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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Neuromarketing: Tapping into customers’ emotions to close the sale

Joanne Bloomfield, president of The Marketing Boutique in

Joanne Bloomfield, president of The Marketing Boutique in Jericho, says informal photos showing genuine emotion help engage consumers. Photo Credit: Jean Boucher Photography / Jae Hartzell

When visitors come to the home page of Jericho-based SilvermanAcampora, the first thing they see is a large image of a cute dog.

While a dog may not be what you’d expect to see on a law firm’s website, it’s meant to trigger the emotional side of your brain — the side we don’t even realize is responsible for many of our purchasing decisions, says Joanne Bloomfield, president of The Marketing Boutique, the Jericho-based marketing agency that created the site design.

Marketing to this subconscious is a key element of “neuromarketing,” which combines neuroscience and marketing to leverage research on how the brain affects buying decisions.

“It’s any use of our understanding of how the human brain works to do a better job of marketing,” says Roger Dooley, the Austin, Texas, author of “Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing” (Wiley; $24.95) and author of a blog on neuromarketing.

Specifically, neuromarketing “has the potential to dig deeper into the consumer’s nonconscious decision-making,” he says.

Traditionally, marketers try to persuade customers to buy a product by talking about the product’s features and specifications, but that approach only focuses on a small part of the customer’s decision-making process, he says.

Instead, marketers must use some “nonconscious” techniques as part of their advertising to be effective, Dooley says.

“If marketing was a dating app like Tinder, neuromarketing is the selfie that will get you to swipe right,” says Bloomfield, who incorporates neuromarketing into all her client’s branding and marketing campaigns.

If you don’t pay attention to the visual side of marketing, you’re “dead in the water,” she says.

So with SilvermanAcampora, by developing the dog mascot, “I trigger the nurture response in people,” she says, noting that if we see something cute and furry or a baby, we’ll look at it 20 percent longer than at something else.

But there’s a caveat to that.

An image with just a baby will draw the viewer’s eyes to the baby itself. Neuromarketers discovered you must have the baby looking in the direction you’d like viewers to look.

That’s why in one image the dog on SilvermanAcampora’s website is looking toward a button that says “read more,” which the viewer may not even consciously realize they are being directed toward.

“We speak to everything below the conscious fold,” says Bloomfield, who founded her company in the United Kingdom in 1996 as Bloomfield Marketing and relocated it to Long Island 11 years ago, recently rebranding it as The Marketing Boutique.

She does this, in part, by creating multisensory experiences that can incorporate humor, smell, taste and touch.

For instance, as part of a campaign she did for SilvermanAcampora to thank accountants who had referred clients, she sent each accountant — at the heart of tax season — a small cardboard box that contained a prescription shot glass and a little bottle of vodka. She also included other items, such as an envelope labeled “Conflict Avoidance Device.” Inside was a door hanger that said “CPA Meltdown In Progress — Enter at Your Own Risk.”

The mailing generated a 45.7 percent response rate, way above industry norms.

“For us neuromarketing has been a game-changer,” says Anthony Acampora, partner-in-charge at the law firm. He had never heard of neuromarketing before meeting Bloomfield. “We took a leap of faith.”

And it seems to have paid off.

Since the firm’s website launched in May 2016, the time visitors stay on the site has gone from between 10 and 40 seconds to between two and seven minutes.

Acampora says the site is now a better reflection of the firm’s personality. While most of its business does not come directly from the website, “we have seen an increase in inquiries,” he says. “More importantly, we have encountered more potential clients who are familiar with the firm and who are already comfortable with our message and with who we are as an organization. That comfort has resulted in closing more new business.”

For another client, HRPro Consulting Services LLC, a Rockville Centre HR outsourcing firm, Bloomfield created a website with the image of bright yellow ducks in a row, CEO Jennine Leale says.

That duck theme carried over to networking materials as well, including a small brochure with four interior panels. Leale even gives out rubber ducks at events.

“People love it and always ask for more,” she says.

Of course, just using the image of a dog or baby or duck doesn’t mean instant success.

“Neuromarketing is a very complicated field,” says Christophe Morin, co-founder of San Francisco-based SalesBrain, a neuromarketing agency, and co-author of “Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain” (Nelson; $22.99).

In fact, larger brands use advanced tools to measure brain activity such as electroencephalograms and other biometric technology.

While this can be cost prohibitive for small businesses, they can still employ some basic neuromarketing fundamentals.

Morin believes it’s the oldest part of the brain — the reptilian — that wins out ultimately in influencing decisions. This is the primal, most survival-centric part of our brain.

When we scan the world around us, we subconsciously scan for the elimination of threats, frustrations and challenges, he says. “Buyers of anything are fundamental pain-elimination machines,” says Morin, noting that identifying the underlying pain and frustration for the buyer is fundamental.

Bloomfield believes it’s the limbic system, or emotional core of the brain, that is the key influencer, but believes the reptilian brain also plays a role.

“The reptilian brain is the fastest and drives the initial impulse; our limbic system then collects or processes the emotions and interprets them,” she says.

That’s why you can’t dismiss the emotional side of marketing.

For instance, our brains can spot the difference between a fake smile and a real one.

So in photos of you or your team members, “if your smile doesn’t match the emotion in your eyes, the brain knows that’s fake,” Bloomfield says.

The challenge: Making ads that stick

68%

Percentage of consumers who recalled fewer than 5 ads they’d seen in the past week

Source: ORC International/Mirriad

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