Jade Bunke, Author at MarTech Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology, Marketing Transformation Wed, 01 Jun 2022 18:17:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.3 Optimization science: Technology and brain science can drive performance https://martech.org/optimization-science-technology-and-brain-science-can-drive-performance/ Wed, 25 May 2022 14:42:44 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=352539 Harness the full potential of your martech solution by triggering brain responses.

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As a marketing leader, you’re tasked with turning potential customers into revenue. To drive bottom-line growth, you’re ready to create a strategy for attracting, engaging, and converting prospects across all of your marketing channels. But do you have the right technology to achieve your goals? 

As you evaluate your martech stack, you might realize that you need to do more than use the right technology — you need to optimize it. Optimization science is harnessing the full potential of customer-facing technology. It’s both a methodology and a mindset — and it’s about squeezing every ounce of value from your new solution. 

To optimize your technology solution’s impact, you need to think beyond features and functionality. Specifically, you need to think about how you want to leverage your new platform to influence customer associations, perceptions, and behaviors to align with your strategy. In other words, you need to take a holistic approach to technology deployment — and that encompasses your customer’s brain. 

Getting started with a few simple steps

The martech landscape is dotted with a cornucopia of solutions. According to Scott Brinker, VP of platform ecosystem at HubSpot, there are 9,932 martech solutions on the market — a 24% increase from 2020. With a seemingly overwhelming number of options from which to select, where do you even start? Also, how do you navigate the waters of social psychology within your organization while setting the stage for triggering behaviors among the potential customers who interact with your technology? 

To get started, let’s take a look at the following three steps:

  • Selecting the right technology platform.
  • Understanding integration constraints.
  • Configuring for optimization. 

1. Selecting the right technology platform 

Yes, the first step might seem a little elementary; but such is the nature of initial steps. How many times did legacy thinking affect decisions at your place of work? How many times did existing relationships or power dynamics influence an important decision? Behavioral norms and social psychology often play an outsized role in technology deployment. As you evaluate your options, forget about the relationships and biases of your co-workers (and expunge your own biases to the extent that’s possible) — and select the technology that can deliver optimal results. 

Selecting the right technology involves foresight and a laser-like focus on your audience. After all, you’re deploying a system that allows your organization to interact with your customers to achieve tangible benefits. As you attempt to assess your technology options objectively, now is the time to start considering your customer’s brain.

2. Understanding integration constraints 

There are more questions to ask before you embark on your journey. Perhaps most obviously, how does the platform fit within your current martech stack? Do you see a sea of messy code over the horizon, or do you see a fluid integration in which data flows easily from one system to the next? 

Although you don’t want to be completely beholden to legacy systems, you do need to consider how your new marketing technology integrates with current, and quite possibly, future systems. Failure to look closely at integration at the beginning could end with an Odyssean voyage home, leaving you alone to fend off Scylla and Charybdis as you navigate the seas of cognitive dissonance. 

3. Configuring for optimization 

A good marketer will create a messaging strategy that focuses on benefits instead of features. Still, you need to harness the full set of features to reap the greatest number of benefits from your marketing technology. As a result, you likely need to configure your new platform to utilize various features. To get the most out of your technology solution, start thinking about the solution’s full capabilities early in the process. 

Imagine a scenario where your initial goal was to capture leads via chat online. You’re happy because you implemented a conversational chat platform that accomplishes the initial task perfectly. It even connects to your CRM and your analytics dashboard. Tragically, however, you didn’t dedicate anyone on your team to create automated conversation flows before your go-live date to qualify leads after-hours. That would be a colossal failure — no matter how good the technology. 

How does the brain respond to your technology?

You’ve selected the technology solution that works best for your organization. But how does it interact with your customer’s brain? The human brain processes an enormous amount of information—most of which occurs below the level of consciousness. When your customer looks at your system, for example, the eyes dart rapidly across the user interface, triggering a cascade of neurobiological activity that can affect everything from thoughts and emotions to desired behaviors such as downloading white papers and liking your social media posts. 

As your customer’s brain re-constructs the visual world in front of your technology, you have an incredible opportunity to shape the associations linked to your brand. And you can do this while influencing the behaviors you find most valuable to your organization. As such, you need to think beyond the framework of traditional deployments and start thinking about how to facilitate behaviors that align with your goals. 


