How neuroscience and psychology can help B2B brands communicate with their audiences

Learning from neuroscience, psychology, neuroplasticity and other disciplines can lead to breakthroughs in how B2B brands communicate with their audiences says Ted Kohnen

Four years ago, my family and I moved from New York City (Manhattan) to Berkeley in California. I was certain of the positive personal benefits this move would bring my family, but was pleasantly surprised by the impact it had on the professional part of my life.

Before we go further, let me say this blog is not about the influence of the ongoing counter-culture of Berkeley on advertising. Although there is still a healthy of dose of that – my kids have been to more marches than most of their elementary school peers – this is about my exposure to the teachings and learnings of how the brain works, why we make certain decisions and what makes us happy.

I’m not a psychologist, but I am drawn to the power of the mind and how having knowledge of how our minds function – both as individuals and groups – can take the work of advertising/marketing professionals like us to completely new levels of meaningfulness, relevance and impact.

Living in Berkeley, and very close to the UC Berkeley campus, I’ve become a great fan of the writings of 'Berkelians' Dacher Keltner (The Power Paradox: How we gain and lose influence), Daniel Kahneman (Thinking Fast and Slow), Dr Rick Hanson (Hardwiring Happiness: The new brain science of contentment, calm, and confidence), and other thought leaders – especially those connected with UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. Whether you are looking to improve yourself, your team or your organization, their content is terrific and I highly recommend you check it out. But how does this relate to marketing?

5 ingredients for a positive and lasting memorable experience

Any great marketer will tell you that creative or experience, be that content or design, cannot be boiled down to a formula. Those that take the formulaic approach are destined for mediocrity. But, there are key ingredients. Much like a Michelin star chef, the best marketers know the ingredients they need to work with, the exact amount to use, and when. And, when just right, they create an experience that’s both positive and memorable. The component parts (or ingredients) that create a positive, lasting memory in our brains should be our guide for creating meaningful and impactful experiences through advertising. (Of the several thought leaders mentioned above, the following largely stems from the work of Dr Rick Hanson).

1. Duration: Ability and reason to stay with an experience

With the brands that we work with, we examine each and every asset we develop through the lens of 'meaningful dwell time' and ask ourselves: “Is what we are creating going to hold the attention of our audience for slightly longer than expected?” In some cases, we test creative to empirically determine if we are achieving this. As Rick observes, staying with a positive experience for five, 10 or even 15 seconds longer than you normally would can positively change the brain.

2. Intensity: Seeing the ‘bigness’/depth of the program

Similarly, we ask ourselves, “Do the individual component parts (advertising, content, digital) help the audience see the totality of a program, campaign or general idea? If audiences are engaged, they will want to do the next “thing.” If audiences feel they have come to the end of their educational or informational journey with a brand then they won’t be motivated to look further…they’re done. And so is your ability to influence that audience.

3. Salience: Seeing why this is personally relevant

This one is very much on the nose. If the audience doesn’t feel some sort of personal relevance (even or especially in a B2B context), your message will simply be a thought that passes through their mind, never to return.

4. Novelty: Seeing what is fresh

As freshness creates new neural connections (which is a good thing), the human brain is inherently drawn to the 'new'. With 'new', the brain is conditioned to your message. The key, then, is having it stay there – see the three points above.

5. Multimodality: Multiple aspects of an experience that connect emotionally

B2B marketers have held a long-time belief that seven touches equals action, meaning your audiences needs to see your message seven times in different environments before they take an action. While we can debate the actual number, the point here is that to create a positive, meaningful and lasting impact with your marketing you need to connect on multiple emotional levels of human psychology - curiosity, relaxation, satisfaction, competition etc. Many marketers talk about the connection to emotion. In my view, their connection doesn’t go far enough. Marketers simply feel that if their work excites then they’ve achieved the emotional connection. Excitement is good, but unfortunately, this is superficial and will not result in the desired, lasting impact we ultimately want to achieve. Connecting on multiple levels will result in a deeper psychological connection.

The deeper you go, the stronger the memory, the more powerful your marketing. As I stated earlier, I’m not a psychologist, but the application of disciplines such as neuroscience, psychology, neuroplasticity and others, and the takeaways/learnings from them, can lead to breakthroughs in how brands communicate with their audiences.

B2B Marketing Ignite USA 2020

B2B Marketing is touching down in the USA! Join us and B2B's brightest in Chicago, to fire-up your inspiration and spark your connections.

Register my interest for Ignite USA