4 Neuroscience Concepts That Can Enhance Your Ad Campaigns

Neuroscience can help advertisers glean more objective, accurate insights into the emotional responses that drive consumer behavior. Here are four ways marketers can use neuroscience to take campaigns to the next level.

4 Neuroscience Concepts That Can Enhance Your Ad Campaigns

by CMO.com Team

Posted on 03-21-2018

At its core, advertising is about figuring out what people want. The best ads are imaginative and insightful. When searching for those valuable nuggets of insight, marketers can turn to neuroscience, which can enhance their campaigns to make them as sticky and impactful as possible.

Marketers have traditionally relied on methods such as surveys, focus groups, and observation to figure out what drives consumer behavior. These methods are useful and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, they can only go so deep. For example, just because consumers say they are giving open and honest answers doesn’t mean they are. Why? Research has found a number of explanations. One is that providing negative input can be viewed as having a lack of respect, which makes people hesitant to provide honest feedback.

In addition, the conscious and subconscious mind are not always in sync, meaning we often aren’t aware of the “why” underlying our thoughts and behaviors. Humans are far less logical in our decision-making than we like to think, acting on biases and conditioned responses that work below the surface.

Neuroscience can help advertisers glean more objective, accurate insights into the emotional responses that drive consumer behavior. Advances in big data technology have made it possible to test for emotional responses and structure campaigns accordingly.

Here are four ways marketers can use neuroscience to take campaigns to the next level.

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

According to developmental molecular biologist and best-selling author Dr. John Medina, people are likely to remember just 10% of a piece of written information three days later, whereas including a corresponding relevant image boosts retention to 65%. This is known as the “picture superiority effect.”

Pictures serve as a sort of shortcut for the brain. We retain written information by remembering the meaning of the words, not the order of the letters. For example, if someone said, “Think of a zebra,” your brain wouldn’t think of the five letters that make up the word—it would picture a zebra. Relevant images eliminate a step from the recall process and reinforce the meaning already attached to the words.

Including visuals also allows marketers to show rather than tell. In an advertisement for a new kitchen tool, a consumer will remember seeing what the tool can do in action, not a description of the features. Images create a gestalt experience, allowing people to immediately understand what the product does, and why they need it.

Pessimism Bias

Survival of the human race is predicated, to a certain extent, on pessimism. Awareness of bad things that could happen and the impulse to prepare accordingly is evolutionarily hardwired into us. It is why our brains naturally overestimate the impact of certain events or outcomes—a.k.a. pessimism bias.

David Hecht, a researcher out of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London who examines the neural bases of optimism and pessimism, found they actually originate in opposite parts of the brain (left and right, respectively). Pessimism, it turns out, is a more powerful trigger than optimism. The prospect of something good just doesn’t pack the same emotional weight as the prospect of something bad.

For brands whose products promise to protect consumers, responsibly tapping into pessimism bias could motivate them to buy. Whether you are selling security software, travel insurance, or a health supplement, raising the specter of a negative event (“it could happen to me”) and its consequences could also help to forge a strong emotional connection with consumers.

Social Validation

Another neuroscience-based insight into human nature is that we all want to fit in. The desire to belong is strong. Our brains want us to avoid choices that could reflect poorly on who we are or threaten our position within a group.

Part of what makes people feel confident in their choices is the knowledge that others have made the same choice and are satisfied with their results. From mascara to mattresses, sweaters to speakers, we crave the comfort of consensus.

This is why the age-old advertising strategy of testimonials is so effective. It’s not enough for brands to proclaim “our product is the best.” Expert endorsements and positive reviews from like-minded people (i.e., fellow members of a brand’s target demographic) and trusted influencers bolster confidence and drive decision-making.

Acoustic Encoding

Our brains are inclined toward the path of least resistance when processing information. The easier a concept is to grasp, the more readily people believe it and the stronger they hold onto it.

Similar to the picture superiority effect, advertisers can use “acoustic encoding” to tap into this tendency. Rhyming isn’t just a memorization-enhancer for kids. People of all ages remember things better when they rhyme.

Sounds that rhyme and repeat are catchy. They can easily be stored and recalled, which makes them stickier. Moreover, research has found that rhyming can make statements seem more believable. By paying careful attention to the rhythm of sentences, marketers can increase the likelihood that their messages will sink in.

Advertising messages are everywhere. It can take a lot to stand out, regardless of the medium. The reality is that creativity isn’t enough. These neuroscience principles can elevate just about every ad campaign, helping advertisers form stronger emotional connections with consumers and more effectively turn the products they’re selling into things people want.

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