Discover how to produce content that connects!
You just need to know a little bit of how our brain works to design a content strategy that triggers the minds and hearts of your customers.
You’ve probably heard how important it is to engage well with your audience on digital channels, especially if you want to turn your followers into customers. What you may not know is that to do this means being able to create specific feelings in people.
To deeply connect with the audience, content should seek to evoke laughter, surprise, joy, tears, and even gnashing of teeth. Without any of these reactions, the content is probably doomed to fall into limbo – and, of course, it’s unlikely there’ll be any conversions.
With neuromarketing, you can take a shortcut to create content that stands out from the crowd, arouses emotions, and is easily remembered. You will be amazed at how easy it is!
Neuromarketing = Neuroscience + Marketing
The beautiful fusion between neuroscience and marketing leads to the concept of neuromarketing, which lends itself to understanding the chemical reactions of the brain, especially during the “buying moment”.
It’s become possible thanks to technology that allows us to observe brain activity in real-time and correlate neurological events with consumer behaviour.
Love, hate, smiles and tears are products of chemical reactions that happen in the human brain when a person faces certain stimuli. This happens, too, while viewing posts or watching videos on social networks!
Therefore, the difference between content being ignored or liked, commented on and shared lies in the reactions it creates in the human brain.
Key points about the brain:
Unlike what many people may think, understanding the basics of brain structure is not exclusive to neuroscientists or neurologists. And starting with this in mind, I can guarantee you it’s possible to create amazing and effective content that makes up a successful digital strategy.
The most important thing to recognise is that our brain is a cluster of cells conducting electrical signals through neural networks – thus, it is still the most complex cognition machine found in nature.
However, there are different areas, specialised in specific functions of the brain that can help us better understand how it works. Then, consequently, this helps us to be able to decipher human behaviour. Let’s go a little in-depth now:
The brainstem is the structure that connects the cerebrum of the brain to the spinal cord and cerebellum. It is composed of 3 sections in descending order: the midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata. It’s also the region associated with the survival and reproductive instincts of the species and it is considered the ancestral part of the Central Nervous System.
Here, instinctive neurological reactions take place, which leads us to involuntary actions that are primordial to preserve life. Among them are hunger, thirst, mating instinct and socialisation.
For example, this is the area that causes us to fear ambulance sirens and to flee when facing a threatening situation.
The limbic system is a collection of structures where emotions and memories are processed. It includes the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus.
Most limbic reactions are unconscious, which means they happen without our conscious awareness that they are being processed.
Psychologists now recognise that the limbic system serves a lot more functions than previously believed.
These structures are known to be involved in the processing and regulating of emotions, the formation and storage of memories, sexual arousal, and learning.
The limbic system is thought to be an important element in the body’s response to stress, and is highly connected to the endocrine and autonomic nervous systems.
The Neocortex is the region of the brain responsible for the rational cognitive system and which completely differentiates us from other animal species.
If we discovered that the seasons of the year are largely due to factors surrounding the Earth’s tilted axis as it revolves around the sun, it is because we are capable of correlating events. Thus, humans can always seek explanations that justify these events.
The brain of a dog is not endowed with the same capacity, precisely because the neocortical region is underdeveloped in animals. The neurological reactions in the neocortex region are mostly conscious, and help us to perceive the world in a Cartesian and logical way.
How can understanding how the brain works lead us to create more interesting content?
By understanding key points about how the brain works, we also understand that most neurological reactions occur below our threshold of consciousness.
In other words, the conscious mind is the tip of the iceberg of our mental processes, while the (much) larger part of what drives our behaviours is hidden.
Actually, Freud’s speculations, made before the appearance of technologies that allow us to see images of the brain at work, were right! In fact, we don’t know the origin of our own choices, because they start from unconscious regions of the brain.
Our brain constantly harnesses information from the environment to drive our behaviour. However, these influences often do not pass through our consciousness.
Our actions obey these unconscious perceptions more than our reason.
And that’s why digital content can play a fundamental role in leading the customer to choose our brand, product, service or company.
Content seen or watched on social networks affects the brain’s decisions unconsciously, exerting the priming effect.
The priming effect occurs when our brains make unconscious connections to our memory so that “exposure to a prime increases the accessibility of information already existing in the memory”.
