When we think about ways to improve and refine and improve our content marketing strategy, we probably don’t think about the field of neuroscience. But this academic discipline offers many insights into how to market a product or service—so many insights, in fact, that it’s become a field of its own.
We call this field neuromarketing, and it involves take advantage of the wealth of information gleaned from measuring the brain’s electrical fluctuations to drive positive engagement with marketing messages. Most businesses, of course, are not going to hire a neuroscientist to analyze the effectiveness of their content marketing strategies.
At the same time, there is all sorts of feedback, information, and advice we can take from existing neuromarketing research to help us put together more focused, results-driven content marketing plans. Let’s explore five of the most important ways we can use insights from the field of neuromarketing to improve and refine a content marketing strategy:
Use emotions to wake up the brain: Our brains kick into high gear when we’re stimulated by powerful, intense emotions. If a visceral emotion that we feel is a positive experience, our brains wake us up so we can enjoy the pleasure-inducing aspects of the experience; if the visceral emotion we feel is negative, our brains also wake us up—in this case, to actively plot out how to protect and insulate ourselves from the negative experience.
Thus, content that triggers strong emotions (whether positive or negative) plays a key role in activating our brains, which, in turn, makes us more likely to absorb and retain the content that’s in front of us.
Appeal to the brain’s self-serving instincts: Our brains have evolved to be self-serving, to react in ways that keep us alive (i.e., the survival instinct) and to help us feel good about ourselves. Thus, content marketing pieces that stroke the readers’ ego and make them feel validated and at peace with their own emotional, physical, and mental condition is more likely to be well-received.
Feed the brain’s desire for familiarity: The reason that branding is so powerful in the marketing world is because of our brain’s desire to derive consistency and comfort from interactions with the world around us. Indeed, when we recognize familiar patterns, our brains respond by producing the pleasure-inducing neurochemical dopamine. In the world of content marketing, these familiar patterns include the fonts, images, graphics, and color choices we use in content production.
Help the brain to avoid complexity: Obviously we should be doing everything we can to make our content pieces as simple and straightforward for the reader. But did you know that anything that our brains perceive as difficult to process and interpret automatically becomes a more complicated and time-consuming task? That means we must be cognizant of all potential access barriers, including a poor font choice or a complex graphic or a too-big block of text.
Surprise the brain with unexpected word choices: When we’re consuming a piece of content, our brains are wired to process information quickly by essentially predicting and pre-processing the words and sentence constructions we expect to consume. In this way, we’re able to skip and skim through content while still absorbing its central messages and themes. Therefore, in the world of content marketing, we want use unexpected word choices and sentence constructions that stimulate and wake up our brains.
For example, if we read the phrase, “Money doesn’t grow on _____,” our brain is likely to automatically pre-fill in the final word (i.e., “trees”). However, if instead we encounter the words “designer jeans”—as in, “Money doesn’t grow on designer jeans”—our brain suddenly wakes up and our interest is piqued. Thus, as content marketers, we want to learn to play word games and manipulate language (sparingly, of course).
There’s no question our brains are instinctively activated by certain types of stimulation. Our challenge is to harness and channel the right types of stimulation to create more effective marketing content. Fortunately, neuroscience can be an important asset for us, teaching us how to use emotions to wake up our brain, how to appeal to our brain’s innately self-serving interests, how to feed our brain’s desire for familiarity and simplicity, and how to surprise our brain with word games and other unexpected language manipulations.