There has been a lot of research lately within neurology about the development of our brains, and the dynamics that exist related to one of humanity’s favorite functions:  buying.  Understanding the evolution of one of the most complex organs on our planet can help, according to some, identify how people begin to think about their buying.

This growing field of Neuromarketing was the subject of a recent session at the Idea Festival in Louisville, KY last week.  Patrick Renvoise, a French marketing expert and former salesman of supercomputers, spoke on Thursday about whether or not there exists an intrinsic “buy” button in our brains.  If one does exist, imagine the potential marketers will have to sell their products.  Once they know how to tap into the part of the brain that controls our impulse to buy, then marketing campaigns can powerfully relate to those impulses.

Renvoise, author of the book Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain, spent an hour discussing the evolution of our brain, and understanding how the brain works is key in developing a good marketing campaign.  The premise is this:  our brain is actually three smaller brains through which the course of evolution has developed into one comprehensive, interrelated organ.  Though one organ in our current makeup, it acts as three in its functioning.

1. The new brain is the most recent evolutionary addition to our brain, and it controls our ability to rationalize decisions and thoughts.

2. The middle brain processes our ability to feel and have emotions.  Our gut feelings reside here.

3. The old brain, or the reptilian brain, is where our instinctual decisions are made.  Imagine homo sapiens roaming around pre-civilization searching for food, wary of wild beasts and predators – this was the extent of our brain during that time, and it’s main function was to prevent pain, thus preserving the body.

It is within the reptilian brain where most of our decisions, at least the important ones, are made.  Renvoise states that this part of the brain is 45,000 times older than written communication, and thus written words don’t necessarily impact it.  It is visual in nature, and it reacts on basic instinct.  Thus, it responds to what it sees.  But when we make decisions, we use all three parts of the brain, leading to emotional and rational choices.  Hence we now have complex, rational (at times) societies.

But let’s focus on this reptilian part of the brain for a moment, because this is where Renvoise believes the most effective marketing must be focused.  Take into consideration this case study – as it is illustrative on how marketing aimed at this reptilian functionality can be very effective.  A pizza delivery company fielded a survey to its customers in an attempt to discover what they were most concerned about in the delivery of their pizza.  One would assume the obvious – cold pizza, cardboard taste, cheese melted to the box.  Rather, they found that the biggest concern customers had was the anxiety they felt around when their pizza would arrive.  The company was Dominoes, and as a result, they implemented their 30-minute delivery guarantee, launching the company into the fastest growing pizza chain the country.  Nevermind whether it was the best tasting pizza – they figured out the pain their customers felt, and they targeted it.

We as humans believe that what we buy is therefore necessary; thus at the core of a particular buy is a primitive reaction.  If we think about it too long, we begin to rationalize away our desire to buy something – it’s too expensive; I already have something similar to this; there are other things I need first.  Sound familiar?  There is nothing wrong with this, as this type of rationalization is why we have survived in our complex societies.  However, if a marketer is trying to push a product or service, they must find a way get past this.  After all, people don’t like being sold to – they like to buy!

You have to figure out what kind of pain your audience is undergoing, because at the crux of our decision making for buying is pain avoidance.  What is it they truly need or want?  And how can you relieve that pain?  This is how, according to Renvoise, you access those ever elusive “buy” buttons of your customers.

If you are interested in Renvoise’s book, here is the info:
Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain, by Patrick Renvoise and Christoph Morin: Thomas Nelson, Publisher: 2007