Marketing Bullseye 9: Marketing To (and Through) the First Brain

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In my father’s book, You’ve Got To Be Believed To Be Heard he calls it the ‘First Brain.’ Malcolm Gladwell in his great book Blink calls it the adaptive unconscious. Without getting into a lot of detail, in the center of our cerebral cortex there is the limbic system (our emotions) and brain stem (our unconscious habits are housed here.) Together they make up our pre- or unconscious brain.

The fact is that all of our sensory input — the nerve pathways from our eyes and ears for visual and auditory — and taste, touch and smell as well — go into our First Brain first, before they are shunted out into our conscious cerebral cortex thinking brain. So at the unconscious level, we are making many emotionally slanted decisions before we even can think about them. In Blink, Gladwell calls it "thin slicing."

What does that have to do with bulls eye marketing? Well, purchase behavior (even B2B) suggests people buy on emotion and justify with fact.  First impressions make a difference. Before they actually read, hear or watch your message, customers have determined their feeling about it. And it’s the feeling that matters.

Bulls eye marketing is about being efficient and effective. Therefore any marketing message must cut through the first brain to be considered for the intellect to take action. In other words, it must be trusted to be persuasive. And since 97% of customers don’t trust advertising, perhaps your message shouldn’t look like advertising!

That’s why the best marketing is word of mouth marketing, or as Andy Sernovitz puts it, C2C marketing. According to an Edelman Group study, “trust in someone like me” has exploded from 20% to 68% in three years. A ‘marketing’ message sent from an unbiased source is coated in authenticity, getting past the first brain.

Consider the message and the vehicle to get through the first brain…

1)  The message

Is the copy personal? Is it written in a conversational style? Does it have a perspective, opinion, or position? Is there something funny, interesting, curious, alarming, or something in the message to stir emotion? Are you telling a story? Who’s doing the talking – someone credible and interesting?

2)    The vehicle

For example, MarketingSherpa reported in a B2B marketing study that whitepapers and webinars are two of the most effective forms of B2B marketing. Why? Because they are educational and valuable. There may be an infomercial inside, but the assumption with these vehicles is they are educational, informational, and will provide value to me. Notwithstanding word of mouth, good marketing provides value to the customer because it is more trusted.

This topic alone are subjects of several books. The simple principle to remember before sending anything out to a customer or prospect is the smell test. Look at your marketing and determine does it ‘smell’ like advertising and marketing? Or does it smell like something that is credible, interesting and valuable? 

One Response

  1. Bert Decker says:

    Great post Sam.
    The First Brain affects ALL decision making – and you’re right on about the marketing approach to success. More info on thin slicing and the First Brain can be seen at http://deckercommunications.typepad.com/experience/2005/10/first_impressio.html and on my blog at http://www.bertdecker.com.
    And naturally I love your blog. Very First Brain Friendly.
    Bert

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