconscious processes have the winning hand. For you as a marketer, this is something interesting to respond to. This is the moment when neuromarketing comes in to play.
Get inside your consumer’s brain
To make your product as appealing as possible it is key to get insight into your consumer’s brain. The most common way to do this is by asking people about their experiences with your products. This is, of course, an informative source, but there is one major problem: it only gives access to the liking system of that individual. You should be more interested in the wanting system. And that is exactly the point where neuromarketing becomes interesting. Knowledge about how the brain works can make you understand the wanting system too. This is information that is not directly visible or logic, but despite can hold great value for your sales, popularity and brand. In this way, the whole concept of neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience makes sense.
Pepsi or Coke?
We will demonstrate the importance of neuromarketing with a classic experiment. This was also the project that first put the brain related to marketing in the spotlight. Researchers gave their participants samples of both Pepsi and Coca-Cola and looked at their brain activity. When participants were ignorant of which brand they were drinking, they favoured the taste of Pepsi. Their corresponding brain activity was present in a reward centre (the ventromedial prefrontal cortex).
Can you guess which system is linked to this part of the experiment? It’s the wanting system, participants unconsciously favour one flavour over another. However, when participants were aware of the brand, they favoured the taste of coke. The brain now showed activity in areas associated with memory, emotions and emotional information processing (hippocampus, midbrain and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex). Indeed, the liking system is now present, resulting in a conscious review from the participants. The researchers concluded that the preference for Coca-Cola is more influenced by brand image than by the taste itself. This is a perfect example of the consumer’s mind being in conflict! Apparently, we favour a soda differently if we are aware of what brand we’re drinking.
The example above clearly shows why neuromarketing can be useful in your business. Are you also interested in your consumer’s brain? Read our Braintalk articles or contact us and we’ll help you have a look at it!
A Dutch saying goes “als een schaap over de dam is volgt de rest” (meaning if one sheep gets over the dam, the rest follows). We are probably not as dumb as sheep (although they are more intelligent than you think) but as humans, we also show a certain way of herd behaviour. Especially in ambiguous and social situations, we tend to follow the actions and thoughts of the majority of the group. This ‘sheepish-behaviour’ of ours is what Cialdini calls social proof. Social proof is driven by the thought that the surrounding people know more about a given situation than you do. We determine appropriate behaviour for ourselves by examining others. Are you not convinced? Keep reading, we will give you some examples!
Likes, pins and tweets
No matter how independent you think you are, everyone is conditioned by the people around us. Social proof exists in different forms and shapes and mostly without us noticing. A very simple example is the internet. Likes (Facebook, Instagram), tweets (Twitter) and pins (Pinterest) are all forms of social proof because they show us in what degree the world around us thinks a photo or thought is cool, good or funny. In return, this will affect how we perceive this online feed. If you want to go out for dinner, it is an idea to look at reviews of that Italian around the corner. Are the reviews not too good? Maybe look a bit further, people that have been there already probably now better than you.
iTunes uses social proof in the form of recommendations: when you’re listening to an album, related music will be displayed simultaneously. If you’re interested in buying Adele’s album, but suddenly see that others also listen to Amy Winehouse, you might think twice about which one to buy. The choice of others – apart from the fact that this might just be a marketing strategy for iTunes – has a major impact on your own.
A social boost for your product
If you think about it, the force of social proof is pretty amazing. One easy experiment everyone can do is called gaze follow. Try it yourself by randomly looking at the sky: even though there is nothing to see, other people around you will also start looking. We show this behaviour because of curiosity and the thought that there must be something worth looking at. Why otherwise would this person look at the sky?
Because social proof is so powerful in both online and offline environments, companies use it frequently in their marketing strategies. What can you do to give your online platform a social boost? We will give a few creative tips and tricks, depending on your product:
Show reviews with a helpful/not helpful grading system
Netflix created a review platform where watchers can choose if a movie review is ‘helpful or ‘not helpful’. Helpful reviews will eventually appear at the top and not helpful reviews will disappear to the bottom. This creates a better and more valuable overview.
Use celebrity endorsement when showing your product
George Clooney drinking his Nespresso, Michael Jordan wearing his Nike shoes and Kate Moss putting on her Rimmel lipstick. Adding a familiar face to your page can have tremendous effects on your sales. We want to do what others do, but if George does it, we want to do it even more!
