How Marketers access the Emotional Brain

A dive into Innocent’s content marketing strategy

I love Innocent. Awesome smoothies.

But their branding is even better. Many French marketers can confirm: its simple, entertaining, funny. A unique social media presence that drives shares and retweets. They engage people, their content is often going viral.

You got it, Innocent has a very positive image.

An image that looks innocent.

But is not. The firm holded 90% by The Coca-Cola Company hires the best marketers to produce a very sophisticated content, based on Neuromarketing. Innocent manage that way to drive the attention of the Limbic system, also called the emotional brain, by using Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP).

In other terms, they use the same framework as hypnotizers.

Accessing the Emotional Brain

Their performance is that they manage to talk directly to our emotional brain. Look at this image below (an English translation follows). The message looks really simple.

We can see you asking yourself “Why did they put a Guinea Pig under the title DRINK FRUITS?”. That’s a good question.
Its simple indeed. We were first expecting to talk about fruits. But we had just started when we landed on this cute Guinea Pig drawing. There was no way to resist: we decided to put it on our bottles. Then we found ourselves lacking space to talk about fruits. In life you have to make choices. Well played little Guinea Pig, you just got us.

A marketer told me that this has nothing to do with the product.

That it doesn’t sell, it’s bullshit. I call this genius.

Every. Single. Word. has been worked on. The way this story is shaped just makes your logical brain shuts down, in order to talk quitely to your emotional brain. It’s called Conversational Hypnosis, a strategy based on Pacing and Leading.

Lets dive into the details :

  • We see you: Nobody, ever, stopped reading a text at this moment. “They see me ? Whut ? Talking about me ? What they know about me ?” You want to now what others think about you. The most interesting subject for anyone has always been himself. Starting with this impactul statement drives all your attention.
  • Asking yourself “Why .. ?”: You may have asked yourself. Or you may not. But the fact is, at the moment you start reading that question, you end up asking it for yourself like if it was your own. But it doesn’t come out of your brain, at all. They start leading your thoughts so your Neocortex brain, responsible for critical thinking can rest.
  • That’s a good question: two interesting things here. First, they create an expectation. It drives your attention, as this simple sentence means that the question was interesting, so an interesting answer should follow. Second, they validate “your” idea. They accept it as a good idea. And there is a thing among humans: we all crave for acceptation, validation. We unconsciously enjoy the compliment and tend to get emotional at this point. Subtile.
  • Its simple indeed: still nurturing the expectation. They reassure you and make sure that you feel comfortable. You like simple things, right ? So you may like the answer. The best hypnotizers work with that template, making you think that what you are going to do is something you truly enjoy. Its a promise that you will feel good, you want to be hypnotized. You enter in a state of trance.

At this moment, they got your full attention. An emotional attention that doesnt fade as the story is kept short. They start talking about fruits (their product) and this cute Guinea Pig. In NLP this is called Anchoring. I’ll explain the mecanism in the next part.

PS: The Guinea Pig is a drawing. Wich is even cutter than an actual picture ;) well done Innocent.

  • In life you have to make choices: really funny joke. That comes in the perfect moment, when you are fully engaged emotionally.
In France we got a saying: “Femme qui rit à moitié dans ton lit”. Means litterally “Woman laughing is half in one’s bed.”

If it works with Romance, it should work for Marketing. Making you laugh is one of the best selling tactics ever. You hear “Innocent” in the near future and your first reaction is smiling ? They reached their goal :)

Lets get back to the customer, you.

You finished the story. And found yourself feeling good holding this bottle.

OK, you got emotional. But what’s the point ?

Associating ideas with emotions

As the hypnotizer’s target is to make you perform an action, this story doesn’t come up without a cleary defined goal. We need more NLP insights to understand exactly where they are leading us.

What Innocent managed to do comes from a simple idea: they first associated their brand with the whole idea of “Fruits”. A really positive word, as it’s one of the few topics everybody can agree to: fruits are good.

Anchoring starts here.

Once they make sure the relationship Innocent/Fruit is well established in your head, they play on the association of positive emotions using only the word “fruit”. Thats a second level of Anchoring, they don’t need to talk about their brand anymore.

There’s a neuroscientific quote from the Hebbian Theory that states:

Neurons that fire together wire together

There is no neuron in our brain that lights up alone. Its a system. When you think about somebody, you often think in the same time about many other things you associated with this person. The fact that you like or hate this person for example. Same example for associations like cigaret and coffee, that makes it even harder to stop smoking. Or any other thoughts.

The human connectome: Neural pathways (right) represent our brain activity

That said, Innocent is a neuron in your brain since the first day you heard about it. The branding is here to associate this neuron with other neurons representing ONLY positive ideas, positive emotions in other parts of your brain. It creates a pattern.

Who cares if fruits and Guinea Pigs are not related ? It gets the job done.

The Call-to-action

If we move forward with the hypnotizer comparison, there is a suggestion pushed to your unconscious brain. Just after the Anchoring part you can read: on n’a pas pu résister (“we couldn’t resist”).

Look how this Canadian hypnotizer escapes a police control using the power of suggestions. In this example, the suggestion is “just forget !” (while the emotional trigger is the finger slap). Notice how many times he repeats it:

If it strikes in your head at the good moment, it can be very effective.

Happiness is profitable

This is how they use the strategy of Anchoring. Talking about cuteness, fruits, making you laugh.. in order to make you associate Innocent with pleasure, with things you love (things you cannot resist to). Making you happy is making money for them.

You may even do that yourself without realizing, when you try to match the content you’re creating with the core values of your brand (wich are always positive I guess).

There are a couple of Marketing insights to take from this :

Incorporating in your content words such as excellent, successful, welcome, .. give people a positive and personalized association with the brand.

A study in 2010 of the most-emailed New York Times articles found that good news may spread faster on social media than sad or depressing stories. This is due to a couple of reasons:

  • When you’re happy, you’re more willing and eager to share that happiness with others. You’re enthusiastic.
  • Most people care about what others think. By sharing too many sad stories, you may be considered a kind of Debbie Downer.

I finish this article with the most-shared ad of all time, Friends Furever:


Thanks for reading !

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