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Activating aesthetic appreciation in the brain 

Is the user interface aesthetically pleasing? Yes, it’s an odd question for a technology deployment; but your customer’s brain does odd things. If you’re looking to optimize your new system’s effectiveness, you need to think about how you create an aesthetic experience for your customer. This is important because the brain responds favorably to aesthetic experiences, as you can read here. 

According to Anjan Chatterjee, MD, a neurology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Oshin Vartanian, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, aesthetic appreciation emerges from an interplay among different systems in the brain, which encompass “sensory-motor, emotion-valuation and knowledge-meaning” areas. 

Known as the aesthetic triad, the involvement of large-scale systems underscores the magnitude of an aesthetic experience. And what’s most important for you to know is that your technology interface can trigger an aesthetic experience. 

Considering that an aesthetically pleasant experience can activate brain parts associated with perceptions, emotions and behaviors, you need to think about the user interface in terms of aesthetic appreciation. As such, let’s take a look at aesthetic considerations for a couple of marketing solutions, including: 

• Conversational chat technology.

• Email marketing software. 

Conversational chat technology 

Your new chat platform is everything you imagined. But is it everything your customer imagined? You already did the hard work, configuring the system to capture leads online when you’re offline (unlike the scenario discussed earlier). You even created thoughtful conversation workflows that underscore how well you get the nuances of automation and conversational chat. But how does the customer’s brain process the visual appearance of the chat window? 

Sure, it matches your brand colors. But does it create an aesthetic experience for your customer? What does your bot avatar look like? How do the shadows and lines affect subconscious associations? If you want to optimize the deployment of your chat platform, you need to think about every little visual cue that your customer’s brain might process — and then optimize accordingly. 

Email marketing software 

You feel confident that you selected the right email marketing platform. You’ve integrated it seamlessly with your tech stack and configured it to achieve your goals. You’re particularly pleased about how you can connect with your audience with robust automation sequences. But what does the email look like to the user? 

When deploying a new email marketing platform, ensure that you’re creating a truly aesthetic experience. Often, this involves using a visually appealing template or creating a custom design that connects your audience to your brand. Whether you need to outsource design work to an agency or leverage your in-house team, you need to go above and beyond to ensure your email looks good. 

Triggering dopamine spikes 

The brain likes aesthetically pleasing stimuli, but that’s only part of optimizing your solution. When it comes to influencing action, you need behavioral prompts spread strategically across all of your marketing channels — and that starts with dopamine. 

Dopamine facilitates goal-directed behavior. As I described in my previous article, the largest dopaminergic spikes occur during moments of anticipation of a reward. With this in mind, let’s take a moment to consider a scenario in which your consideration of the customer’s brain early in the process helped you make the right technology selection and configuration. 

Video hosting solution

You plan on launching a series of videos. The good news is that you already know what type of content your audience likes. You also know the behavior you want to trigger. You want each person to provide an email address to watch a video. But did you know that different platforms allow you to gate your content differently?

How do you use optimization science to ensure you capture as many emails as possible? If you’re looking to optimize your conversion rate, you need to trigger a dopamine spike right before asking for an email. How do you do that? You need to provide content that creates anticipation. 

Since you want to create anticipation before asking for an email address, you want to avoid gating the video before the user starts watching it (which is the traditional approach). Instead, select a solution that allows you to gate the content right before the moment the user is at the most elevated state of anticipation during the video. If you do this, you can elevate the amount of dopamine in each customer’s brain to exchange email addresses for content at a higher rate than you ever thought possible — while also playing on the concept of loss aversion, which you can read in one of my previous articles

Conclusion 

The above scenarios only represent a few considerations about which to think. After all, you can facilitate a variety of complex behaviors in your customer’s brain that extend far beyond what’s mentioned in this article. The key takeaway is to think about marketing technology adoption in terms of optimal effectiveness. As a marketing leader, you can launch your metrics into the stratosphere when you approach technology adoption with the customer’s mind. And that starts with an understanding of optimization science.

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How using neuroscience can help capture customer sentiment and predict future behavior https://martech.org/how-using-neuroscience-can-help-capture-customer-sentiment-and-predict-future-behavior/ Mon, 15 Jun 2020 17:08:45 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=242039 As you integrate data to create a complete picture of your customers, you must always place an added emphasis on the brain.

