Neuromarketing and McMuffins

I drive along the expressways of Chicago most mornings. Although these expressways are lined with billboard after billboard I couldn’t name three of them off the top-of-my-head for you.

Like most people who drive to work in the mornings I’m on autopilot.  I mean I’m physically behind the wheel, I am alert for break lights and lane changes, but I’m not that alert. This mental form of autopilot is actually pretty normal.

We know our brains often go into “autopilot” mode to conserve mental energy during routine tasks like drives to and from work. So you can’t really blame me for not actively looking at all of the billboards as I drive. Plus they’re billboards. I’ve seen thousands in my life time. Big whoop.

However, recently while driving I spotted a billboard along I-290W in Chicago that grabs my attention every single day. Given my background in neuroscience and marketing I quickly noticed the design of this billboard. This ad (and campaign) are noticeably influenced by science. Let’s take a look at what makes this advertisement special:

Although I’m not a fan of McDonalds, I admire their new advertising campaign for it’s neuromarketing elements and design.

  1. The oversized, detailed McMuffin quickly draws consumer attention. Market research studies using neuroscience have shown that consumers better emotionally respond to more detailed foods they’re familiar with.
  1. The left placement of the McMuffin on the billboard actually helps our brains better perceive the image faster. Objects placed on the left side of our field of view are better processed using the right side of our brains and vice versa. This is because our optic nerves criss cross when they enter our brain. The right side of our brain is better at perceiving images. The left side of our brain is better at processing numbers and writing. The image placement and writing in this ad are placed in the best spots possible for our brains to process this information effectively and efficiently.

because the optic nerve criss-crosses when it enters your brain, your left field of view best feeds to your right, artistic side of your brain, and the right field of view feeds to the left, analytic side of your brain.

  1. The text is in lowercase font making it uniform. Visually, this is preferred because the brain likes consistency. Because of how we read when a text is properly capitalized we’re prompted to look for more semantic meaning like if we were reading a textbook.
  1. The message is simple. Perhaps the most difficult thing in marketing and business development is making a concise, influential statement. This billboard speaks to a very common buying focus of consumers when it comes to food – calories and nutrition. In just four words you are now aware a McMuffin is only 300 calories. Remember the principle of cognitive fluency – the easier it is to think about something the easier it is to act upon something.
  1. The design is contrasting. It may seem like common sense but the brain loves clear contrast. The human brain is extremely visual, so the fact that the image and font pop off the background are more helpful to perception.

Pretty crazy that I can sit here and breakdown a very simple billboard and pull the science behind its design and messaging out of it. The beauty of neuroscience and perception is that it doesn’t have to be complex to be effective.

We live in the most over-communicated time ever in human history. Every company has an advertisement to catch our attention, but because we’re so perceptually bombarded, nearly all of the advertisements turn into white noise that we end up ignoring. My advice to companies is to evolve to something more engaging.

The goal for companies should not be to simply catch our attention with advertising and marketing, but to have the consumer genuinely interact with your message. The billboard above stands out for so many reasons. Right now, in this over-communicated world, simple design is going to win out because everything else is cluttered, and ultimately our brains better respond to simple rather than complex.

Got a presentation coming up to a group of people or a customer. Let this billboard remind you that simple is always better.

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Neural Optimal Design in Use

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I promise that is going to change. I have written a lot in the past about neuromarketing and neural optimal design, but I felt it would be good to keep this post short and sweet by showing you some good marketing design that has neural influences.

Chipotle Tabasco's bottle old and new

I snapped this picture of these two Tabasco bottles while I was eating a burrito at my local Chipotle. Since I normally drench my steak burritos (and everything else) in Tabasco’s Chipotle Hot Sauce I have become quite attuned to this bottle and was amazed when I saw the new design.

I put them side-by-side because the new bottle’s design is great for two main reasons:

1. What jumps out at you is “BEST BITE”, but only then you realize that there is more to the message and it draws you in to read it more closely. Remember, the brain loves simple puzzles, and the main message on this bottle is perfectly arranged to draw in hot sauce users.

2. More image. Less Text. As you can see a hamburger has made an appearance on the bottle. Compared to the old bottle of hot sauce the picture breaks up the wordiness. Remember, a majority of the brain is dedicated to vision. That means your message has to contain a visual element.

