Primal Marketing: 4 Ways to Create an Instant Connection With Customers

Tap into brain science research to get your message out loud and clear.

learn more about Cynthia Price

By Cynthia Price

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Scientists have conducted research for years to unlock the secrets of the human mind -- and more and more marketers are starting to take notice. Here, four ways you can incorporate the latest study results into your marketing to better cut through the clutter and get big-time results.

1. Tell a story

Gut reactions happen in three seconds or less, and marketers have about that long to get someone scanning their inbox to notice and open their email.

Subject line word choice is key. Outbrain found headlines that promise convenience and efficiency (featuring keywords like ideas, tricks, quick, etc.) have click-through rates 22 percent higher than average.

And once customers click, one of the best ways you can create a connection is to tell a story. Storytelling allows marketers to make an emotional appeal to consumer, and to use that emotional reaction to influence behavior.

In one study, a Stanford professor asked each of her students give a one-minute pitch. Only one in 10 students told a story in their pitch, while the others created pitches rooted in facts and figures. The professor then asked the class to write down everything they remembered about each pitch. Only five percent of students cited a statistic, but a staggering 63 percent remembered the story.

Related: The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding

2. Grab attention with visuals

Humans are hardwired to be visual creatures: Ninety percent of the information that comes to the brain arrives via our optic nerve, and that visual data is processed 60,000 times faster than info received in text form.

Marketers can take advantage of this by going big with video. A 2014 Outbrain report found holiday headlines that promised video content had click-through rates 27 percent higher than average. When you add product videos, testimonials or fun behind-the-scenes vignettes to your emails, be clear that it's a video in the subject line.

No video to promote? No worries. Our brains also light up in reaction to images -- and we comprehend and remember pictures with text more than text alone. The primitive brain is especially drawn to images that show sex, danger and food -- a picture of a skydiving model eating a cheeseburger is perfect. You know, if that works for your brand.

And don't forget about infographics. They're a great way to illustrate complex data or concepts in a visual format. We love them because they're easy to understand and highly sharable: Google reports an 800 percent increase in searches for the term "infographic" in the last two years. Plus, the hashtag #infographic is used 342,000 times per month on average.

3. Appeal to our emotions

To survive their harsh and dangerous environment, early humans had to rely on the brain's most primitive instincts when avoiding predators and interacting with other humans.

The part of the brain in control of these primal urges is called the amygdala. Even after a few millennia of evolution, it's still in charge of our initial decision-making process (even if those decisions no longer involve dodging a stampeding mammoth). The amygdala is also still responsible for our desire to connect with other people.

Related: The Basics of Branding

Human beings love to look at faces. Images of faces grab attention, build trust and light up the brain's emotional receptors, even when viewed in an email or on a website.

If you use images of people in your email marketing, it stimulates the amygdala and piques the viewer's interest. For added punch, use images that visually direct the reader to the most critical part of your message. For example, select a photo of a smiling model with his or her eyes pointing toward the call to action. The amygdala will pick up on this facial cue and cause the reader to look where she's looking.

4. Choose the right color

There's a lot of science behind our relationship to color, and we know that color alone plays a pivotal role in decision-making. It can even help cultivate positive or negative attitudes about a brand.

A mind-blowing 62 to 90 percent of a consumer's feeling about a product is determined by color alone -- and different colors actually send different signals to our brain.

Yellow activates the anxiety center of the brain, which is useful if you're trying to motivate a reader to take urgent action or create a "don't miss out" mindset. Blue builds trust, which explains why it's the brand color of choice for many banks and financial institutions. Red stimulates the fight-or-flight response and can actually increase blood pressure and heart rate. Plus, it focuses our attention, which makes it a great choice for point-of-sale CTAs to motivate people to buy.

Of course, every audience is different. Embrace your inner marketing geek, and test a combination of these data-backed brain tips to see what works best for your audience.

Related: The One Thing Great Brands Do: Insights From a Branding Expert

Cynthia Price

Director of Marketing at Emma, Inc.

Cynthia Price is director of marketing at Emma, an email-marketing company. With an extensive background in sales and marketing, Cynthia represents Emma at conferences across the country, where she can be found geeking out about everything from subject lines to audience segmentation.

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