Neuromarketers love customers for their brains… yum!

“Neuromarketing is that shady bollocks, ‘that Cambridge mob’ used to get Trump into power and drive Brexit through, isn’t it?”

…said my less than enthralled prospect client. I quickly moved away from telling stories about nudges and sensory language before his eyes glazed over. We didn’t end up working together, which is probably better for the both of us.

There’s absolutely no doubt that neuromarketing opens doors to consultancy contracts and wins pitches and it’s a field that is growing in mystique and more importantly, demand. Good news for Lab, good news for me!

That being said, like all superpowers, it can be used for good or it can be used for evil. Without showing too much of my geeky side, it is just like The Force… you have your Jedis, like the folks at Lab – and you have your dark side, like the folks at Cambridge Analytica. Whatever its purpose, it’s the same force, it’s the same techniques and processes, it’s the same magic – it just depends who’s wielding the lightsaber!

Let’s cut through the mystique for a second. Neuromarketing is simply about understanding how human beings make decisions. The science bit is all about brains, hearts and balls. We have techniques that help consumers make decisions that allows them to weave wonderful narratives after said decision, providing perfectly feasible logic for exactly why they made that decision!

Neuromarketing allows marketers to run highly engaging, high performing campaigns that are more cost-effective and are actually useful and welcomed by consumers. So what’s the alternative in a world where we want to spend less and achieve more with our campaigns? Run ineffective, costly campaigns that annoy consumers… sounds great.

In Roger Dooley’s brilliant book, Brainfluence, and I am paraphrasing here, he describes how most marketing departments use marketers’ brains to try and influence outcomes from campaigns. Imagine if we could use the customer’s brain to influence the outcome… that’s neuromarketing!

But it’s more than that. Yes, we are learning more and more about how the brain works, how 95% of our decisions are made by our subconscious, but we are also learning more and more about how our emotions drive our decisions. In recent studies, scientists discuss the neuro network that exists in our stomaches… feel it in your gut, literally!

I love the science, but my passion isn’t what happens in the lab or what appears in the academic journals. My passion is testing this stuff out in the channels. That’s where the ‘balls’ come in. Fail fast, fail early or even better, transform performance with a simple tweak to your campaign. I use neuromarketing as lenses for my multivariate testing methodology, it’s really that simple.

The magic, is deciding which nudges to bundle together and a deep understanding of the audience you are trying to engage and what you want them to do.

That’s how we roll in the Lab.

You are not an expert, a serial entrepreneur or a guru… but please coach me

One of the challenges facing any grumpy ranter these days, is that it’s really hard to share your rant in broader circles other than your friends and family, without sounding like a bitter, slightly hypocritical Victor Meldrew… or worse, some kind of ‘ist’ – in this case, age-ist.

At the same time though, self awareness is a super power and being self deprecating is cute, right?

I’ll also add, that I know many experts, serial entrepreneurs and gurus and none of them, and I mean NONE OF THEM, describe themselves as such. They may show those words in their LinkedIn profiles or on their websites, but the words come from the mouths of their customers, colleagues and peers in the form of testimonials and recommendations.

LinkedIn is a personal profile, it’s 1st person, you wrote it, we know you wrote it, we wrote our own profiles too… writing in third person that you are an ‘expert’ at anything isn’t fooling anyone and every time I read ‘I am an expert in…’ in my head I hear ‘I am a bellend…’

Look at the profiles of people you really respect, or even better, have mentored you… see how they talk about how they help xyz achieve xyz, tell us about the awesome projects you have worked on and the results you have achieved, but like ‘legends’, the platitude should come from others.

At this point, I will add, I’ve described myself as an ‘expert’ at various things over the years on LinkedIn and beyond, and I still blush about it… I posted my own Wikipedia entry too, before I realised what a HUGE douche bag move and faux pas that is… it took me ages to get it deleted, it’s like Wikipedia was punishing me by keeping it up for years… I went back in once to see if it was still live and a contributor had edited it, adding that I was a satanist, that I put on an American accent when I sing and that I claim to be a martial artist, but only spent one summer studying Kung-Fu… I am not a satanist, cheeky bastard! Thankfully, it is now deleted.

One of the incredible, revolutionary aspects of the internet, is that it allows anyone to have a forum and to find an audience. It’s wonderful and its brought us new thinking, collaboration, art in all its forms, destroyed the concept of boundaries and limitations and I love it with a passion.

Back in the dark ages, before Facebook, I completed my M.Sc. and my thesis was on the concept of social media. I predicted it was the future for consumers, the evolution of the modernist theory of opinion leaders and opinion formers (I didn’t see the power of influencers coming, or the concept of YouTubers becoming millionaires) but I incorrectly stated that it wasn’t the future for brands. I naively claimed that consumers didn’t want a conversation with brands and that brands should stay out of the conversation. What did I know? I was an academic, the last of Gen X and we all know where we are now with Kardashians and PewDiePie!

A boiled down, academic journal based on that thesis is available on my LinkedIn profile, called, ‘Genre Readers are Revolting’.

But, one of my peeves but also slight obsessions at the moment, is the endless stream of video gurus on LinkedIn, offering life coaching, simply because they have an iPhone and a LinkedIn profile. It’s remarkable, all of them have six packs and a life coaching businesses, shooting selfie videos of themselves in the car as each revelation comes to them. They get 10’s of thousands of likes and comments to keep them coming… wow. I guess I’m just not the target market, even though I am definitely part of the audience as I can’t resist listening to what they have to say.

Some of them actually say inspirational things, some of them are regurgitating inspirational things they have heard or read in a book, some of them ultimately are trying to sell Juice Plus (other pyramid schemes are also available) and most of them are ‘experts’ at something. I do believe the universe is magical, confusing, a kick in the balls one minute and a life changer the next, but I don’t believe you get anything by asking the universe or putting it out there, you get it by getting off your arse and taking it.

There’s an old saying, ‘Don’t trust a skinny chef’ – the inference being, that their food must be awful. Of course, this is nonsense, there are plenty of skinny and even buff, Michelin Star chefs out there… but when it comes to life coaching, I personally, want advice from someone who has lived more than a quarter of theirs! Is that ageist? Maybe. Can you learn something from Gen Y and Gen Z… Absolutely!

There has to be a value exchange. Your audience’s currency is their time, they invest it in your content and they need to be able to take something away from that investment. It may be your services, it may simply be your story or your sentiment (I feel that way too!) but there has to be a purpose.

All these video gurus offering courses on how to become millionaire video gurus are only millionaires because people want to become millionaire video gurus… they are only experts in converting and selling to people who want to be just like them. They may have some interesting things to teach you about video production, hooks or storytelling that are transferable to selling YOUR product to YOUR market but it’s much more likely that your end consumer isn’t like you at all.

Here’s my final take-away, and it’s old fashioned I know:

be authentic, always ask yourself why anyone should care about what you have to say and finally, make sure there is value in what you produce, a genuine exchange.

Trust me, I’m an inspirational, serial entrepreneur and expert in being a guru*.