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Do you want to predict the future? The ability to foretell how customers might respond to a new product or service can translate into millions. But it’s difficult to do. The Coca-Cola Company tried to do it and failed miserably. The introduction of New Coke in 1985 was an epic failure, despite pouring millions of dollars into market research. Success isn’t always easy. And according to the Harvard Business Review, 90% of product launches fail every year.

Do you think your customers will respond positively to your next offering? You can turn to focus groups and try to get an idea of what people might like. Surveys can provide decent insights at times. And if you have a robust predictive analytics platform, you can assess behavioral data to identify patterns that might indicate future behavior among larger groups. But if you really want to understand how customers might respond to future offerings, you need to take a look at the brain. 

Sharpen your focus: Inside group dynamics 

Focus groups provide value, but they can be remarkably flawed. Do certain participants bend the truth to look good in the eyes of an attractive person in the group? Certainly. Do participants change their tune to dance to the trumpeting of a more dominant person? Naturally. Perhaps most surprisingly, however, group dynamics affect what people say – whether they believe what they’re saying or not. 

In 1951, psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a series of experiments to assess the influence of group behavior on individuals. During each experiment, a volunteer joined a group of several peers in a room. Unknown to the volunteer, everyone else in the group was part of the experiment. Each person viewed two cards – one card with a single straight line and a second card with three lines of different lengths. 

The task was simple. The volunteer simply had to say which two lines were the same length. There were no visual illusions. No tricks. The task was straightforward. Interestingly, 75% of real participants intentionally gave the wrong answer. Why? As each fake participant provided an incorrect answer, the real participant felt pressure to fit in with the group – and eventually gave way. 

Market researchers are aware of the biases associated with group dynamics. But even with the best safeguards in place, group responses don’t always reflect real-world experiences. As you explore different approaches to capturing customer sentiment to estimate behavior in the future, you might want to consider how your offering – or the creative work associated with your offering – will activate certain parts of the brain.

Using the brain to predict future behavior

Researchers at Stanford University and the University of Michigan evaluated the brain’s response to different types of Kickstarter projects. The participants also rated the projects in terms of likability and the likelihood of success. Did brain activity predict behavior more accurately than self-reports? 

Even during individual tasks, people tend to make faulty predictions—but the brain doesn’t. As the researchers predicted, brain behavior “outperformed models that included self-reported ratings of liking…and individual choices of the laboratory sample.” In fact, activity in two areas of the brain associated with reward (nucleus accumbens) and value integration (medial orbitofrontal cortex), respectively, “predicted individual choices to fund on a trial-to-trial basis.”

But does this translate to a larger population? In other words, is it possible to take individual brain activity and predict behavior in the broader marketplace? Interestingly, the answer is yes. Brain activity from the study was predictive of behavior from a larger group of people outside the study. In fact, it was activity in the nucleus accumbens that “generalized to forecast market funding outcomes weeks later on the Internet.” 

Music downloads beat to the rhythm of the brain

What happens when you try to predict the success of a product or service several years into the future? Researchers at the Department of Economics and Center for Neuropolicy at Emory University conducted a study to predict the future success of music sales. Is it possible for brain activity to predict song popularity years (instead of weeks) in advance? 

In the study, participants listened to music from unknown artists in a scanner that measured brain activity. The participants also rated each song. The songs that generated activation in the nucleus accumbens turned into big hits a few years later (as measured in downloads and overall sales). While the brain predicted the popularity of songs, “subjective likability of the songs was not predictive of sales.” In other words, activation in a key area of the brain predicted the success of future sales better than direct feedback from participants. 

Your approach to prediction 

The brain’s response to marketing stimuli is more predictive of future behavior than responses from traditional sources. In fact, the brain is more reliable than the spoken or written word. At the same time, you can still extract valuable information from imperfect sources, like a classical scholar extracting meaningful insights from myth-driven epics such as the Iliad, Odyssey, or Aeneid.

As you integrate different sources of information to create a complete picture of your customers, you must always place an added emphasis on the brain. How is your customer’s brain going to respond to your creative work? How is the brain going to respond to your future offering? Once you’re able to answer these questions, you can feel confident that your offering will be among the 10% of product launches that actually succeed.