Any type of stimuli in our environment – an image, sound, word, smell, taste and even physical movement for which someone has an existing strong association – may ‘prime’ us and affect our responsiveness to something, our judgement, and even our actions and motivations.
And those who work with Digital Marketing cannot forget that our online environments influence (a lot) our susceptible brain to produce sensations. Without emotions, which are tied to our memories or unconscious sensations, it is impossible to choose anything.⠀
It depends on how we feel and experience in relation to the amount we spend to get certain things – and that is emotion.
The only way to influence our customers’ decisions – and thereby align them with rational goals they may have – is to improve the quality of the sensations they experience with presenting our products and services. Content, in addition to informing, also needs to provoke favourable sensations at the moment of purchase.
Those who want to improve the user experience through their digital channels must create content capable of stimulating memories and producing emotions. And emotional memories happen due to the action of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Modernly called neuroregulators, these chemicals are able to modify the way we interpret reality. Intelligent marketing is capable of flooding the customer’s brain with two precious neurotransmitters: dopamine and oxytocin.
It’s dopamine that motivates the customer to swipe their credit card in a purchase. This neurotransmitter is released when we have sex, eat sugar or solve a problem. And also when we’re craving a new outfit!
Sensations of belonging to a tribe or the desire for social sharing are linked to oxytocin secretion in the central nervous system. This is the neuroregulator of confidence. As we know, nobody makes a purchase without trusting the brand, the company, the product or the seller.
We rush to try a restaurant or movie when a friend recommends it. Oxytocin has already created bonds of trust between us and this friend because of previous experiences.
Content = Information + Experience
Dopamine is also secreted when we learn new skills or absorb information. And even if it’s common to hear that we’re in the age of information and knowledge, the truth is that while we’ve gained significant speed with all digital possibilities, information and knowledge have always been at the centre of the human brain’s attention since Palaeolithic times.
For our ancestors, the more knowledge a person had about a certain region, the habits of certain animals or an enemy tribe, the greater the chances of survival. Thus, the development of society around the availability of information is a consequence of the very instincts of homosapiens to survive and dominate the environment.
As a result, the desire for information is purely biological. Just like information, experience has also been rampantly replicated by social networks.
We are also experimental animals. It is what allows us to create memories that can be used in certain situations to improve our chances of survival.
When we put together information and experience – two essential pieces to stimulate dopamine and oxytocin – we arrive at neuro content.
Meme, the neuro-content
Almost everyone thinks they know what a meme is. Or at least believe that a meme is a little joke that circulates on the internet, almost always in a viral way. The term “meme” was described by Richard Dawkins long before the internet existed, in his 1976 book called “The Selfish Gene”.
When influencers lead people to buy the cosmetics and clothes they wear, the replication of the behaviour can be considered memetic contamination. We can say that the person used other people’s experiences as a source of information and this modified their consumption behaviour.
If a meme is any information that can cause a change in behavior, those who transmit information through social media are memetic agents as well. Here, we can include influencers as well as brands, companies, and senders of memes.
Because if you think about the role of the content, it is easy to understand that it’s made (or should be made) to infect the user’s mind and cause a change in behaviour. Therefore, it is necessary for the issuer of the content to have clear objectives.
Viral content will not serve any purpose if it doesn’t change the viewer’s behavior in a specific and desired way and it’s important to note that not every meme will appeal to everyone.
Primordial particle of the content: DNA.
Content strategy is an “infection strategy”. Our infection strategy begins with determining the DNA of the content. You may have heard that the first step of a content strategy is to identify your personas and yes, understanding well the pains and desires of our ideal customer is quite essential.
However, not every piece of content is going to infect every type of persona. There are immune minds and minds predisposed to adhere to the ideas we propose. That’s why the exercise of defining the persona is a fundamental stage of the strategy.
But it is not the first one. It works more or less like biological DNA: each individual has their own, unique, primordial, pillar of all the organism’s processes. And this DNA was recreated from the junction of the genetic material of the ancestors, the cultural interferences and the interaction with the environment, to recreate a unique sequence of information.
A business needs to be clear about its DNA, so that it is replicated in all the dynamics of the enterprise, including digital content. Just like people, companies are made of stories and are born long before their tax ID number.