GO DO GOOD is a fun take on social marketing

While roaming the streets of Chicago, my hometown that I miss dearly, I had to smile when I came across this sign on State Street (that great street). It’s simple puzzle like design stopped me and several others in our tracks on a busy city sidewalk to consciously process the meaning.

“GO DO GOOD” is a social marketing campaign that is built around promoting good public behavior. As I continued walking down the street I saw several city public works employees sweeping train stop wearing bright yellow shirts that had the same GODOGOOD logo. Maybe it was just the buzz of being back home or maybe it was the marketing design, but it got me. I felt like doing some good and held the door open for a lot of strangers at the next place I walked in to.

I’ve said it a lot of times, marketing is evolving. The old goal of marketing was to say “hey! look at me”, and because of that we’ve become senselessly over communicated. I believe the new goal of marketing is to have people genuinely interact with your message at a conscious level. Tabasco bottle or social marketing campaign, these two messages do just that.

Burritos and Your Brain 2.0

A long time ago I wrote an article called Burritos and your Brain. The article examined the ill received reactions from loyal customers when Chipotle decided to change their marketing design in an attempt to introduce a new logo, and how Chipotle promptly returned to their familiar marketing design shortly there after.

A little over a month ago I was driving when I spotted a billboard in the distance that looked like Chipotle’s marketing design. As I got closer I nearly crashed my car. Why, you ask. Because Chipotle had made changes to their marketing design yet again, but this time they absolutely nailed it.

This was the exact Chipotle advertisement that I saw.

Let’s examine what makes this ad so powerful by examining it through lessons and principles learned in neuromarketing:

This Ad is a Puzzle. The brain loves simple puzzles. Puzzles shake us out of our subconscious auto pilot and demand our conscious attention. With this ad you can see the bold words calling out to you, forming it’s own simple message, but it only draws you in more because you have to read the sentence that the bold words originate from. Rather than this ad just be noticed, it actually causes the consumer to consciously interact with it.

The Buying Brain Loves Puzzles. CEO of NeuroFocus Dr. Pradeep does a fantastic job of describing this in more depth in his book The Buying Brain.

The Ad is Salient. Chipotle’s marketing design was originally created to stand out against the clutter and noise of most marketing design that fills are daily environments, and it has historically worked for them. This ad is no different. The brain loves clear contrast, and it doesn’t get any clearer than “black and white”. That’s exactly what you get when you see this ad. The black bold words pop off the white background. This ad is clean, clear and contrasting – all the things your brain likes.

Great use of Font. The “Confidential Font Type” is bold and noticeable compared most other marketing design. It’s also synonymous with Chipotle. How many other companies do you see using this font on a national level? None, exactly. The font is also uniform, meaning that the letters are all the same case. In advertising the brain actually prefers when the font is uniform.

Good Logo Use. The use and placement of the logo in the ad is very important. The use of the Chipotle logo is subtle. Studies have shown that brain prefers the subtle use of logos. Company logos that are too in-your-face have actually shown negative perception from consumers’ brains. That is definitely not the case here.

Good Logo Placement. Keep in mind that this ad was placed outside, so you want your message to be centered and high on the background so it draws vision upward. The logo placement defers to the message itself letting, it go front and center. The logo is also placed on the right side of the ad. Images should be placed on the right side of material because it’s perceived with the left side of the brain – the side of your brain that is best at processing images and pictures.

Thanks for Reading!

I am glad to see Chipotle continuing their marketing dominance. I cannot express how hungry I am for Chipotle after writing this article. Steak burrito, here I come! Thanks for stopping by social-brain, and thanks for reading!

How are Neuromarketing Companies Marketing Themselves…

The Neuromarketing Frontier

The field of neuromarketing is actually still very young. Although cognitive neuroscience has been researched for decades, neuroscience as it pertains to perception and decision-making in business is still in its infancy.

My research and experience with neuromarketing has taught me a few important things about the nature of this field. Before assuming the role that I am currently in now, I was actually looking to go back to school to obtain a PhD in neuromarketing. Over the past 18 months as I searched school by prestigious school I noticed something, there were little to no neuromarketing PhD programs – largely because there were little to no professors of neuromarketing.

as we see more and more neuromarketing research used in business today it will eventually lead to neurobased classes in business schools around the nation.

