To Connect Intuitively & Emotionally With Customers, Think Like A Caveman

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar, “Is Your Brand in Sync with What the Brain Wants?” which focused on how brands can intuitively and emotionally connect with customers to form long-lasting, engaging bonds.

The most powerful lesson learned from the webinar is how humans today make decisions about the brands they purchase from or partner with is similar to our ancient ancestors . Not relying on rationality, the primal parts of humans’ brains, which process 11 million bits per second, are where 90 percent of all decisions are made. Only 10 percent of decisions are made by the rationale portion of the brain.

To infiltrate potential and current customers’ subconscious to become the preferred choice, companies must create memorable experiences that appeal to buyers’ most primal senses. To do this, companies should consider tapping into the following primal instincts that help to engage customers’ subconscious and steer them toward ‘yes,’ and away from ‘no’:

  • Survival of the most authentic. For our ancient ancestors, survival was everything. And it is for us too—but our battle is different. Instead of saber-toothed tigers, our enemies can be corporate giants selling false promises. To protect ourselves from deceitful brands, we use the same receptors our predecessors did. So how do companies avoid alerting these built-in credibility detectors? It’s three-fold. Organize around a meaningful purpose, be trustworthy, and, most importantly, be authentic. For example, sharing personal employee stories, from what inspires them to why they love working for the company, via social media can help build the company’s authenticity score.
  • Seeing is believing. Vision takes up half of the brain’s resources, and, as humans, we process first with sight. In fact, our brains process pictures 60,000 times faster than text. According to Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine, “We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.” Brands should consider using more pictures than text to tell their stories. Apple is a great example of this, in that the company relies heavily on emotive visuals, not text, in its marketing.
  • Consistency is key. Routine rules, especially since humans are creatures of comfort. Brands offering the most consistent experiences are more likely to be market leaders. Consistent engagement with a brand psychologically creates positive reinforcement for customers. As humans, we are driven to do business because we are architects of memories, not messages. If companies create consistent and positive memorable experiences for those who interact with their brand, they will generate long-term customer satisfaction.
  • Rely on rituals and rites. We all desire to connect and belong. In pre-historic times, if you weren’t part of a tribe, you most likely would not survive. Brands that are capable of building a sense of community through the use of rituals will reap the reward of happy customers. Brands that include a ritual in their experiences are also able to more easily involve their customers and give them a sense of belonging to their community. This can lead to customers sharing their participation in these rituals with their own personal communities via social media, thereby endorsing the company. For example, Tupperware took advantage of the fact that the majority of its customers partake in the Monday night ritual of weekly meal prep. The brand created Meal Prep Mondays and invited families to photograph and post their meal prep to the company’s Instagram channel to create a sense of community and belonging.
  • Engage the senses. To grab as much real estate as possible in customers’ subconscious, companies should consider tapping into the five senses, especially scent. Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, includes scent in its in-store experience. Even Samsung and Sony are scenting their lobbies because they understand how important aroma is in creating and leaving an impression. Music is also a powerful tool for creating a feel-good connection with customers. It can also act as a brand’s calling card. For example, when the CEO walks on stage to deliver a presentation, is there appropriate intro music that can be used to immediately create an emotional connection with the audience? Creating this calling card for the CEO helps, and will hopefully recreate the success of how Monday Night Football uses its music to excite viewers. Through using unique scents, sounds and even colors (think GE blue), brands are able to create multisensory experiences.
  • Show novelty. Since survival was top of mind for our ancestors, they were always scanning their surrounding environments for threats or dangers. This behavior has stuck with us today as we are pre-wired to be aware of change. This makes it critical for companies to stay within existing brand equities, while simultaneously updating and refreshing to remain relevant. Starbucks is a master at this. The company is always innovating its menus, products and services, but it’s always on brand. Failing to update and stay relevant, customers may move to a competitor more capable of being true to itself as well as modern.
  • The proof is in the pudding. While our irrational brains make most of our decisions, it is in constant connection with our more rationale selves. So while we may derive pleasure when we instantly walk into a Chipotle because of the design and smell of the food thanks to the primal portion of our brain, the rationale part of the brain takes into account the brand’s sustainable sourcing practices. For brands to successfully market, they must make customers aware of the brand’s proof points. By doing so, companies are more likely to secure a ‘yes’ from both the rational and irrational portions of consumers’ brains.

The majority of the time, customers can’t help but to decide about a brand in a blink of an eye.

Is your brand ready? Remember, all you have to do to market your brand successfully is think like a caveman.

Photo credit: Michael Coté, Flickr.

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