This continues a series of columns from practitioners I respect. The category "Real Deal" describes them well.
This time it is Steve Mann, former CMO of LexisNexis North America and who now leads AbleBrains LLC, a digital marketing consultancy. He has been selected by FierceCMO as one the top 15 B2B CMOs to watch.
Here he writes about the emerging discipline of neuro-digital marketing
We are designed to be happy! As a species we have been remarkably successful in creating a world that delivers pleasure because our brains are built to get more of whatever is bringing us joy.
The neurochemical dopamine plays a vital role in our level of joy – and the motivation to seek happiness. Our pleasure centers are driven by dopamine, as are our motor functions. And while endorphins make us like something, dopamine makes us want more of it.
The behavioral economist Antonio Rangel, studied the impact of product experience on joy. He took identical wines and marked them with either a $90 or $10 price point. When subjects knew the prices, they perceived the $90 wine as superior. But during blind taste tests, the subjects rated the wines as identical! More significantly, when the brains of these subjects were fMRI scanned while drinking the $90 wine, their brains showed more activity in the area associated with the experience of pleasure, than when drinking the $10 bottle.
When pleasure centers are stimulated, preference for one product over another develops. And dopamine drives desire for that product. We are, at our foundation, slaves to our non-conscious, pleasure-seeking brains.
Neuro-digital marketing, the mashup of neuroscience and digital marketing, speaks to the non-conscious, which is essential to influencing consumers. Gamification is a great example of how these tactics work to drive preference.
Gamifying Brand Engagement
SAP launched the SAP Community Network 13 years ago. It’s grown to become the premier online community for the SAP eco-system. Information about SAP products and services are shared in the community, as are discussions around the intricacies of deploying SAP software. However, when SCN transitioned to a new community platform, the SAP team immediately faced a problem: member engagement indicators dropped dramatically.
Rather than risk losing members or having to re-market to them, the team chose to gamify the experience by designing missions members could pursue. These missions were surprise, reward-oriented achievements, just like viral games, and are meant to stimulate our pleasure centers. In pursuing missions, members earned points that increased their reputation within the community. Example missions included; onboarding to the community, contributing content or showcasing expertise.
The surprise nation of the missions entice member to seek more influence, peer admiration, and respect. The SAP team initially launched about 30 missions. In true gaming strategy fashion, future missions were hidden until the prior mission was completed. This created the surprise element that is so important to engaging the dopamine-endorphin reward complex.
The preliminary results observed just one month after the launch were impressive.
Gamifying SCN filled it with engagement addicts driven by each member’s pleasure center. And hey, if being addicted to SCN makes you happy, then more power to you.
When I was 10 years old my father and I were getting in the car. We were laughing and I was gesticulating wildly while telling a story. I wasn’t paying attention though and slammed my finger in the car door. The pain was explosive. Non-consciously, my brain then linked the notions of “car door” and “fingers” and “incredible pain.” And I said to myself, “I’ll never do that again.”
This linking together of concepts, emotions, body parts and sensations is called somatic marking. Think of it as a decision shortcut in our brain, connecting our experiences with emotions and a specific behavior. These shortcuts provide a mechanism to help us make rapid decisions, whether its keeping our fingers out of a car door or “just knowing” which brand choice will provide the most happiness.
Imagine we’re online and shopping for shoes. We’ve bought from Zappos, Designer Shoe Warehouse and ShoeDazzle in the past. But which brand will we buy from again? We find ourselves perusing shoes from each store but we keep coming back to Zappos, even though each site has the same shoes at the same price point. We end up buying from Zappos. Why?
Zappos delivers happiness through an incredible customer support experience –surprising their customers with “upgrades” to overnight shipping, fast and accurate fulfillment and a customer support team that goes above and beyond the normal support experience. The company also has a corporate culture that puts the customer at the center of everything they do.
A customer’s past experience, which delivered them a feeling of joy, contentment and comforting body sensations, coupled with those emotions, shortcuts the buying decision and pre-disposes consumers to purchase from Zappos. Buyers’ brains have linked great customer service & joyful emotions to all brands that deliver those experiences. And the proof is in the pudding – on any given day 75% of Zappos purchases are from repeat customers.
Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ CEO, says it best:
People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you make them feel
Although direct product experience plays a role in product selection, the non-conscious impressions a consumer has is so much more important. This is where true decision-making resides. These non-conscious experiences coupled with the pre-conceived notions a consumer brings to the table, dramatically influences product or brand preference, far beyond that of marketing focused on changing conscious thought.
My advice to you? Don’t focus on what you want your customers to think, instead focus on what you want them to feel.