Although specific research was being conducted at schools like Emory, Cal Berkley and many more, there was little academic support for neuromarketing as a major program inside business schools. This confused me as I continued to read study after mind-blowing study regarding neuromarketing, and then it hit me. The university labs that were conducting these studies were academic partners with major corporate sponsors and neuromarketing companies.

Where is Neuromarketing Research Coming From?

Companies like NeuroFocus, Buyology Inc., Sands Research, EmSense, and The Consumer Neuroscience Division of Millward Brown have been directing this field and driving neuromarketing research for all. As neuromarketing becomes a more familiar research tool for companies, these will be the names that businesses most likely to turn to improve their marketing effectiveness.

And suddenly you’re hit with a new and exciting thought – how do the companies that provide neuromarketing consulting effectively market to their customers in this new and soon to be highly competitive market? This is the beauty and superb difficulty of marketing and sales strategy that all companies face in varying capacities.

Neuromarketing companies, better than most, are supposed to understand the scientific process of marketing design, communication, and strategic execution – so it very exciting to see how they will approach business development in this new market. And it would seem that some of these companies are starting to make their first strategic marketing moves already.

NeuroStandards and The Law of Leadership

A month ago I came across a press release that announced that the world’s largest neuromarketing firm NeuroFocus had created NeuroStandards, the first and only set of scientifically sound principles for conducting EEG-based, full-brain measurements intended for application to market research studies. As I read the press release I recognized that this was no ordinary press announcement. It was also a strategic marketing move, and a very good one at that.

Highly Recommended Reading. The Buying Brain and Buyology are examples of how neuromarketing companies are leveraging education and knowledge to reach their consumers. Buyology was written by Buyology Inc. Founder Martin Lindstrom, and The Buying Brain was written by NeuroFocus CEO Dr. A.K. Pradeep. The Buying Brain gives excellent insight into basic neuroscience principles and leads wonderfully into concepts and trends that are currently at the forefront of neuromarketing.

The Law of Leadership is a term that comes from Al Ries and Jack Trout’s book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing and builds off of positioning strategy. The core lesson behind positioning strategy is that it doesn’t matter where you’re at in the market place, but more importantly where you’re at in the mind of the consumer.

The Law of Leadership is the rule for the importance, and advantages, of being first in a product category in the mind of the consumer, and the marketing behaviors a company should take when widely recognized as a leader. And that brings us back to NeuroFocus, because in the past year they have been continually recognized as the world’s leading neuromarketing firm.

What stood out about NeuroStandards is that it was a press release that presented standards for conducting neuromarketing research for an entire industry. Rather than boast their own standards for research, NeuroFocus effectively positioned themselves firmly in the mind of the consumer as the leader by educating the consumer as well as other neuromarketing companies on best practices for the industry – something they can leverage in sales processes moving forward.

if you're the leader, just don't grow your slice of the pie. grow the entire pie!

For example if the neuromarketing industry was a pie and each neuromarketing company was a slice that makes up the pie, as the leader it doesn’t make any sense to grow just your slice of the pie. It actually makes more sense to grow the pie as a whole – thus indirectly growing your slice of the pie. By using NeuroStandards, NeuroFocus was able to effectively communicate their role as the leader by providing industry-recognized education for all.

The Emerging Role of Education in Marketing

Today’s consumers are smarter than they have ever been.  The Internet has drastically reshaped business by allowing people to research and compare every product, service, and company. This has prompted companies to add another layer, education, to their marketing and branding strategies.

I’ll end this post with a bit of sales and marketing advice that has helped me over the years. Provide education relevant to your customers, and sell industry knowledge just as much as you sell your products and services. Consumers are hungry for knowledge relating to their emotional buying intent and interests. So give them what they want, especially if you’re the one leading the pack.

Thank you for reading!

