- Fri, November 11 2011
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
According to Gerald Zaltman and a slew of neuroscientists, 95% of human thought, emotion and learning happens without our conscious awareness. Yet we spend a lot of time trying to persuade people by focusing on the 5% rational brain with statistics, rational arguments and feature lists.
Neuromarketing experts like Roger Dooley (author of the new book Brainfluence) want to change all that. They have studied how to appeal to the massive subconscious mind, and there are some interesting and sometimes bizarre takeaways for those of us engaged in social good. Here are seven of the most surprising ways to sell your cause.
1. BABY, BABY, BABY: No, not Justin Bieber – real babies. Just 150 milliseconds after seeing an image of a baby, people’s medial orbitofrontal cortex – the part of the brain associated with emotion – becomes abuzz with activity. Pictures of grown-ups don’t prompt the same effect. An experiment in Scotland showed babies also make people more altruistic. Wallets were planted all over Edinburgh with one of four photos: a baby, a puppy, a happy family or an elderly couple – or no photo. Nearly 90% of the baby wallets were turned in, followed by 53% of puppies, 48% of families and 25% for the older couple. Only one in seven of the other wallets without photos were turned in by good Samaritans. Does your cause involve babies in any way? Put them front and center on your site and in social media. And just in case you ever lose it, in your wallet, too.
2. GO HIGHER: Fasten your seat belts. Studies show a positive effect of height on generosity and cooperation. A University of North Carolina study found people were more helpful at the top rather than bottom of stairs and escalators. This effect can also be replicated with technology. People viewing videos shot from an airplane vs. a car were far more cooperative because they had viewed something from a higher position. You may not be able to locate your cause in a penthouse, but you might want to test high-altitude imagery or perspectives in your electronic outreach.
3. GET PERSONAL: Asking for money on a human scale proves far more effective than a general appeal, according to many studies. Roger Dooley says instead of asking for donations to a symphony, raise money for the cellist named Marie (or tuba player Tim). Or instead of asking for a contribution to a university, ask for the money to support one freshman. Social media is tailor-made for this scale – friends asking friends for support is a highly persuasive approach.
4. ANCHOR AWAY: When asking for money, include a big ask. It makes other amounts look small and could drive higher conversion. Roger Dooley cites Markita Andrews, a girl scout and top cookie seller, who would ask for a $30,000 donation when she knocked on doors. When people declined, she asked them to buy cookies. Almost all of them did. When you decide your donation amounts, test something high (but probably not $30,000 unless you are wearing a sash) and work backwards from there.
5. BE TRIBAL: Psychologist Henri Tajifel’s experiments led to the theory of social identity, which holds that people tend to categorize themselves into groups (Seth Godin would call them tribes) and base their identity in part on those associations. The implications for social networks are interesting. The organic groups that are created online are rife with opportunity for social identity around causes. The more than 100 million members of various Causes on Facebook is a testament to the possibilities.
6. THINK GOLDEN MEAN: Researchers at Carleton University say that visitors decide the attractiveness of a web page in one-twentieth of a second, and that first impression holds up over time and correlates to their ratings of the site. How do you look attractive that fast? Roger Dooley points to the golden mean, which is the width-to-height ratio of 1.618 that recurs in nature, the Parthenon and shells. Brain scans show people’s brains light up in the emotional areas when they see the mean. It may be worth using the proportion online.
7. SURPRISE: Do something unexpected in your messaging and people are far more likely to take note, because the hippocampus of the brain will predict the wrong thing, and the brain then snaps to attention. Crowdrise, the social fundraising platform, specializes in this approach with wacky language and unexpected virtual events. They’re memorable as a result.