A little psychology

In my last blog post, I talked about the three brains that all of us have: the reptile brain, which handles our body’s most basic functions and is responsible for our base instincts and drives; the mammal brain, which is responsible for emotions; and our human brain, which is the largest of the three and handles functions like logic and decision-making.

Savvy marketers are aware of the parts of the brain and how they can be stimulated to encourage certain kinds of responses in humans. On one end of the spectrum, deviant individuals can use this knowledge of psychology to achieve evil ends and manipulate others. At the other end, a good essayist or web designer, for example, can craft their work to create a more convincing commentary or more enticing website. Below are some ways that those of us who communicate in the corporate world, whether it’s B2B or B2C can put this psychology to good use.

  1.  Use food. Do you remember that our reptile brain is concerned with the body’s most basic needs? The reptile brain wants to know the answer to three basic questions: Can I eat it? Can it eat me? Can I mate with it? A clever way to appeal to the reptile brain, which is quite powerful and persistent, is to insert food as a visual aid. For example, show a smiling desktop computer user gripping a mug of hot coffee, looking completely satisfied with her new software experience. Conversely, include images that tell the reptile brain this can eat you, communicating the message, “this is dangerous”. Explain to your audience that if they don’t control their fat intake, they’ll get high cholesterol and heart disease. Your reptile brain will engage its “flight” mechanism and might tell you to avoid that double cheeseburger for lunch because it doesn’t increase your chances of survival.
  2. Appeal to emotions. Chet Atkins was a great guitar player with virtually flawless technique. But Jimi Hendrix stirred the soul with his soulful blues notes that could make the heart flutter. Jimi knew how to appeal to emotions. Don’t just state the facts—do so in a way that tweaks our mammal brains and invests the reader emotionally. If you’re writing about the need for blood at the local Red Cross, tell the story of little Timmy who may not make it unless he gets a transfusion. Don’t cite fact and figures. If you’re selling a product as seemingly unemotional as a piece of machinery for the shop floor, quote a worker whose job is made easier by the new equipment. Make it personal.
  3. Use logic. “Wait a second,” you may be saying. “Didn’t you just say not to quote facts and figures?” Yes, I did. But the use of a logical argument can appeal to our reasoning human brain, especially once you’ve sold the reptile and mammal brains on the concept. Explain why your idea works. That new HVAC unit keeps you warmer in the winter (reptile brain: heat=survival), keeps your family happy and smiling (mammal brain: heat=love and affection), and saves you money in the long run when it pays for itself in just five years (human brain: heat=more money in the bank).

The psychology of our brains is very complex, but these examples demonstrate how writers can appeal to their audiences on multiple levels. For more information, consider looking at the work of Dr. Susan Weinschenk (website: http://www.theteamw.com/).

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