The Neuromarketing Merits of “Icing”

Maybe you’ve seen this? You’re out at a bar enjoying the local nightlife on the weekend and suddenly you hear a group of cheers coupled with laughter. You turn your head to see what the commotion is about, and just then you see a young fellow take a knee and begin chugging a bottle of Smirnoff Ice while his friends taunt him because he was surprisingly handed this beverage. The frat boys in the bar cheer and the on-looking hipsters roll there eyes in disgust. What you’ve just witnessed is a ritual called “Icing” someone.

Surprisingly “Icing” has caught on in major way and doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down.  As absurd and childish as this drinking game may appear it actually is no different than a lot of other rituals that surround some of America’s most beloved alcoholic beverages.

"Ritual and superstition can exert a potent influence on how and why we buy" - Martin Lindstrom, Author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy

Truth and Limes

I was at the bar with some of my closest friends last week and I ordered a round of Coronas to bring back to our table. I successfully brought all the beers to the table but in my haste forgot the limes on the napkin at the bar. The way my friends reacted when they realized that I brought back Coronas with no limes you would have thought I kicked a puppy.

You see, people are very ritualistic. We rely on our routines, our rituals and even our silly superstitions to get us through the day.  What I had done when I was out at the bar with my friends was violate the ritual of drinking a Corona. Serve 99% of people with an ice cold Corona with no sliced fruit and their follow up question will always be “Where’s the lime?”

The interesting thing about the ritual surround drinking a Corona is that is was invented by a bartender on a slow night sometime in 1981. I always make it a point to ask my fellow beer drinkers why they think the lime goes in the bottle and they always give me one of two answers: something about sailors on a boat or the silence of thought followed by a defeated “I don’t know…”

No matter the reason for putting a slice of lime in your beer it had done something amazing for the Corona brand. The ritual of the lime separates Corona from every other import out there in the mind of the consumer. The lime ritual was attributed to helping Corona become the #1 selling imported beer. Could the same bright future be in store for Smirnoff Ice?

The Cognitive Psychology of Rituals

You might not realize it but every day in your life is made up of a series of rituals – many of which have become so ingrained in the fabric of your life that you don’t even consciously notice them.

Other rituals hold such importance that people set aside time to consciously work through them. The best example of this is religion. People from all denominations of religious groups set an hour or so a week to practice their faith in a conscious ritualistic fashion.

Rituals are cognitively pleasing and ease our daily interactions providing us with a flow to otherwise mundane activities. However, recent research is shedding new light on why rituals, both conscious and unconscious, are so important to humans.

We live in a stressful world. Wars, fluttering economies, and disease are just some of the concerns that people face every day. Like most grave concerns they often reside out of our control. It’s now believed rituals are so important to humans because our ritualistic behavior allows us to have a sense of control in an otherwise hectic life.

“If you remove the appearance that they are in control, both humans and animals become stressed. During the Gulf War in 1991, in areas that were attacked by Scud missiles, there was a rise in superstitious and ritualistic behavior.” – Dr. Bruce Hood, University of Bristol

Humans have been susceptible to stress over the entire course of our evolution. Today we fear war and our economy. Thousands of years ago we feared getting eaten and things as simple as thunder storms. Take a look back through time and realize every single culture before us has had its rituals. No wonder putting a lime in your beer just makes sense for most people.

The future of Icing

Icing is a ritual that has caught on in the short term. It has a shared set of understood rules, actions, and for some “bros”, very passionate beliefs. Smirnoff has denied any marketing effort in creating the ritual of icing, and I believe this to be true because it’s too simple and effective for any marketing mind. But for now bros will keep icing bros and that leads to six packs of Smirnoff Ice flying off the shelves.

My gut feeling is that the Icing trend will wear itself out by the end of the summer. The key to any ritual is that it is relevant, and this is where Icing lacks the proper horsepower to sustain itself for months or even years to come.

Corona has and always will ride the wave of the ritual of the lime, because flavor is the relevance of their ritual, and that is universal to all beer drinkers. Like Smirnoff, Corona didn’t invent the lime ritual, but I’ll be damned if they don’t embrace it. Look no further than their marketing for proof of lime branding.

Smirnoff Ice has gained notoriety because the ritual of Icing.  How long they choose to sustain this notoriety is up to Smirnoff’s marketing dept. One thing remains certain in this game of rituals and marketing – they work, and in different capacities at influencing our behavior to buy.