Picking up the pieces of a broken dream

You’ve been here before. The creative brief was well thought out. The target audience was “mirco-defined” and the final communication solution tested well in focus groups… Even so, the new launch fell flat with lackluster sales results and now there is a scramble on to come up with a fix.

Your target audience paid no attention to the message and now triage begins. What could have we done better? Maybe we should have chosen the other creative option? Did we misread the focus group results? Did we pick the wrong media selection?

What used to work doesn’t work anymore

Over the last century, advertising results worked well within wide boundaries. Like most companies, your creative messages were accepted by a fair majority of customers and consumers. Even though campaigns were rarely blockbusters, they generated enough interest to keep a loyal following and slowly build marketshare.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and those days are gone. Our current hyperactive marketplace of this century is flooding consumers with advertising messages. Your latest product launch became part of the overall mass communication clutter; lit billboards, packages, flyers, banner ads, floor decals, websites, stock cars, signage and so on.

A recent New York Times article claims that a person living within the city 30 years ago saw up to 2,000 ad messages in a day. With the explosion of ads posted everywhere from toll booths to imprints on an egg, a person today will see around 5,000 ads in a day – one ad message every 6 seconds.

Focus groups work up to a point, but to emulate real-world situations, these studies would need to be conducted over weeks with all the other advertising distractions thrown in for good measure. Your customer’s life is not lived in a vacuum and neither is his exposure to advertising.

As more money is being spent and more communications are added to the advertising noise, being heard is becoming very difficult. A good analogy for this discord is a crowd yelling at a stadium. There are thousands of individual voices, yet the overall sound created is a roar of noise instead of a succinct, concise, single voice.

Connection before the reason

What if you could read your customer’s mind and fully understand his reasoning when it comes to your creative communications? While it’s impossible to fully comprehend the precise depths of a purchasing decision, new studies in the field of neurology are beginning to uncover some very interesting discoveries.

Scientific studies claim as much as 95% of a consumer’s decision to purchase a product or service is made by the subconscious mind. This decision takes place prior to thinking about or verbalizing the choice of purchase. When consumers state their preferences – “I think I like this one,” the subconscious decision was already made. In reality, the consumer is only processing their subconscious decision. To make matters more difficult, the subconscious decision appears to be altered as it is thought about or verbalized.

The brain is made up of electrical pathways and science is now unlocking astounding discoveries through the use of brain scans such as fMRI, high-density EEG and biometrics. Studies have revealed that preferences and habits are engrained in a series of connections throughout the brain. These electrical connections made up of neurons. These dynamic little cells have the unique ability to “wire themselves” together and create neural pathways. Think of a neural pathway in this manner; imagine a large pile of loose dirt. The rains come down and the water forms grooves into the sides of the pile. These grooves allow future rain to traverse down the sides easily. They represent a pre-established path based on a past downpour. When the rain falls again, it will follow these pathways.

Interestingly enough, these pathways can and do change. Through research, scientists now know the brain has a capacity to rewire itself by changing these electrical connections. The technical term is called neuroplasticity. This phenomenon was first proposed by Sigmund Freud and articulated in more detail by Donald Hebb a Canadian psychologist. Hebb stated “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Unlike the dirt pile example, the brain can actually create new “grooves” or neural pathways based on environmental or physical factors. This is why stroke victims who have had a portion of their brains damaged can actually regain some or all of their physical or mental abilities.

The purchasing decision for your product is formed from deep within your customers subconscious mind based on the neural pathways established in the “fight or flight” area of the brain. In essence the person’s core values, their deep set of beliefs, aspirations and fears quickly yield a decision on a purchase, even before logic comes into play.

How do I neuro-connect with my customer?

Professionals in the emerging field of neuromarketing speak of an “old”, middle” and “new” brain. The “old” brain, being the core of our thoughts, is concerned with primal needs such as safety, food, shelter and basic requirements. This brain controls the “flight or fight” feelings. The middle brain is tied to your customer’s “gut instinct.” It processes feelings. The “new” brain processes input from the “old” and “middle” brain, with the “old” brain making the decision. It may appear backwards that the “old” brain would override the “new” brain, the core values always circumvent even the best logic. In other words, “don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is already made up.”

To get your customer’s attention, you must attract and connect with the “old” brain. At this level you are dealing with the 5 senses that evoke emotions. In addition, age and sex also play into how solutions are developed . Studies show men respond to car ads that tout performance while women are more concerned about storage capacity and family safety (borne from her nurturing nature).  From this observation it’s easy to understand how a message specifically tailored for a man will not have the same appeal to a female.

To reach deep into the “old” brain you must convince the primal instincts of your customer that what you have is worth the energy the brain expends to receive the message.  Studies have shown the “old” brain really likes novelty and simple things. It becomes frustrated at sensory overload or tough tasks. Also as humans, we connect with eye contact and respond to pleasure and/or reward. Advertising messages must tap into these connective messages to gain a customer’s attention.

Simple design solutions showing ironic situations, subtle humor and other thought-provoking messages are shown to capture attention. Heavy copy and busy designs create confusion, causing the brain to shut down to conserve resources or divert its attention to other matters. Additionally, men process most of their thoughts logically or left-brained. Women have more connections between the left and right hemispheres, making them much better at multi-tasking and responding with empathy.

As more is discovered in this emerging field, advertisers will have the benefit of presenting their products in a way that engages the customer and provides relevant, viable messages. But since the human brain is very complex, don’t expect a “silver-bullet” procedure to advertising perfection. Humans are fickle… the product of primal instincts and modern intuition. Even so, understanding how decisions are made is certainly a huge step in the right direction. Considering the results of neuromarketing in your next advertisement, package, flyer, website or other marketing communication can help tremendously.

Want to know more? Contact us at G5 Creative Group and learn how our understanding of neuromarketing can benefit your advertising and marketing efforts.