Quiet Storm

Applied Thinking: Mindbombing

Howard..."The answer lies in neuroscience and the understanding of decision-making that this brings"
Howard..."The answer lies in neuroscience and the understanding of decision-making that this brings"

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Most brands and their ad campaigns are invisible to the people they need to engage. Honourable exceptions aside, this is the unspoken truth of what we do. Clearly, no-one sets out with this objective in mind. Nonetheless, invisibility is all too often our lot in life.

With choice proliferation in even the simplest categories and an ever-fragmenting media landscape pumping out thousands of brand messages every day to reach people whose attention span is now just eight seconds, how could it be otherwise?

Do your own mental audit. How many ads do you remember from this week? How many brands have you thought about? Now think about the distracted and disinterested out in the real world; a world with marcoms ADHD baked in. How do we make the invisible visible for them?

As with many marketing conundrums of recent years, the answer lies in neuroscience and the understanding of decision-making that this brings. More specifically, it lies in how we cope mentally, given the sensory chaos around us, by simplifying behind the scenes. Our autopilot takes control, making decisions based on cognitive ease. Termed "first-choice-brand effect", we reach instinctively for the most mentally available.

This helps (re)define the role of advertising: less to communicate unique claims, more to gain (or maintain) the mental number-one spot. And neuroscience has seven tips to help with this.

Disruption is key. If a brand isn’t thought about, the autopilot can’t choose it. So fear indifference, not rejection; be creatively bold and strive for fame.

Grab from the start. If you lose focus early, you may not get it back. So use surprise or anticipation to enhance attentiveness and facilitate memory formation.

Stimulate the senses. Memories don’t exist "whole" but as bits of sensory information that need reconstruction. So make this easier by linking brands to visual and aural stimuli and other mnemonics. 

Stir the emotions. Sticky memories, easier for the autopilot to act on, are formed not from facts but emotional responses. So even if just a visceral reaction to stimuli (laughing at a joke), surrounding a brand with potent emotion amplifies mental availability.

Accentuate the positive. With emotion, it’s a neurological fact that our brains seek to feel good, not bad. So even with challenging subjects, the autopilot favours choices that generate positive feelings.

Be goal-directed. We may not be consciously aware, but our autopilot always asks: "What’s in it for me?" So make sure your emotion has a point, because the promise of needs met is the ultimate feel-good glue that sticks brands at the mental number-one spot.

Finish well. How experiences end define our memories of them. So don’t peak early and then wane: leave people on a high and the autopilot is more likely to remember you. 

And if proof is still needed about the lessons neuroscience can teach us, look no further than what drives IPA Effectiveness Award winners: fame is the clear number one, followed closely by emotion, with rational communication a distant third.

More thoughts...

An inspiration: Not sure how it directly influences my work, but I am most inspired by the great outdoors in all its natural, uncontrollable glory.

She likes the way he thinks: "Jon is an impressive deep-thinker. His tenacity with the detail of a problem will ensure that he keeps challenging the discussion until he is satisfied that the solution is original and compelling. No stone left unturned!" - Yvonne Adam, Marketing Director, Young’s Seafood

Thought for the year: Sometimes the old ways are still the best.


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