“Your words mean nothing to me!!!” she screamed, throwing the glass in her one hand while forcefully pulling away the other from my grasp. She didn’t care that her drink spilled all over her paper… the paper she spent the last three hours laboring over. The paper she was so very proud of. She wanted me to know that this conversation was over. I tried to explain but by that time my window had closed. She turned and walked out the door. I’d never get the chance to get it off my chest. Not that day anyway.
I learned a valuable lesson that afternoon – never try to explain to your 5 year old why it’s not safe to play with matches when you preface your lecture with “Honey, I’m sorry. I gashed a giant hole in your favorite teddy bear when I was practicing my kung-fu this morning. Anyyywayyyy…”.
She was right, my 5 year old. Words don’t mean a thing to her or to you. Not if you haven’t a physical experience (one imbued with emotion) or metaphorical representation of the concept. In her case her brain is in exploration and discovery mode, the world is unchartered territory. The person she will become and the concepts around which her life will be shaped will be determined by her experiences and the emotions she will attach to each new encounter.
Saying to my 5 year old, “don’t touch the stove, you might get burned” is not a deterrent. Not if she’s never been burned. Not if she hasn’t felt the physical and emotional pain of a burn – if she has no visual and emotional representation (in her mind) to which she can associate the word ‘burn’. But when she does grab for my hot coffee mug and feels the sting and I say “you got burned… sucker!” – that sting, that unconscious physical reaction of jerking away, that imprint, will be associated with the word and stored in memory for the rest of her life.
We live in the information age, but our brain is from the stone-age
Not to suggest that anyone from the stone-age was unsophisticated. As Fred Flinstone clearly demonstrated – he even wore a tie! Then again the tie was matched with a sleeveless mress (man dress) and bare feet… he probably was just a hillbilly (no offense to hillbillies).
Though a super-structure of information handling and processing, limitless capacity to function, energy efficient and lightning fast – the brain isn’t a compact, streamlined piece of equipment built on cutting edge technology. Instead it’s more of a jam packed, cumbersomely architected and engineered tool built on old technology.
While we may switch old technology out for newly developed ones in machinery in today’s world, evolution didn’t phase (brain) systems out replacing them with more efficient ones. Instead it created new ones, established the connections between related structures and packed it into the existing structure (on top of the old), in order to handle new challenges and respond to new situations as the world around it changed. Our brain today is mostly the same brain of pre-historic man. Still overwhelmingly driven by the unconscious sub-structures. And in the case of men, still confused by women.
When confronted with a new product, the customer’s perception of it will be shaped by his culture, by his environment and by what you tell him. The images you use and the picture you create in his mind will be injected with emotions from experiences of his past.
As mentioned in a previous article “Money Can’t Buy Happiness But It Can Buy Pink Princess Pretty Ponies” – as far as the consumer is concerned, products don’t exist (you have to read the article). The customer’s perception will be influenced by a similar type of product he’s used, by what others might have told him and by your marketing.
If you were selling a car, would your message be, “this car can take you from point A to point B” or “with this new car you will be the envy of your group” – his purchase decision will be guided by the way you make him feel. He will create the images in his mind to reflect for his personal situation, what your marketing suggested. His decision between your car and the other company’s car might come from his innate desire for social status as opposed to his transportation needs.
You begin speaking to his influential subconscious mind when you communicate in terms of images and metaphors. He represents these images in his own mind, infused with emotion. This is your marketing sweet spot. In your next sales pitch, your next interview, your next date, your next meeting – communicate your message using this formula. Anyway, I have to end this article as I simply must go practice my kung-fu. Watch out Malibu Barbie, you self-obsessed, pretentious bitch.
This article was written by Marc Narine.
Marc works with companies to elevate marketing performance and profitability by going beyond the feature/benefit approach to instead assessing the consumer’s emotional and cultural imprints and subconscious attachments to a product. He is the primary author at 3Brain Marketing.