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by Patrick Renvoisé, Christophe Morin
clock13-minute read
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Learn all about the psychology of sales. Have you ever thought about the human brain in the style of the children’s movie Inside Out? If you saw the film, you might remember that the brain served as a control center and was operated by a spectrum of emotions. Joy, Sadness, Fear, and Anger worked together to keep the brain functional by pressing a host of relevant buttons. Well, believe it or not, the brain actually works in a very similar way! In fact, the brain of every human comes equipped with a “buy button” that will motivate them to purchase what you’re selling! You just have to know where that button is and how to press it. Neuromarketing (2002) is your guide to making that happen.
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"Neuromarketing" Summary
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Summary by Alyssa Burnette. Audiobook narrated by Blake Farha
What makes the difference for you? When you look at an object and you’re faced with the choice of whether or not to buy it, what’s the deciding factor? What makes you say, “Yes, I absolutely have to have that right now!” The authors posit that that difference is “the buy button” and that an understanding of neuroscience and psychology can help us learn how to market more effectively. The “buy button” might look a little different for everyone, but fortunately, the basic principles for activating it remain the same. And once you know more about that “buy button,” you can tailor your marketing approaches so that you press the right button every time. So, over the course of this summary, we’ll take a look at the authors’ top tips for applying this approach.
Chapter 1: Get to Know the ‘Old Brain’
If you’re young, attractive, and intelligent, you probably don’t think of yourself as possessing anything “old.” After all, you are sleek, sophisticated, modern; you have evolved along with technology and the changing times. And maybe that’s true, but the authors argue that your evolution has not eliminated the existence of your primitive brain. You can think of this as your “caveman brain” — the part of you that’s hardwired to pursue food, shelter, survival, and things that bring you pleasure at all costs. This is the part of you that eats an entire pepperoni pizza, even though you’re on a diet. This is the part of you that stays out late for one more drink, even though you have work the next morning.
Is it the right thing to do? Probably not. But your old brain doesn’t care about that. Your old brain isn’t the part of you that considers the pros and cons of a decision, that carefully evaluates the right and wrong options, or the cause and effect of a choice. These actions fall under the scope of the two other halves of your brain: the new part and the middle part. Each of these halves fulfills a different function and performs a unique task that helps you succeed in life. For example, the new part of your brain is responsible for processing information and making rational decisions based on that information. This is the part that might say something like, “You have work tomorrow. If you have another cocktail and don’t get home until 4:00 am, you’ll get two hours of sleep and you’ll be really hungover for work tomorrow. That’s a bad idea!”
The middle part of your brain is responsible for managing your emotions. This is the part of you that houses your intuition or that feeling you get when you “just know” something, even if you can’t quite put your finger on what it is. So, in response to your new or rational brain, your middle brain might say something like, “Okay, you’re right, but… counterpoint: that espresso martini tastes delicious and I really want another one.” If these were the only two parts of your brain, it might be a simple battle between rationality and emotion. And, depending on your levels of commitment,“sticktoitiveness,” and anxiety, the rational part would probably win when it comes to your responsibilities.
But alas, your brain isn’t comprised of only those two parts. And if you really want that last espresso martini, your primal brain is likely to enter the game at that point and say, “You know what? I think we might literally die if we don’t get that last martini!” And that’s when your brain’s “buy button” is activated. That’s because most buying decisions are typically motivated by a petty, almost childish mentality which says, “But I really, really want it!” And your primal, old brain is responsible for ensuring that you get what you want, whether it’s good for you or not. So, the short version is that your old brain probably isn’t the most awesome or most healthy part of you. But it is the part that controls a good portion of your purchasing decisions. So, as a marketer, you want to appeal to the old brain most of all!
So, how do you do that? Well, unlike other parts of your brain which might respond to strong, logical arguments or an appeal driven by pathos, your old brain is easier to convince. This means that all you have to do is create an ad so primal and so compelling that your old brain goes, “I really, really want it!” And the best part is that this strategy is plausible whether you’re selling hamburgers, lingerie, or a vacation package. So, don’t waste your time on arguments like, “You deserve this vacation!” or “We have payment plans that would make this affordable!” Instead, just concentrate on those mouth-watering images that will drive the old brain wild!
Chapter 2: How to Trap the Old Brain
However, your job doesn’t end with the curation and promotion of those mouth- watering images. Because your old brain might be easily seduced with suggestions about the things it wants, but that doesn’t mean it will automatically fall for them every time. If you want to ensure success when you press the buy button, you’ll need to do a little bit of careful planning. To help with this process, the authors recommend three simple and effective steps. So, let’s dive in and take a look!
Step One: You can think of this as the “diagnostic step” because this is where you identify the problem. The problem can best be defined as the thing that’s brought your customer to you or the reason they need what you’re selling. The problems your prospective customers are experiencing can be varied as the solutions available. For example, if you’re trying to sell a new type of TV streaming service, the problem would be your customer’s dissatisfaction with their current service. What are they looking for that their current product can’t provide? What do they lack? What do they wish they had? Knowing this is key to pitching your product!
Step Two: This is the “difference step” because it’s all about defining what makes you different. How can you solve your customer’s problem? What makes you special? Why do they need you? To answer these questions, you need to know a great deal about the problem, your product, and the competition. So, before you try to fill in these blanks, make sure you know your stuff!