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4 cognitive biases and psychological drivers for influencing behavior https://martech.org/4-cognitive-biases-and-psychological-drivers-for-influencing-behavior/ Thu, 14 May 2020 18:43:19 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=241308 Using psychology as part of your marketing strategy can help you increase conversions and reduce buying cycles.

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As a marketer, you’re faced with a particularly daunting challenge in a pandemic. Despite longer buying cycles and decreasing demand, you’re still tasked with driving growth—and you must do it now. In a time of difficulty, you can leverage these four psychological drivers to help your business gain traction: 

  • Anchoring Effect
  • Goal Gradient 
  • Social Proof
  • Loss Aversion

Anchoring effect 

Navigate to your customer’s mind and drop anchor. With the anchoring effect, you’re able to influence customer behavior based on the order in which you introduce information. Since customers tend to attach more weight to the first piece of information in a sequence, they inadvertently alter their perception of value shortly thereafter. 

According to Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, the psychologists who introduced the phenomenon, “different starting points yield different estimates, which are biased towards the initial value.”(1) How do you apply this concept to a realworld situation? If you’re offering a specific product, you can minimize the resistance to purchase by introducing a higher-priced alternative before you present the lower priced item.

The bias works because your customer’s brain starts assigning value to the second option relative to the initial data point. In marketing, the key is to introduce the first item (or group of items) at a significantly higher price point; but with only a slightly better benefit than the second option. Anchored to the first price point, your customers now see the second item as too good to pass up.

Social proof

In 1984, Robert Cialdini, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, introduced the concept of social proof – and the marketing world has never been the same. In his seminal work, Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini highlights how people tend to “view a behavior as more correct” when others are engaging in the same behavior. In short, people seek validity from others – and once they see it, they’re more likely to take action. 

How valuable is social proof in marketing? According to the Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University, online reviews dramatically influence purchasing behavior. In fact, displaying positive reviews on your website can increase conversions by 270%!(2) Are you making good use of your reviews?

Depending on your business, you might need to adapt your approach to social proof. If you’re a local service provider, for example, you might focus on getting testimonials that sing your praises—and place them on your website. If you’re a technology company on the other hand, you might create case studies to showcase how others benefit from your product. Once you provide proof that other people like your business, your potential customers are more likely to give your company a try. 

Loss aversion

Do you like to win? Of course you do. But at what cost? When it comes to choosing between a gain or avoiding a loss, you’re likely to do more work to avoid the loss than seek the gain—no matter how much you like winning. In 1979, Tversky and Kahneman developed prospect theory, a behavioral model that introduced the concept of loss aversion. With loss aversion, people tend to place a greater emphasis on a loss compared to a gain of equal value. 

How can you leverage this principle to facilitate bottom-line success? Imagine you work for a SaaS company and you’re evaluating whether to offer a discount or provide a free trial to acquire new customers. By understanding the implications associated with loss aversion, you can see that you’re likely to achieve better outcomes by offering a free trial of your software, allowing your users to become dependent on your platform. After all, customers are more reluctant to give up what they have (or what they need) than to exert energy to acquire something new. 

Goal gradient

In 1932, behavioral psychologist Clark Hull observed that animals run faster as they approach a food source. The observation eventually led to the goal gradient hypothesis – a postulation with big implications for marketers and UX designers today. Do you want to shorten the buying cycle? Do you want to increase your form conversion rate on your website? 

In a study published by the Journal of Marketing Research, researchers observed a significant behavioral change among participants who had a coffee card to collect stamps. In this study, each stamp brought the cardholder closer to the goal of receiving a free cup of coffee. As the participants earned more stamps, they began to make purchases more frequently. In fact, the purchasing behavior was accelerated by 16%, shaving five days off the buying cycle. 

Using goal gradient as a psychological driver on your website can also do wonders for accelerating conversions. If you’re a B2B company with a complex quoting system, for example, you can create a progress bar to highlight that your prospective customer is one step closer to completing the purchase. After all, once you allow your customers to see the finish line, they’re likely to race across it to achieve their goals. 

Conclusion 

As you work to generate business in an uncertain economic environment, you can be certain that cognitive biases and psychological drivers continue to influence behavior. The key is to adapt each principle to fit your industry – and to drive behavioral change ethically. 

