where brain science and marketing meet

Today I have the honor of being a guest blogger on the brainy blog, Neuromarketing.  My post, Maslow, Emotion, and a Hierarchy of Service, proposes a Maslow-inspired hierarchy on the topic of meeting consumer needs and motivations with customer service. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about the Neuromarketing blog which I regularly read. It’s run by Roger Dooley president of Dooley Direct, LLC. I’ve always been fascinated by the dynamics behind consumer behavior (one of my degrees is in Psychology) and Neuromarketing covers this topic so well.

Here are a few posts which stood out to me:

Personalization: Post-Its and Beyond

In this post, Roger discussed the book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, by Robert Cialdini, which reports some interesting findings on the effectiveness of handwritten notes.

Cialdini found that adding a handwritten note to a mailed survey improved the response rate by one third to 48% — and a handwritten note on a Post-It affixed to the survey more than doubled the response to 75%. He attributed these boosts to the “reciprocity” effect. The recipient recognizes that the sender apparently put some personal effort into the mailing, and is more likely to reciprocate with some effort of his own.

Roger concluded by suggesting a few kinds of mail communications that could be improved by such enhanced personalization.

“Note” to self!

Loyalty Programs: Of Rats and Men

Roger linked rats and loyalty programs by reporting, “Back in the 1930s, researchers made an interesting discovery: rats running a maze to reach food ran faster as they got closer to the food. This finding led to the ‘goal gradient hypothesis,’ which states…the closer the goal, the more effort you expend to get there.

“So what does this have with loyalty programs? A few years ago, Columbia University researchers examined the goal gradient hypothesis using unwitting human subjects, and found that people behave a lot like rats. Give them a coffee punch card that rewards them with a free coffee when full, and they will drink coffee more frequently as they approach a fully stamped card.”

Roger zeroed in on one particularly fascinating conclusion: providing someone with a “head start” can be an effective boost to a loyalty program. He suggested, “A plane ticket that requires using 25,000 frequent flyer miles would not seem as “close” as one that requires 35,000 miles but in which the customer starts with 10,000 miles. Coffee shops should consider [giving] bonus punches upon first use [of a punch card].”

Really interesting stuff!

Doggie Bags & Sunk Costs

“Did you ever get a meal at a restaurant that you didn’t like, but have them wrap up the leftovers anyway?,” Roger asked in this intriguing post. He explained, “Even though the food’s flavor is unlikely to improve with age, there may be an explanation for the seemingly irrational behavior.”

According to B. Venkatesh, a self-proclaimed investment psychologist, our reluctance to abandon the distasteful food can be attributed to a “pain of wasting” – the more we paid for the meal, the more it will “hurt” to discard the leftovers. Roger observed, “I think this is all part of the broader issue of sunk costs (what economists call money that has already been spent and can’t be recovered)…sunk costs do indeed affect our decisions whether or not that is rational.”

Definitely something to consider for cross-selling (and left-overs)!

Emotional Ads Work Best

Roger wrote about the book Brand Immortality: How Brands Can Live Long and Prosper by Hamish Pringle and Peter Field. The authors found that campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well (31% vs. 16%) [as those] with only rational content, and those that were purely emotional did a little better (31% vs 26%) than those that mixed emotional and rational content. “They attributed this result to our brain’s ability to process emotional input without cognitive processing, as well as our brain’s more powerful recording of emotional stimuli.”

Importantly they noted that while an emotional marketing campaign may be more effective, creating ads that engage consumer emotions isn’t easy – and they suggested that committing to an emotional branding approach be “hard-wired into the fabric of the brand,” which Roger noted, “requires a major commitment as well as good understanding of consumer motivation.”

Which brings me back to why I really like reading the Neuromarketing blog – and why I wrote the guest post. Understanding the why behind the what of consumer attitudes and behavior seems the key to effective marketing.

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