Business Insights

Business Insights

Targeting The Whole Brain In B2B Marketing

While the personality tests that tell you if you’re a left-brain logician or a right-brain creative are based on a myth, we do process different things in different areas of our brains. Visual input, language, logical reasoning and emotional responses are all handled by different portions of our grey matter. There’s no single part of the brain which makes us want to buy a product or service - which means that effective marketing has to talk to each key area in its own language. 

Talk to the old brain

In his book Neuromarketing, Patrick Renvoise demonstrates that effective marketing appeals to different parts of our brains, and thus to different levels of our consciousness. The actual decision to buy, Renvoise says, is made by the ‘old brain’ - the basic ‘fight or flight’ reflex that decides whether doing something is safer than not doing it. Renvoise claims that the ‘old brain’ recognises only six stimuli and that the best marketing content provides some or all of them. The six stimuli are:
  • Selfishness - tell the customer what your product or service can do for them.
  • Contrast - give the customer two things to compare, and make sure that the button you want them to click or the number you want them to call stand out from their surroundings.
  • Tangibility - give the customer something concrete, familiar and material, rather than abstract ideas and complex phrasing.
  • Beginnings and ends - give the customer a strong opening and a clear call to action, because the old brain doesn’t care about the rest.
  • Visual stimuli - give the customer an image. The visual cortex is part of the ‘old brain’ and its instinctive responses - the language centres are part of the ‘new brain’ and are less involved in decisions.
  • Emotions - make the customer feel something. Again, the emotional centres of the brain have more influence on that instinctive decision. Feelings have more power than facts.
Neuromarketing isn’t perfect. Neuromarketers understand the architecture of the brain, but many tests of neuromarketing techniques are unreliable, while others indicate that particular techniques only work in a particular niche. However, even this critical approach to neuromarketing reveals that we need to work on a variety of levels to get the most out of the marketing.  

Talk to the new brain

Visual input, emotional stimuli and simple, tangible benefits encourage an early decision in the customer. The old brain decides to pay attention to our marketing content, and then it engages the new brain - the language and logic centres. These centres demand different content: they need something to analyse, something which provides solutions to their problems. It still has to be clear, tangible and contrasting - those visual processing centres need something to work with - but it can afford to deliver facts and stories, because the new brain is equipped to work on them. B2B marketers are currently challenged by the need to engage with customers who are already 85% of the way through the sales journey. These customers have already used search engines and third party content - word of mouth, customer or professional reviews, and comparison sites - to inform their decisions, often before they look at the content we’ve actually designed. An emotional hook won’t work for these customers. They need a clear, high-contrast route into confirming the decision they’ve already made, and a smooth sales funnel that helps them execute that decision without issue. They need you to talk to the new brain.  

Talk to both brains

Marketers working with highly technical or innovative products often assume their marketing should be technical. Certainly it should include elements of technical description, but, as Renvoise explains, the marketing has to have some character that appeals to buyers on a human level. They need to explain what their offering does, without losing the ‘old brain’ appeal that will encourage customers to actually buy it. Volvo took the old adage ‘show, don’t tell’ to heart when they made this video. Rather than explain how Volvo Dynamic Steering works in tedious detail, they’ve shown what it’s capable of, presented an impressive bit of physical engineering and some excellent driving, and left the viewer wondering “how did they do that?” Everything else about the video - the music, the sunset, the breathy music - is pure old-brain emotional hook that quietly and impressively restates Volvo’s brand values.  

Test for success

How we assess our marketing is as important as how we design it. A multi-targeted approach can still be rigorously tested by looking at analytics and metrics. Surveying customers - asking how they heard of a brand or whether they’d encountered a campaign before buying - has become standard practice, as has careful attention to the clicks made and the routes taken from online content to purchase. We can’t afford to assume that our marketing works because it makes customers feel good, or because it tells them everything about how our product works. We need to do both, and we need to be sure that each stage of the sales journey is structured so that a quick, instinctive ‘old brain’ decision can be made or the slow, logical ‘new brain’ process can be developed.  

Does your marketing need more facts or feelings? Take our Marketing 360 Healthcheck to find out.  


Image by, via Flickr. Creative Commons license 2.0

Written by Richard Hancock

Richard Hancock is Regional Director for The Marketing Centre and specialises in working with small and mid-size businesses. He has over 30 years experience working across the FMCG, Digital Entertainment, Technology & Telecoms industries, both in the UK & overseas.

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