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Rethinking emotion in marketing to deepen engagement https://martech.org/rethinking-emotion-in-marketing-to-deepen-engagement/ Thu, 05 Mar 2020 19:22:29 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=239086 Changing your approach to emotional marketing can help you create a stronger connection with your audience.

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As a marketing professional, you often think about creating an emotional connection with your audience. And for good reason. Emotion can direct attention, deepen engagement and drive behavior. But can you articulate how your marketing assets trigger emotional responses?

Emotion is strikingly complex, involving intricate biological processes that engage a variety of different regions in the brain. This complexity creates difficulty in aligning creative work to behavioral outcomes, often giving rise to misconceptions and false promises. The goal of this article, therefore, is to encourage you to think differently about the role emotion plays in marketing – and that starts with an understanding of emotions and feelings.

Understanding emotions and feelings 

How do you define emotion? How do your peers define emotion? Depending on whom you ask, you’re likely to get different answers. But don’t feel bad. Psychologists and neuroscientists often disagree, engaging in spirited debates and offering uncommon perspectives about a common word.

Since your peers might view emotion differently than you – and top researchers disagree on basic definitions – how should you approach emotion in marketing? In your line of work, think of emotion as a physiological response to external stimuli or internal processes, which occurs below the level of consciousness. It’s a response that starts in the brain – and has the potential to influence your audience’s thoughts, feelings and actions.

Does this mean that emotions and feelings are the same? No. Emotions and feelings are intricately linked, but fundamentally different. Emotions precede awareness; feelings, on the other hand, represent your conscious understanding of an emotional state. As Antonio Damasio, neurologist and professor at the University of Southern California put it, “an organism can possess feelings only when it can create a representation of the body’s functions and the related changes that occur in the brain.”

Emotion and reason: The key to effective decision-making 

The relationship between emotion and reason is another area that’s often misunderstood in marketing, thereby making it difficult to use emotional content to influence your audience’s rational choices. What comes to mind when you think about emotion and reason? If you think about diametrically opposed concepts, you’re not alone. But you’re also dead wrong. Consider one of Damasio’s patients, a man who had a tumor in his prefrontal cortex. After removing the tumor, the patient retained his mental acuity, demonstrating intelligence, humor and charm. But his life began to spiral downward quickly.

The removal of the tumor inadvertently impaired emotional processing – and it paralyzed his ability to make decisions. Regardless of the simplicity of the decision, time ticked away – and so did his life. When to schedule an appointment? That decision might take 30-minutes. What about deciding what to eat for lunch? Hours. Confronted with different decisions, the patient would drown in uncertainty, floundering upstream as he weighed the pros and cons of each decision, seemingly ad infinitum.

Emotional processing and rational decision-making are deeply intertwined, bringing a false dichotomy to the surface, the one between emotion and reason. Emotion helps the brain determine the relative value of competing inputs. According to Damasio, emotionless “reasoning prevented him from assigning different values to different options.” As a result, the patient’s “decision-making landscape (was) hopelessly flat,” thus illustrating the extent to which emotion plays a role in evaluating choices.

Creating an emotional response to drive behavior

Depending on your goals, you might want your audience to choose a particular product or service. In other cases, you might be focused on eliciting a behavioral response that leads your audience to click on a button, open an e-mail, or break out a credit card. In any of these cases, you want to approach emotional marketing as a process by which to trigger biological reactions to your creative assets. Do you want the heart rate to increase? Do you want the pupils to dilate? Do you want to trigger a hormone?

In 2013, researchers demonstrated that an increase in oxytocin – a hormone (and neurotransmitter) associated with empathy, trust, generosity and attachment – can increase donation in response to public service announcements. During the study, researchers found that participants with elevated oxytocin levels “donated to 57% more causes, donated 56% more money, and reported 17% greater concern for those in the ads.” In the second experiment of the study, researchers measured ACTH, a hormone that regulates cortisol. Correlating ATCH to attention, researchers predicted that an increase in both oxytocin and ACTH would lead to a greater increase in donations – and they were correct. Donations increased by 261%.

