Ten Neuromarketing Insights

On Saturday morning at SXSW I attended a talk by Nancy Harhut on applying neuroscience to marketing. Easily the best session I’ve attended so far it was packed full of interesting stats and insights.

I’ve pulled out ten with links where appropriate:

1 – Language matters and how you frame a statement produces radically different results. For example, ask people if it is ok to smoke while you pray, 96% will say no according to a University of Geneva study. But turn the question around – is it acceptable to pray while you smoke? The same proportion say yes it is.

2 – Every marketer now goes on about story telling, but giving something a compelling narrative does increase its value. In the ‘Significant Objects Project', a group of researchers bought a selection of cheap items from eBay, gave each one a story and resold it. For example, here’s how a snow globe purchased for 99 cents sold on for $59

3 – “The motivating uncertainty effect” means people are motivated by something where the reward is uncertain. A 50% chance of getting a $2 reward is more motivating and gets a better result than a 100% chance of getting the same reward

4 – Adding consumer reviews to your listings work, they encourage people to buy. However a perfect score doesn’t look credible, some imperfect reviews are better than none. In fact the optimum star rating is 4.2. Five is perceived to be ‘too good to be true’

5 – Time is often a more valuable commodity than money. Researchers at Stanford had a group of six year olds sell lemonade with different signs, The first sign read “Spend a little time and enjoy C&D’s lemonade”; the second one, “Spend a little money, and enjoy C&D’s lemonade”; and the third, neutral one said simply, “Enjoy C&D’s lemonade.”

The sign stressing time attracted twice as many customers who were willing to pay twice as much compared to the money sign.

6 – Research shows reducing the number of digits makes something seem cheaper. £1500 appears less than £1,500 or £1,500.00. That can work the other way around too, if you are a politician for example a leaflet saying you will spend £1,000,000 is better than £1 million.

7- The ‘scarcity heuristic’ holds that things in short supply seem more desirable. In a University of North Carolina study, people were asked to taste the same cookies, one was in a jar of ten and the other in a jar of two. The one in the two cookies in a jar was perceived to taste better.

8 – People remember interrupted tasks 90% better than completed tasks according to the so-called Zaigarnik effect. This maintains that people are hard wired to finish what they have started. Examples of this at work include LinkedIn telling you that your profile is incomplete or an app showing you the levels you still have to work through

9 – The more you add onto people’s ‘cognitive load’ the more you draw on their ability to make decisions. Simply put you are taxing people’s brains as research shows that “willpower and cognitive processing draw from the same pool of resources”, the more we have to absorb the worse we get at choosing

Or, as Nicholas Carr writes in The Shallows, “When the load exceeds our mind’s ability to process and store it, we’re unable to retain the information or to draw connections with other memories. We can’t translate the new material into conceptual knowledge. Our ability to learn suffers, and our understanding remains weak.”

10 – ‘Compliance’ is best built in small steps via a foot in the door approach.

Get a consumer to agree to something relatively small and it’s easier to get them to agree to something bigger provided the second ask is in line with the first.

This was tested when researchers called up participants to ask them if they would hypothetically collect money for the American Cancer society followers up by a concrete request three days later to actually do so. 31% of participants who had gone through step one agreed to collect compared to 4% who were approached ‘cold’

Further reading on Neuroscience blogs:


The neurocritic

Mind Hacks

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