Who me?

Our brain is quirky and certainly not logical.  Despite what we tell ourselves.

Our brain remembers things differently than computers do.  We remember by association and context.  Computers remember facts.  We zoom in on facts by association.

We use things more familiar to recall things that are less familiar.  When you want to remember someone that is married to your cousin…  What is his name?  Out of your head pops, Wayne’s World, oh yeah, his name is Garth.  Hi Garth.

The computer doesn’t remember it that way.  It just has Garth filed under G, with various tags none of which would connect my cousin’s husband with a movie.

Knowing how our brain remembers this can be a useful aid to advertisers.

That’s why we advertising people take familiar phrases and sayings and change them a little to become slogans for products.  That’s also why we use music to aid memory.  The melody is the context for the words and rhymes help aid recall by providing context as well.  When we write songs the important words should rhyme so they are better established in the listener’s memory.

Another way humans think that is different from computer chips is that we interpret reality in favour of what we are familiar with?  When we see a new person, we often remember them by thinking they look like someone else we know or know of.  It is like we have a familiarity filter that will even change reality to make it fit with our familiarity or expectations based on our familiarity.  Many psychologists have shown how stereotypes taint witnesses.  And that’s why I am so often mistaken for Bruce Springsteen.

Knowing about this familiarity filter can be a useful aid to advertisers.  It is why leading advertisers often get credit for competitors’ advertising particularly if it not very well branded.

The way our brain relies on familiarity can change how we think of products by the context advertisers present them in.  When the sexy girl shows you the car, you associate her sexiness with the car, no matter how much you understand she is just a hired model.  You can’t dismiss her aura of sexiness.  She creates a filter that is the context for your seeing the car.

Most people know we have two brains.  There is our primitive animal brain and a later evolved social and thinking brain.  The primitive brain reacts to animal issues: food, safety, sex.  It is kind of a teenager.  It understands visuals quickly since our ancestors had to decide quickly to attack, run or hide in seconds or be eaten.  When this part of the brain gets something; the understanding is strong and lasts and overshadows the more reasoning brain.

Our later brain reasons things out.  It reads and analyses to make a considered action. It can easily be fooled by the filter applied by the primitive brain.

These facts should tell advertisers  to appeal to the strong influence of the primitive brain because it will filter out complicated thoughts:  As we say about outdoor headlines: the best headline is no headline at all and no headline should be more than seven words.  People are driving by and not stopping to read and consider billboards.  They filter the messages through their primitive, unreasoning brain.

Come to think of it, people are not paying rapt attention to most advertising.  So take a lesson from your animal brain, and Procter & Gamble.  The more you can show your strategic message visually, the better.  Everyone can remember the bottle of Downy dropping into the towels – that says soft.  Or Mr. Clean reflecting off of a shiny surface.  These strategy visuals are immediately understandable by the primitive brain.  They don’t need any copy to explain it.  You might forget the commercial, but you get the visual.

Clever headlines that rely on double meanings and complicated thoughts might leave the copywriter’s reasoning brain feeling superior and masterful but they often leave the consumer feeling puzzled or just plain uninterested because the message got filtered out.  Graphic ideas that go directly to that primitive brain get understood quickly and get action.

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