In 2014, a different study examined audience heart rates in response to TV commercials, discovering an increase in “cardiac activity during the observation of TV commercials that have been judged pleasant.” As a marketer, you’re in a unique position to use creativity to elicit an emotional response that’s beneficial to your business. The key is to get your audience’s brain to respond favorably to your work. As part of this approach, you might need to think about emotional marketing differently. After all, thinking about how to use emotion to drive outcomes is not only good thinking, it’s also good marketing.

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Neuroscience and beauty: Why visually appealing marketing assets matter https://martech.org/neuroscience-and-beauty-why-visually-appealing-marketing-assets-matter/ Fri, 06 Dec 2019 19:25:43 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=272387 The brain responds to beauty automatically so creating a marketing campaign that is aesthetically pleasing is key to a good first impression.

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Is beauty in the eye of the beholder or the neurobiology of the brain? The answer to this question might surprise you. As a marketer, you have an opportunity to create an immediate connection with your audience – and that starts with the look and feel of your marketing assets. This is because your audience’s brain responds favorably to aesthetically pleasing stimuli. And yes, that includes emails, print ads, web pages, social media posts, digital ads and more.

The aesthetic experience starts the moment your audience looks at your ad. At this moment, your audience’s brain begins to process visual content quickly. In fact, the processing of visual information happens so quickly that your audience is unaware of what the eyes see, at least initially. Put more succinctly, the brain processes visual stimuli before consciousness is even possible.

When it comes to creating an aesthetic experience, the visual strength of your imagery is key for creating an immediate connection. According to Anjan Chatterjee, Professor of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, “the brain responds automatically to beauty.” In other words, beautiful imagery, whether in the form of a print ad or a social media post, is critical for creating positive associations with your brand automatically.

Inside the aesthetic experience

An aesthetic experience stirs activity in different regions in the brain, including areas associated with emotion, reward and decision-making. Importantly, the experience extends across multiple sensory modalities and happens to occur regardless of whether a person is viewing a painting, listening to music or admiring a perfectly constructed math equation. Remarkably, you can quantify the experience.

Researchers across multiple studies directed subjects to view artwork and state the extent to which each image was considered beautiful – all while measuring activity in the brain. As Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroaesthetics at University College London, observes, activity in a key area of the brain, the medial orbitofrontal cortex, was “proportional to the declared intensity of the aesthetic experience.”

When it comes to viewing attractive faces, the experience becomes even more profound. In a 2019 study, Chatterjee demonstrated how an aesthetic experience can actually activate the motor parts of the brain to compel people to move physically towards attractive faces. In the study, a computer monitor displayed a number at the bottom of the screen and two numbers at the top. The task was simple. Click on the number that was closest to the number on the bottom.

Simple enough, right? But to see if attractiveness affects motor behavior, the researchers paired the top numbers with faces, one attractive and the other unattractive. Incredibly, researchers discovered the mouse would drift toward the attractive face – even if the number was incorrect. In other words, the aesthetic response to an attractive face was so powerful that it affected hand movement!

Marketing science takeaways

As you think about the look and feel of your marketing assets, you might want to consider these key takeaways:

  • The brain responds to beauty automatically
  • Using science to navigate office politics
  • Creating visually appealing content

The brain responds to beauty automatically  

Given that your audience’s brain responds automatically to beauty on a subconscious level, one of your goals as a marketer should be to facilitate approach-behavior on a subconscious level. In other words, get your audience to become drawn toward your marketing asset. As a skilled marketer, however, you already know that’s only part of the story. Once you engage your audience’s brain on a subconscious level, you must present the appropriate message, which taps into individual preferences within a culture-appropriate framework. As such, you must create content that resonates with your audience since triggering aesthetic appreciation is only a starting point.

Using science to navigate office politics

In your role, you’re often presented with obstacles from less informed persons. Have you worked for a client – or reported to a CEO – who was uninterested in what your marketing content looked like? Are you told that your audience doesn’t care what your marketing collateral looks like? The problem is that your audience’s brain is attracted to aesthetically pleasing stimuli – whether they know it or not. Now you can make a science-based argument on why you must create good-looking marketing content.

Creating visually appealing content

The most important takeaway is to understand that visually appealing content matters. Since brain regions that are associated with emotion and reward become active when viewing aesthetically appealing content, it’s important to create marketing assets that tap into the circuitry that’s involved in the aesthetic experience. When you’re able to do that, you’ll find that beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder but also in the neurobiology of the brain.

