Marketing Conversation reveals advertising should be built around trust


Colleen Backstrom explains how marketers can use neuromarketing to build familiarity.

On 3 September, CFO and CHRO South Africa hosted another edition of its Marketing Community Conversations, in which Kaleidoscope Advertising & Marketing director of neuromarketing Colleen Backstrom explained how marketers can leverage NeuroMarketing to their advantage. 

Neuromarketing is a commercial marketing communication field that applies neuropsychology to marketing research, studying consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive and affective response to marketing stimuli. 

“95 percent of our decisions, whether personal or business, are made with emotion. Only 5 percent of our decisions are based on logical benefits,” Colleen explained. “If you don’t engage feeling and emotion first, people won’t buy into the product or service you are selling.” 

Neuromarketing in politics

Colleen then referred to political examples where neuromarketing was used to change the world. “Four and a half years ago, the election between Donal Trump and Hillary Clinton was selling immigration policy to the United States. In this election, Trump leveraged the Americans’ emotions of fear, anxiety and tribalism. Clinton used facts, and people got bored.”

She explained that the difference between these two politicians was that Trump was asking “what are my ‘customers’ feeling right now?”, and Hillary was asking “what do I sell them?” 

Trump didn’t present an immigration policy, he was offering to keep people safe. “He said ‘I’ll build a wall’ and gave people a picture of what that safety would look like, connecting to what they were feeling,” Colleen said. 

Brexit was a similar case, she added. “The remainers, like Hillary, used lots of words and facts. The leavers showed big pictures on billboards using emotional words like ‘breaking point, the EU has failed us all, and we must break free’.” 

She explained that it wasn’t idiots who bought into these stories. “It was thinking people, because the people who put the campaigns together knew about neuroscience.”

The exposure effect - familiarity

Colleen then explained how marketers can implement neuroscience in their marketing when starting their new campaigns. 

“Start off by saying ‘what should my message feel like?’,” she said. “In the current crisis, your message should be trust.” 

She explained that due to the absence of face-to-face interactions because everyone is working from home, marketers have to get people to trust them. “If you can get that aspect of trust you are well away into the minds of people.”

She said that the only way to gain someone’s trust is for them to become familiar with you or your brand. “People should hear from you at least twice a month.”

Colleen explained that, instead of running a new campaign every couple of months, marketers need to run the same campaign over two years with six different iterations. “Brands like Coca-Cola, who have become familiar to people around the world, don’t need to change their offering, they just change their advertising material.”

She said that each time you run this six-piece campaign, it becomes more familiar, like “a seduction process”:

  1. The first time you run the campaign, people will think “that idea is new, the brain likes new,” but they also think it’s “this is a stranger, strangers aren’t safe”.
  2. The second time you run the campaign, people will think “oh, I’ve seen that before”. 
  3. The third time you run the campaign, people think “that idea is becoming familiar”. 
  4. The fourth time you run the campaign, people think “that idea feels right”. 
  5. The fifth time you run the campaign, people will think “that idea feels good and true”. 
  6. And the sixth time you run the campaign, they will think “that idea is for me”. 

“The problem with email marketers is that they plan this beautiful campaign and send it out once,” she said. “You need to get to point six.”  

Trust cues for designers

Colleen then shared some of the cues designers use in ads when applying neuroscience. 

  • Sky blue colour: This colour lets our guard down a little and makes us more open to take in the message. 
  • Large pictures: We want to see right into the product or service. 
  • Women: Studies show that women and men trust women more when it comes to buying.
  • Scenes of nature: People relax into a trusting mode when they see nature. 

She explained that all these things link back to primitive times, when blue skies, clear images, women and nature made people feel safe.

  • Buttery yellow colour: This colour gets your brain activity going. 
  • Curves: your brain likes curves more than straight edges. 
  • 3D buttons: Because that is familiar and the brain wants to click it instead of a flat button.
  • Blue underlined typing: People also want to click on blue underlined typing. Google checked and tested 30 different types of blue, only to find out that sky blue drew the most clicks. 
  • Respect: You need to show the love you feel for your clients. Use familiar language when talking to them. 

Using pictures

Colleen said that the first thing marketers need to remember is that the brain sees in pictures. “When you say apple, people see a green apple, red apple or the Apple logo. They don’t see the word ‘a-p-p-l-e’.” 

She explained that neuromarketing asks marketers to replace most of the words on websites and emails with pictures – “tell the brand story in pictures”. 

When marketing something, always include a picture of yourself next to your contact details. “This builds trust, because people are buying from people,” Colleen said. “People look at eyes and faces before their eyes go anywhere else. So include a human face and eyes in your ad to connect with the reader.”

When you have a product that doesn’t translate to pictures, she suggests simply breaking the copy up into bite-size paragraphs and making the numbers into pictures. “This will engage the brain.” 

Scenes of nature

Certain scenes of nature elicit different responses. Colleen said that when people see the landscape they were born in, it makes them happy. Marketers can draw on this feeling when marketing locally by using imagery from the landscape around them. 

For global marketers, it can be a bit more difficult to pinpoint a specific landscape. “Studies have shown that there are two scenes that will work every time: the presence of clean-looking water; and mountains with either a river or path running through them,” she said, linking the feeling to people choosing the path most travelled by because they know it is safe. 

What makes the brain happy? 

Colleen then shared the top three drivers that drive people: 

1. Sex

“Marketing with sexy girls usually works,” she said. “In the 1980s feminists backlashed and said John Deere needs to take the girls off their posters. Farmers complained, saying that it’s not women buying tractors, it’s men, and they wanted the girls back.”

When marketing to women, she explained that sex relates to romance. “Your financial services are marketed so harshly. 50 percent of your customers are women, put some softer and warmer colours and feeling behind it.” 

2. Food 

“Food lights up our brains,” she said. “Our entire life and being revolve around eating food.” 

3. Certainty

“This is the top reason the world has stopped buying now,” she said. “People are uncertain about when Covid-19 will end and when everything will go back to normal.”

She added that marketers need to ensure certainty by building that familiarity and trust with their customers. 

Colleen concluded that the global opening rates for email or web marketing are only 18 percent. “This means that 82 percent aren’t going to open your mail. But make it worth it for the 18 percent who do.”

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