They spring from an idea, a “meme” that initially permeates a group of minds and then disseminates it through the brand, services or products.
The next step is to define the personas and editorial lines. As part of our strategy, we need to also think about the essential elements of neuro-compatible content in order to create positioning capable of stimulating dopamine and oxytocin in the mind of our buyers.
Neuro-compatible content is what attracts, connects, engages and sells. To have these desirable effects, it needs some fundamental characteristics: neuro fluidity, to be shareable, to stimulate oxytocin, to contain humour and to be accompanied by a neurotext.
The essential elements of neuro-compatible content
1. Neuro Fluidity
The content needs to be easy to understand. It takes the brain just a few seconds to decide whether an Instagram post is worth stopping and reading or whether we should keep scrolling. In his acclaimed “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman divided the brain into two systems: the fast system, called system 1, and the slow system, called system 2.
We use system 1 for everyday functions, like calculating 1+1, and system 2 for complex tasks, like calculating 45×18. And it’s for system 1 that we should make content for.
If it is not fluid and fast, i.e. assimilated by system 1 of the brain, the tendency is that the content will be ignored.
2. Metaphorical images
A picture says more than a thousand words, right? When we use metaphors, we explore the references and memories that people already bring with them and surprise them by producing new meanings.
Metaphorical and novel images are capable of revealing complex concepts and important messages very quickly. In other words, they are capable of telling stories to system 1, which with words, would only be understood through system 2.
3. Shareable content
Shareable content can generate rapid memetic infection. This applies to social networks, blogs, videos and other digital channels and formats that may arise. The point is: we don’t know what tomorrow’s social network will be like.
What we do know is that we need to create content capable of generating an irresistible desire to share it. A content that makes people want to show it to more people, replicating the reach of that message many times, over and over again.
One of the ways to produce shareable content is to talk to the mirror neurons. You know that thing that makes you yawn when you see someone yawning on the other side of the screen? It’s a response from the mirror neuron, a specialised structure located in the prefrontal cortex that generates the inconsolable imitation reflex. It activates the motor regions of the brain, even when we aren’t moving.
Watching people eat makes us hungry. Watching people dancing makes us want to dance. And watching people cry generates emotion. That’s why GIFs and boomerangs hold our attention for an instant in a hypnotic way: because we are responding to the action of the mirror neuron. Media that trigger them are the ones that “stand out from the crowd”.
4. Oxytocin media
You know what people most engage with on social media? Little human babies and cute little animal puppies. That warmth we feel when watching videos of lion cubs has a neurological origin. It is the evolutionary effect of oxytocin.
Oxytocin is released in the mother’s brain so that she feels driven to breastfeed and provide for her baby. It’s also released in the father’s brain to contribute to the family’s needs. In the baby and child, oxytocin promotes trust in their parents, all of which enables better chances of survival for that family, and therefore, the species.
However, “oxytocin media” can prepare the brain for trusting the brand. Companies that contribute to the protection of animals or aid children in need will gain the trust of their consumers.
As a result, the brain may be predisposed to choose one brand over another without being aware of the reasons that interfere with this choice.
Laughter can transform our mood in a few seconds. Laughter stimulates the secretion of serotonin, the neuro-regulator responsible for the feeling of well-being. Studies show that laughing can also reduce the production of cortisol and adrenaline, the hormones responsible for stress.
Other studies on the collective effect of laughter have concluded that we can laugh up to 30 times more when we are accompanied by friends than when we are alone. This explains why happiness is the most shared type of content on social networks.
In addition to feeling good and wanting to share it with our peers, when we send a joke to friends, we simulate in our minds that we are laughing with them, which enhances the feeling of wellbeing.
When a company’s DNA includes humour in its communications, it is absolutely valid to use this resource. This is because funny content spreads very widely.
These are texts that speak to system 1 of the brain, or in other words, texts that are easy to understand. They are what we call fluid texts. Short sentences, unusual terms, metaphors and stories are some characteristics of quick assimilation texts.
My copywriters are also taught to reduce the amount of verbs, leaving the text cleaner and more concise. Excessive repetition of words can also make text dull and uninteresting for the reader.
