Neuromarketing – Urging the Lizard Out of Hiding

All of us want our customers to love doing business with us, to spend liberally at our retail locations (or websites), and to prefer what we offer versus our competitors. That’s a tricky formula that implies you must get a lot of things just right – even when we communicate to folks with “buying on their mind.” It takes a quantum leap in retail savvy to influence those who are indifferent or currently opposed to buying. This requires a thoughtful mix of artful design, good consumer engagement, great products, strong awareness, and strategic pricing. Or does it? Sure, all those things are wildly helpful and influencing. But … don’t forget the “lesson of the lizard” in your consumer marketing.

That’s a little bizarre, right? What do lizards have to do with anything we promote or sell? More than you think, according to the most scientific marketers. You see, they have ratcheted up the science of Neuromarketing in their stores and product designs. They understand how the brain processes their brands, products, pricing, and offers. They have learned a once-well-kept secret – you and I don’t make purchase decisions rationally in many cases. We can be influenced on a whim. We react to unique, seemingly unexplainable stimuli. When we are conflicted about what to buy, our cortex frequently takes a nap and our lizard brain starts to make decisions. That’s right, neuromarketing is designed to urge the lizard out into the open.

Science has concluded that we make purchase decisions in two general ways – using the frontal cortex portion of the brain, or defaulting to the limbic system, aka the impulsive, emotional Lizard Brain. The basis of neuromarketing is simply understanding that our decision process often favors emotion over pure rationality in directing our brains to make choices as consumers. As evidence, electronic scans of the brain conducted during consumers’ purchase decisions, showed that there was generally little or no brain activity occurring, indicating that these decisions were made “unconsciously”.

We can debate this until the cows come home, but numerous studies have confirmed it. Thomas Rotthowe’s 1993 study concluded that the limbic system was responsible for over 70% of purchase decisions, allowing the brain to take some time off from the constant stress of decision making. Dr. Montague’s well-publicized studies of Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi taste preference concluded that the lack of brand awareness inspired subjects with no preconceived taste preference to clearly prefer Brand A over Brand B when sampling them unaware of the brand. But hold on a minute! When subjects were made aware of the brand they were tasting prior to the taste test, their results flip-flopped to Brand B which had the more dominant market position and branding. The human brain “thinkers” liked something entirely different than the lizard brain “reactionaries”.

Perhaps you are old school and just believe that people buy the products that are most skillfully communicated. If your product tastes or looks better, then you price it accordingly, promote it adequately, improve it occasionally, and get your share of the purchase decisions. That’s a good start, but a very small piece of it in my humble opinion. If you are following me on this so-called lizard reflex, it means that you, as a marketer, should be compelled to intelligently formulate your marketing efforts in accordance with how the lizard has proven to react.

For obvious reasons, I’m a digital signage and digital menu board apologist. Intrinsically, I know CRI’s knowledge and execution of neuro-science is a good way to attract the lizard. But there is more to neuromarketing than hanging digital signage displays in your retail environment. It’s really about persuasive messaging and pressing the key emotional triggers that the lizard will react to. It means you need data. Purchase data, demographic data, business data, dwell time data, neuro data – whatever you can get your hands on to learn what puts the cortex to sleep and wakes up the lizard brain. Become data-driven and you will be more apt to learn what the lizard yearns for.

Here are a few pieces of advice about neuromarketing, imagery, and digital signage design, from neuromarketing experts that may be helpful:

  1. Show your products to customers rather than just talking about them. While a mental image can be lasting, the best way to put that image in their minds, is to show it. What better way to show it than with professional digital images on modern digital devices?
  2. The effect of food imagery is moving, creating hunger, sensory memory, and even swaying shoppers from a current food bias. Retail imagery has a similar effect, creating desire and ambition to purchase products that were not on the shopper’s wish list.
  3. Your imagery should have appropriate contrast so it stands out. Consult with a professional designer, whether you are doing static or digital, and get their knowledge on how to turn heads with your design and messaging.
  4. Draw emotion into the mix. Use ads or imagery with emotions displayed. One expert advised that “surprise, laughter, fear, and anger all cause disruption — and thus, trigger memory.” Don’t forget that the lizard has an excellent sensory memory.
  5. Talk about your customers in your messaging. A big mistake is to talk about your business rather than your customers’ desires, needs, and/or pain.
  6. Don’t dawdle, and get to the point. Images do this better than words. Remember that your message is competing with over 10,000 others that the brain is exposed to on a daily basis.
  7. Do some selling and closing. Use Limited Time Offers and Calls to Action to inspire the lizard to come out and react impulsively. Also remember that consumers pay the most attention at the beginning and end of an ad or digital playlist.

The comparison of emotionally led purchase behavior to lizard-like thinking wasn’t my original thought and is probably a very good one. The lizard just wants to eat. Now. Sometimes he wants to escape danger. Immediately. Now and then he wants to get out of the sun. To a familiar spot. Consumers mimic this behavior when the decision making center of the brain gets overwhelmed and the science of neuromarketing steps in. Consider Lizard Marketing and using the power of digital signage and imagery to help you! If you don’t, the brainiacs will walk right by and then go taste the competitor’s lizard bait later.

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