Show your existing clients by displaying their logos in a fun way
Create your own infinite client logo carousel that displays your satisfied customers in a fresh, modern way. It’s also possible to let a specific client (e.g. a CEO) write a little review with their picture, to make it more personal.
Add a best sellers page when showing favourite choices
Amazon has a Best Seller Book page, showing books that are already a favourite choice. This page will make them even more popular, resulting in a positive spiral of sales that feeds itself.
Adding these strategies to your website or online store will not be the most difficult thing to do. Combined with scarcity this can really improve your revenue. The difficulty is to choose the right one, so it really gives that boost and it does not backfire. Displaying the number of followers when this number is 5 can have a negative consequence. Think about it: why would you follow this page, if there’s a comparable one with 5000 followers?. A Youtube video with 100.000 views is way more impressive than one with 10 views. If you run a restaurant, a few negative reviews can literally kill your online business page. Choose your strategy wisely and experiment with different varieties to see which one is most effective for your context.
Curious how you can increase online sales with social proof and other psychological principles? Get in touch and we’ll figure out what’s best for you!
The world is changing. Artificial Intelligence is growing and becoming more and more visible, also in our everyday life. We all have used a chatbot before, but now supermarkets offer you the choice to pay at the grumpy lady of row number four, or quickly scan the groceries yourself and pay without any human interaction. Tesla is making cars where you can almost sleep behind the wheel: they will warn you whenever you drive outside your lane and will make sure you keep enough distance to the car in front of you. Even cleaning your house becomes easier with robot vacuum cleaners that do all the hard work. And you can always ask Siri: “Do I need an umbrella today?” The main idea behind this automatic revolution is to make things easier, faster and simpler for us humans.
March of the chatbots
Where 2008 was the year of the app, 2018 will be the year of the chatbot. Even though the existence of chatbots is not really a new development (the first one was introduced in the early 90’s), more and more companies nowadays are interested in implementing them. Big guys like National Geographic, Starbucks and Duolingo are already getting help from chatbots. You can speak with Einstein, order your coffee or learn Spanish with them. At Duolingo the use of chatbots was a big improvement for people that are embarrassed or scared to practice a foreign language with real humans. “As far as we can tell, computers can’t judge us” Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn says. This shows that the use of chatbots reaches further than only customer service and we can use them in many ways, depending on how creative you are.
Why they work
It’s not a coincidence that the bigger companies already use chatbots in various ways if you look at the advantages they have. We will briefly discuss a few to give you an idea:
cost saving: once a chatbot is installed, it will work for free as long as you want and whenever you want;
consistency: chatbots can answer questions endlessly, without getting tired or frustrated. They will be as friendly at 1 in the morning as they are at 4 in the afternoon;
capacity: a chatbot can speak many languages and can handle multiple conversations at the same time.
Imagine trying to find an employee that has all these features. Someone that works whenever you want, for free and never gets tired. An employee that is able to do all of this will always cost you more – and is definitely superhuman! Moreover, research shows that people don’t seem to care if they are talking to a real human or a robot, as long as their problem is solved.
Use in eCommerce
The use of chatbots in eCommerce is also growing significantly. A lot of brands are using them to recommend products, improve communications with their prospects, provide customer service or drive sales. Did you know that people are willing to spend more than $400 through a chatbot? And that 40% of consumers want to receive offers and deals from chatbots? Chatbots nowadays do more than just offer a good deal. They can help consumers identify what product they want and need. In eCommerce, chatbots can be used in the form of site navigation (Shopbot, Snaptravel), lead generation, recommendations (Mica), FAQ, customer data, branding (Nike chatbot) and more. The options are endless. If you’re looking for inspiration, have a look at Topbots’ list of brands and how they get help from chatbots.
Mimic our emotion
The biggest challenge for chatbots is to find a way to replicate our emotions. Human emotion is a fascinating thing and not easy to copy. Feelings and thoughts are non-tangible products of our mind. On the other hand, too much emotion is also not a good thing. A super emotive chatbot may freak out your customers. Recent Artificial Intelligence developments are already this far, that a chatbot has the ability to pick up conversational rhythms and accents. This is possible with so-called natural-language processing (NLP) and creates the possibility to mimic human conversation. Simply said, a chatbot is able to analyze input data, form context and discover new patterns in order to react to spoken or written feed. The whole execution is based on algorithms and based on how the human brain works with its nerve cells (neurons) and their responsiveness to each other.