Step Three: The “demonstration step.” Now that you’ve diagnosed the problem and determined what makes you different, it’s time to demonstrate what your product can do. The practical application of this step is every bit as varied as the first two; you might demonstrate the value of your product through the awards you’ve won, through reviews from happy customers, through a free trial or a demo. It’s up to you to determine the most effective way to demonstrate your product and there is no “one size fits all” answer. But by following these three steps and customizing them to fit your product, you will improve the accuracy and effectiveness of your marketing strategies!
Chapter 3: Talk to the Old Brain
You might remember how, in the first chapter, we mentioned that you want to market directly to the old brain. And in the previous chapter, we examined some good marketing strategies for you to try. But in this chapter, we’re going to dig a little deeper and explore the value of communicating with the old brain. And most importantly, we’re going to consider the most effective way to communicate with it. Because if a rational argument or a pathos-driven appeal isn’t ideal for connecting with the old brain, what is?
The authors suggest that you try the following tips. For starters, try selling with the aid of “big picture messages.” Big picture messages are exactly what they sound like: words or images that you can use to show your customers how your product will improve their lives in the long term. For example, you can do this by crafting an ad campaign that tells a story, usually a story that’s divided into “before and after” sections which demonstrate how unhappy or unfulfilled a customer’s life was before trying your product. For example, let’s imagine that you’re a clothing brand and you’re marketing a new style of leather jacket. Maybe your ad campaign is told through the style of a commercial and shows a guy whose life is blah and disappointing. Women don’t talk to him. He gets passed over for promotions at work. He doesn’t feel good about himself.
But then he tries your leather jacket! Overnight, attractive women start flirting with him! He gets an offer for a better job! When he looks in the mirror, he sees somebody who’s cool and suave and collected. That’s the power of your leather jacket! As you can see, this is a great example of a “big picture” ad campaign because it’s characterized by a contrasting “before and after” appeal. As such, it illustrates thedifference between your customer’s quality of life with and without your product. This makes it especially appealing to the old brain because it presents an almost irresistible image of success and happiness. But as effective as this ad might be on its own, there are ways to make it better!
And that’s where the second tip comes in. To really drive your message home, the authors recommend adding what’s known as an “impact booster.” Impact boosters are sensory details that engage with your customer on a deeper level by connecting with our various styles of learning. Although people learn in a variety of different ways, the three most common learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. So, if you want to really connect with your audience, the authors recommend adding features that they can see, hear, and interact with. For example, if you ran a series of commercials that would be promoted on television, you could cover both the visual and auditory aspects of learning. And if you invited potential customers to come into your store and try on your leather jacket, you would provide them with a kinesthetic activity!
Chapter 4: Make Your Message Stick
When you were a kid, did you ever go to an arcade and redeem your tokens or tickets for prizes? Maybe you got one of those little “sticky hand” toys — those rubbery, slimy facsimiles of a hand on a string. They were loads of fun because you could throw them at anything — the window of your car, the wall, the family dog — and it would stick! In fact, when the hands were at their stickiest, they might even cling to the wall for a long time!
So, where are we going with this and what does it have to do with neuromarketing? Well, it’s relevant because the message of your marketing should be just as sticky as those silly, sticky hands! It has to be, if you want to communicate with the old brain. In light of what we’ve discussed so far, it might be easy to think of the old brain as overly simplistic or stupidly primitive. But don’t let its primal nature fool you! The old brain might be primitive indeed but that doesn’t mean it’s stupid. It’s not going to latch onto any old idea you present. So, if you really want to launch a campaign that activates your customers’ “buy buttons,” it’s important that you know the right way to successfully communicate with the old brain. To that end, the authors have provided a few tips:
For starters, you can try adapting your communication style to make it more direct. Remember that the old brain is our “caveman” selves; it’s not the smart, evolved, socially conscious side. So, where your more evolved self might say, “It’s important to listen more than I talk or prioritize others over myself,” your old brain says, “I want to talk about me!” And that’s exactly why using “you”-language is so effective. (A greatexample of “you”-language can be found in the introduction to this chapter!) By asking questions that are directed to you, that invite you to think about yourself, it was easier to draw you into a conversation and get you to keep reading. So, that’s exactly what you should do when you’re marketing to the old brain.
Another great tip is to evoke emotion. Remember that your old brain is driven by pleasure and survival. (Or, in short, the feelings of “I need this!” and “I want this!”) So, if you want to connect with the old brain, you can use language that will invite it to team up with your middle brain (or emotional processing center). By uniting these two in the name of need or desire, you’ll make a firm grab for the “buy button” that’s almost guaranteed to work every time. And when you do that, your customers will line up around the block to buy your product!
Chapter 5: Final Summary
If you’ve ever bought a candy bar on impulse or skipped work to go to a movie just because you felt like it, you know that human beings don’t always make the best or most practical choices. Although our new brain is responsible for processing the information that would lead us to make rational decisions, we don’t always listen to it. Instead, we operate on the urges of our old brain, which is driven by survival, pleasure, and desire. These emotions control your brain’s “buy button,” and if you want to make your customers buy your product, you have to know how to press the right button. So, try to rely on emotion, big picture messages, you-language, and the 3-D steps to connect with your customers’ old brains!

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