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Neuroscience and beauty: How to create an immediate connection with your audience https://martech.org/neuroscience-and-beauty-how-to-create-an-immediate-connection-with-your-audience/ Fri, 06 Dec 2019 19:10:52 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=237278 The brain responds to beauty automatically, which underscores the significance of creating aesthetically pleasing collateral.

The post Neuroscience and beauty: How to create an immediate connection with your audience appeared first on MarTech.

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Is beauty in the eye of the beholder or the neurobiology of the brain? The answer to this question might surprise you. As a marketer, you have an opportunity to create an immediate connection with your audience – and that starts with the look and feel of your marketing assets. This is because your audience’s brain responds favorably to aesthetically pleasing stimuli. And yes, that includes emails, print ads, web pages, social media posts, digital ads and more.

The aesthetic experience starts the moment your audience looks at your ad. Upon exposure to your ad, your audience’s brain begins to process visual content quickly. In fact, the processing of visual information happens so quickly that your audience is unaware of what the eyes see, at least initially. In other words, the brain processes visual stimuli before consciousness is even possible.

When it comes to creating an aesthetic experience, the visual strength of your imagery is key for creating an immediate connection with your audience. According to Anjan Chatterjee, Professor of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, “the brain responds automatically to beauty.” As such, beautiful imagery, whether in the form of a print ad or a social media post, is critical for creating positive associations with your brand automatically.

Inside the aesthetic experience

An aesthetic experience stirs activity in different regions in the brain, including areas associated with emotion, reward and decision-making. Importantly, the experience extends across multiple sensory modalities and happens to occur regardless of whether a person is viewing a painting, listening to music or admiring a perfectly constructed math equation. Remarkably, you can quantify the experience.

Researchers across multiple studies directed subjects to view artwork and state the extent to which each image was considered beautiful – all while measuring activity in the brain. As Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroaesthetics at University College London, observes, activity in a key area of the brain, the medial orbitofrontal cortex, happens to be “proportional to the declared intensity of the aesthetic experience.”

When it comes to viewing attractive faces, the experience becomes even more profound. In a 2019 study, Chatterjee demonstrated how an aesthetic experience can actually activate the motor parts of the brain to compel people to move physically towards attractive faces. In the study, a computer monitor displayed a number at the bottom of the screen and two numbers at the top. The task was simple enough. Ask the person sitting in front of the computer to click on the number that was closest to the number on the bottom.

But to see if attractiveness affects motor behavior, the researchers paired the top numbers with faces, one attractive and the other unattractive. Incredibly, researchers discovered something remarkable. Prior to clicking on a number, the mouse would start to drift toward the attractive face – even if the number was incorrect. In other words, the aesthetic response to an attractive face was so powerful that it affected hand movement!

Marketing science takeaways

As you think about the look and feel of your marketing assets, you might want to consider these key takeaways:

  • The brain responds to beauty automatically
  • How to use science to navigate office politics
  • Create visually appealing content

The brain responds to beauty automatically  

Given that your audience’s brain responds automatically to beauty, one of your goals as a marketer should be to facilitate approach-behavior on a subconscious level. In other words, get your audience to become drawn toward your marketing asset. As a skilled marketer, however, you already know that’s only part of the story. Once you engage your audience’s brain on a subconscious level, you must present the appropriate message, which taps into individual preferences within a culture-appropriate framework. As such, you must create content that resonates with your audience since triggering aesthetic appreciation is only a starting point.

Using science to navigate office politics

In your role, you’re often presented with obstacles from less informed persons. Have you worked for a client – or reported to a CEO – who was uninterested in what your marketing content looked like? Are you told that your audience only cares about the content, but not the visuals? The problem with this type of rationale is that your audience’s brain is attracted to aesthetically pleasing stimuli – whether they know it or not. Armed with this information, Now you can now make a science-based argument on why you must create good-looking marketing assets.

Creating visually appealing content

The most important takeaway is to understand that visually appealing content matters. Since brain regions that are associated with emotion and reward become active when viewing aesthetically appealing content, it’s important to create marketing assets that tap into the circuitry that’s involved in the aesthetic experience. When you’re able to do that, you’ll find that beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder but also in the neurobiology of the brain.