It’s also important to create texts with movement, capable of triggering a motor action in the reader. For example, a text showing the importance of the correct posture when holding a smartphone can lead the user to change position at the same moment they are using the phone – and make way for your content in his mind.
See how easy it is to create content that connects with customers?
It is not necessary to be an expert in programming languages, tools or even in any language. You just need to understand a little bit about how the brain works and design a content strategy that triggers the minds and hearts of your followers.
Dopamine and neuromarketing: anticipating reward makes us buy
Dopamine, it’s that little neurotransmitter that makes us feel pleasure, satisfaction and the sensation of reward, and it can also make us buy stuff.
Among the brain’s most instinctive pursuits, the quest for pleasure and reward far outweighs others.
Receiving a gift, a massage or a cuddle, eating your favourite food, a message from your partner saying he/she loves you, or from your best friend with a funny meme: we all know that feeling of instant gratification.
The responsibility for that feeling of gratification lies on dopamine – a neurotransmitter that helps to control the reward and pleasure centres of our brain. In addition to making us feel the reward, it also motivates us to take action to achieve it.
We naturally crave dopamine. Thus, our actions, subconsciously, will be aimed at generating the production of it. That’s why people want to achieve: because when we achieve something, dopamine is present and we feel good.
Memory is more vivid when it is associated with good feelings. The stronger the emotion, the more vivid the memory. A negative emotion will imprint itself in such a way that it makes us reject similar experiences, but a positive emotion will have the opposite effect, making us want to replicate it.
How does dopamine work?
Dopamine is secreted by the brain, and it basically sends a message that we want something. The key is in the area of the brain where it’s produced, the nucleus accumbens. This area is attributed with important functions related to pleasure, such as laughter and reward, as well as fear, aggression and addiction.
As part of the limbic brain, this area of the brain is connected to our rational frontal cortex through the mesolimbic pathways. The emotional side of our body is controlled by this pathway.
It’s the human way to justify unconsciously made purchases by making ourselves believe that they were rational decisions.
What happens is that dopamine is generated in the centre of the brain’s reward system, but this process is only triggered by situations or decisions linked to a goal, conscious or unconscious.
Messages must address the goals and motivations of buyers at the marketing level. The more senses involved, the better!
How does the brain know which decision will make me experience the bigger reward?
It doesn’t know for sure, but it draws on the resources it has at hand – memory, senses and experiences, as well as what it knows and has observed from other people’s experience.
Every time a situation provides greater rewards than expected, the brain releases dopamine. By repeating the same action over and over, we will have created a somatic marker, which our brain will store, so that we can make the same choice in the future.
That’s why it is important to provide experiences to consumers that exceed their expectations, which become memorable occasions. This is no secret or novelty: what we need to do is to enhance the opportunities for our shoppers to secrete dopamine.
How to stimulate dopamine production:
Implement gamification: gamification elements trigger dopamine production by offering rewards, appealing to motivations, using positive reinforcement, feedback loops and emotional responses. Simply asking a user of your app to solve a puzzle, a simple one, will provide a sense of accomplishment.
Inform your shoppers that they are the “first to know”: having exclusivity on certain information will make them feel important, and then dopamine kicks in and motivates them to act on this information.
Share insider information: this could be someone inside your organisation talking about their experience of your product or service. Make it a personal story for better results. People like to get an inside look at companies and organisations.
Take advantage of limited time offers: when a product or service is available for a limited time, it generates a greater desire for immediate purchase!
Use a rewards or loyalty reward system: you can use this to reward your initial buyers and motivate them to buy it again. Give them a small reward as an initial offer to be part of the programme, motivate them to make repeat purchases by increasing the value of that reward or offering something exclusive.
Charge an upfront fee to access privileged discounts: This may seem counterintuitive, but if you charge a fee, however small, for access to a set of special discounts, shoppers will use those discounts more frequently: people will want to make the most of them.
But if the discounts are freely available to everyone, they will be less willing to use them. Interesting, isn’t it?
Congratulate your shoppers for adding products to the cart: sending a message that says “excellent decision” will release dopamine and make them more likely to complete the purchase.
And always remember: excellent customer service is a good place to start if you want clients to choose you instead of other companies!
What are you doing to make your shoppers’ brains release dopamine?
Let me know in the comments!