What do humans and lab rats have in common?
We both have predictable behavior patterns and react similarly to the same psychological stimuli.
And while we humans are certainly more complex and sophisticated than lab rats, you can still pull the right levers and hit the right buttons with your content marketing to elicit the response you’re looking for.
I would by no means consider myself an expert in psychology, but over the years, I’ve learned a lot about how the human mind works.
I’ve found out that nearly everyone is predictable to some degree.
By understanding a few key psychological insights, I’m able to better understand my audience and deliver content that clicks with them and maximizes my results.
What’s the secret?
What exactly is neuromarketing?
“the study of how people’s brains respond to advertising and other brand-related messages by scientifically monitoring brainwave activity, eye-tracking and skin response.”
It’s basically a sexy word that you get by combining neuroscience (the branch of psychology that deals with the nervous system/brain) and marketing.
The idea is that using cognitive research findings allows marketers to do their jobs with greater efficiency and ultimately boost conversions and sales while providing an optimal user experience.
Although neuromarketing is a fairly new phenomenon (it began in the 1990s), it’s gained a lot of momentum in the past 20+ years.
There are even academic institutions and publications that are devoting massive amounts of time and money to this type of research.
Of course, some people are skeptical because neuromarketing often goes against conventional wisdom.
But I’ve found it to be incredibly powerful once I started using it in my marketing.
Here are some specific neuromarketing hacks I recommend.
1. Appeal to your audience’s emotions
As hard as we try to be logical and rational, we’re all emotional beings to some extent.
There’s just no getting around it.
If you can form an emotional connection with your audience, I can guarantee that your content will have a significant impact.
There’s a particular quote I love from an article titled “The Feelings Economy.”
It goes like this:
In an oversupplied economy, customer feelings drive purchase decisions and profitability.
I think this really nails it. The brands that tend to thrive are the ones that are able to elicit the right emotions and hit the sweet spot.
How exactly do you appeal to your audience’s emotions?
Well, you start by understanding which specific emotions on average generate the biggest response:
According to research from OkDork and Buzzsumo, your best bet is to create content that evokes:
More specifically, I recommend using images and stories in your content to trigger these types of emotional responses.
That’s because they’re great at targeting the limbic system, which controls basic emotions.
2. Incorporate images of faces
You might have noticed that I use a lot of images of people’s faces in my content.
Case in point:
I also place an image of my own mug on my website:
Because, as it turns out, there is power in facial expressions. It’s basically the universal language.
Allow me to explain.
Say you’re trying to interact with someone from a foreign country who speaks an entirely different language. Communicating with words is likely to be pointless.
What they’re saying sounds like gibberish to you and vice versa.
But you can always understand facial cues.
In fact, that’s how babies largely understand the world. Before they develop language, they primarily rely upon their parents’ facial expressions and tone of voice to extract meaning.
The point I’m trying to make here is that the human brain has an innate ability to process facial cues, which makes images of people’s faces ideal for conveying emotion.
Images can also help you establish trust.
Notice how Tim Ferriss’s photo gives off the vibe that he knows his stuff and that signing up for his course should prove helpful:
You can do yourself a big favor by weaving images of people into your content. Doing so can make your audience feel a certain emotion as well as perform a specific action.
3. Use colors to elicit emotion
What’s another way to get your audience to feel a particular way?
Using the right colors.
Each color has a certain meaning, so using the color that matches the emotion you’re looking to target can be highly advantageous.
Here are some examples of the meanings of color in the western world:
The key is to identify the particular emotion, feeling, vibe you’re going for and incorporate the relevant color(s) in your content.
I don’t have enough time to adequately explain this topic to do it justice here. But I’ve covered it in depth before, and you can learn all about it via this resource.
4. Focus on relieving pain points
Conventional marketing wisdom says that showcasing the benefits of a product/service and ways it will improve your customer’s life is the best way to go.
By explaining the positives, you can target the intrinsic pleasure-seeking part of the human brain.
But in my opinion, this isn’t the best approach to take.
In one of my posts on Inc.com, I mention the fact that “neuromarketing experts say that the brain’s pain avoidance response is almost three times stronger than the brain’s pleasure seeking response.”
I also point out that neuromarketing expert Christophe Morin states that
…humans are pain-avoiding machines.
The bottom line here is that you’re usually better off explaining how you can relieve a pain point than discussing the pleasures of using a product/service.
In other words, focusing on how you can eliminate a negative should have a bigger impact.
5. Capitalize on the law of reciprocity
Have you ever had someone do something really nice for you, even when they didn’t have to, without asking for anything in return?
How did you feel toward them afterward?
The odds are good that you felt a sense of gratitude and probably wanted to consciously (or subconsciously) return the favor in some way.
This is the law of reciprocity at work.
At its core, the law of reciprocity explains why we feel indebted to someone when they do something for us.
This could be something as big as saving one’s life or as small as giving away a copy of an e-book.
Much research has actually been performed on this topic.
In fact, a study back in 2002 explored how patrons tipped in restaurants. The researchers examined how people tipped under three types of scenarios:
- Scenario 1 – Patrons received a small piece of candy with their check
- Scenario 2 – They received a larger quantity of candy
- Scenario 3 – They received no candy at all
The researchers found that “the gift of candy increased the average tip from 15 percent to just under 18 percent.”
Although this wasn’t a dramatic increase, it definitely proves the law of reciprocity and that people feel indebted when you do something nice for them when you don’t have to.
By offering your visitors something like a free trial, a free e-book, a free online course, etc., you can expect more conversions in the long run.
6. Use scarcity as leverage
We humans have some interesting tendencies and preferences.
If there’s less of something, our desire for it increases. If there’s more of something, our desire for it diminishes.
This phenomenon is known as the scarcity effect.
A now-classic psychological study from 1975 conducted by Worchel, Lee and Adewole examined the effect of scarcity on people.
It was a very simple study involving cookies, but it was very telling nonetheless.
The researchers “put 10 cookies in one jar and two of the same cookies in another jar. The cookies from the two-cookie jar received higher ratings—even though the cookies were exactly the same!”
What does this mean from a marketing standpoint?
It means that you’re far more likely to maximize your impact by leveraging scarcity. For instance, you might say that there’s a limited time offer on a product/service, or you may have a sale that only lasts 24 hours, etc.
That, right there, can increase a person’s urge to buy significantly.
Neuromarketing is legit and something I’ve found to be incredibly powerful in regards to content marketing.
Besides making it easier to build trust and rapport and generally connect better with your audience, neuromarketing is often the catalyst for increased leads and conversions.
And the hacks I covered here are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s ongoing research being conducted to better understand the psychology behind marketing and what resonates with consumers.
By putting these tips to practice, you can make your content marketing more potent and get more bang for your buck.
Can you think of any other psychological principles that can help you level up your content marketing?