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How dopamine fuels the golden rule of content marketing https://martech.org/how-dopamine-fuels-the-golden-rule-of-content-marketing/ Fri, 25 Oct 2019 17:46:45 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=236478 We can leverage the brain's reward system to engage consumers with value-based content.

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Anticipation is marketing gold – and dopamine is the currency that leads to a richer bottom line. Do you have the Midas touch? As a marketing professional, you’re interested in influencing behavior to help your business succeed – and that starts with dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a central role in goal-directed behavior. Whether you’re eating your favorite food, purchasing a product that makes you happy, or engaging in a hedonistic conquest, dopamine drives your behavior forward. Put succinctly, dopamine helps you take action.

In your role, you want customers to engage in behavior that’s in alignment with your business objectives. What type of action do you want your customers to take? Do you want them to read a blog post, click a digital ad, open an email, or attend a webinar? If you said yes to any of these, you need to keep reading. 

Anticipation spikes dopamine

The key to creating marketing content that drives behavior in a direction that’s beneficial to your business is to tap into your customer’s complex reward circuitry – a system that’s fueled by dopamine. What comes to mind when you think of dopamine? If you’re like most people, you might associate dopamine with pleasure or reward. But there’s more to the story. 

The brain produces dopamine in response to rewarding experiences; however, the largest surge of dopamine doesn’t come from obtaining the reward – it comes from anticipation. If you want to drink a glass of wine, and you’ve experienced the reward of wine in the past, you might uncork the bottle, pour it into a glass and take a small sip. But the largest dopaminergic spike in your brain occurred before your first sip. 

Marketing science in action

In content marketing, you use information to connect with your audience. According to researchers at UC Berkley’s Haas School of Business, “information acts on the brain’s dopamine-producing reward system in the same way as money or food.” In other words, your marketing content, which is a form of information, can be leveraged to tap into your customer’s reward pathways. What does this mean for you? 

Commercials and videos

Imagine that you’re launching a series of commercials (or videos if you’re working with a smaller budget). As a neurotransmitter that facilitates goal-directed behavior, dopamine can motivate your audience to watch commercials with added interest – as long as you set the stage with the first commercial. If anticipation spikes dopamine, and dopamine drives behavior, you can develop anticipation between commercials to facilitate the desired behavioral response.

In 2006, Dos Equis launched the Most Interesting Man in the World campaign, which featured a grey-haired adventurer who impressed with charisma and fanciful exploits. The campaign tapped into your reward system through humor and storytelling. If you found the humor funny, for example, and you wanted to know how the next commercial would further define the Most Interesting Man in the World (while making you laugh), you were certain to pay close attention to each new commercial. The results? From 2008 to 2013, Dos Equis grew by 116% in the American market, thus turning it into “the fastest growing beer brand in the country.” 

How do you create a reward-driven campaign using commercials or videos? One tactical approach is to develop a cohesive narrative that plays like a movie over multiple commercials. By making sure each clip contains a reward along with a small cliff-hanger, you can get your audience to anticipate what the next commercial might reveal, thereby giving your brand access to one of the most valuable things in a competitive business environment—your audience’s attention. 

Email marketing 

Do you want people to open your marketing emails? Of course, you do. As you already know, the first step is to provide value. But that’s not enough. You need your audience to anticipate value. To do this, you need to make your inbox name become associated with rewarding content. 

How exactly does this work? If your emails contain rewards, such as insightful information, curious content, or humorous content, your name becomes a cue for the reward, thereby informing your audience that a reward is on the way. For your next campaign, therefore, determine what type of reward you plan on using – and be consistent to ensure your name becomes associated with the reward inside of the message. As soon as you’re able to create anticipation of what’s inside a message, you’ll not only see a spike in dopamine, but you’ll also see a spike in your open rates. 

Driving results 

When used correctly, marketing science can drive better results than traditional marketing. The key is to generate intrigue through value-based content that makes the reader anticipate the next communication – regardless if it’s an email, infographic, webinar, commercial or video. As you tackle your next marketing project, therefore, remember the golden rule of content marketing: get your audience to anticipate value. And once you do that, you’ll be able to influence goal-directed behavior that leads to a stronger bottom line. 

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