Create your own chatbot with us
The best news? Chatbots are becoming effective and affordable enough for your eCommerce business. At Neurofied we help our clients in creating a human-like chatbot with Quriobot. By combining neuropsychology and marketing, we’ll improve the online experience of your customers and increase your online sales.
Curious? Contact us so we can start creating yours!
Welcome to the first part of Braintalk! A small series of brain-related topics, for you as a marketer to get a better understanding of this interesting organ. We will teach you basic knowledge, what goes on in your customers’ head and how to apply this to marketing and business. We kick-off with explaining something about a very interesting chemical in our brain called dopamine. Sit back, relax and learn.
A dopamine crash course
Okay, let’s start at the very beginning. Some of you may already have some knowledge about the brain, but others probably freak out when reading the word chemical. Chemistry is – as a marketer – probably not your specialism and that makes this whole article even more interesting. For example, did you know that the brain consists of more than 86 billion nerve cells called neurons? That these neurons communicate with each other with electric and chemical signals? And that this rapid communication enables us to move our hand, make a decision or listen to music? Fascinating right?
Communication between neurons is called neurotransmission. During this process, neurons release molecules called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters carry a ‘message’ with them and travel to other neurons. The content of this message is dependent on the type of neurotransmitter and influences our body, thoughts or perception in a certain way. They can make us excited, sleepy, hungry or reduce pain. These are just a few examples of many, showing that neurotransmitters are an essential part of the human body.
Cavemen on the hunt
There are eight major neurotransmitters, with dopamine being one of them. I will not mention them all here because their names probably only make you more confused. Dopamine carries the nickname ‘pleasure neurotransmitter’ and is involved in stuff that makes us feel good. A hit of cocaine, licking an ice-cream or hitting the jackpot are all reasons for dopamine to be released in the brain. More specific, goal achievement and motivation are related to this neurotransmitter. Mother nature created this pleasure molecule not completely without reason.
Let me explain this by looking back at the time of our ancestors and cavemen. Their life was all about survival. No food equalled the possibility of starvation, so they probably spent most of their life hunting for a nice piece of meat. What does dopamine have to do with this? It made them focused and motivated to complete their hunt and bring food back to their cave. When being hungry and seeing food, dopamine is released. It motivates you to get to the food. Without dopamine – and with a lack of motivation – chances of survival would drop to an all-time low. We repeat behaviour that leads to dopamine release. That’s how we survived and how human behaviour is still shaped until today.
Give them a dopamine rush
Now you know a bit more about how dopamine works in the brain, let’s see how you can adapt your strategies in order to make your product as appealing as possible.
Dopamine is a key element in the brain’s reward system. Remember that dopamine makes us repeat behaviour? As a marketer, you can trigger this reward system to reinforce behaviour and create positive associations for your customer. Tasty food samples at the entrance of a supermarket, Starbucks changing up their menu and a shoe shop with big sale signs are all marketing tools our brains respond to. Free offers, renewal of a menu and the suggestion that prices are lower than normal make us curious and give us a rush of dopamine. This makes us motivated to taste that sample, try that new coffee or have a look at the cheaper shoes. In return, we get another shot when finished and succeeded. This creates a positive association and improve chances people will do it again, and again.
Add dopamine to your mix
How can you apply this to your website or webshop? There are a lot of options, we will discuss a few to give you an impression:
Create a contest where people can win a prize. This can be a raffle, or the quest for the next best product name (this is a win-win situation, you might end up with a very creative name). Winning a prize activates the brain’s reward system and releases dopamine without a doubt.
Make sure your customer is first to know about an important development, new product or news. People have a general fear of missing out (FOMO). We want to be updated all the time. That’s why Facebook gives us a ping! and shows us a red globe if any activity happens. Dopamine likes this and makes us curious. Try to nót look at your phone after a ping, it’s hard to resist.
Apply strategies from gamification (principles of gaming) into your webshop. Create a point scoring system where customers can register to. If they collect a certain amount of points, they get a discount on a product. This ‘fun’ way of shopping motivates our brain and dopamine to get involved and get that discount.
These three examples are just an introduction into how you can anticipate your customer’s dopamine release. There are a lot more tools, but we hope we made you understand the underlying idea of how it works. If we got you interested in the brain, stay tuned for more interesting articles and tips! We will frequently give you a short but powerful Braintalk to keep you up to date.
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