Archive for brain science

Content Marketing Writers: How’s Your Cognitive Fitness?

brain-freedigitalphotos.netWhat’s the most important thing you can do to improve your skills as a writer, blogger, or content marketer? I’m not sure there’s any one right answer, but my vote goes to working on your cognitive fitness.

That’s a term we’re going to be hearing a lot about. I first read about it in Harvard Business Review in a 2007 article called Cognitive Fitness by Roderick Gilkey and Clint Kilts.

Originally coined by Michael Merzenich, cognitive fitness refers to the capacity of a person to meet the intellectual demands of life. It is evident in an ability to:

  • Assimilate information
  • Apply rules of logic
  • Comprehend relationships
  • Detect patterns
  • Identify emotions
  • Create new perspectives
  • Develop reasonable conclusions and plans

If that’s not a job description for the professional content marketing writer, what is?

Brain Coaching for Writers Read More→

Better Content Marketing:
Words and Numbers Matter

Content-MattersAs a psychologist, I’m fascinated by how our brains work. When writing online content, I try to apply neuroscience to understanding why some copy outperforms others. When writing for business, i.e. content marketing, you want to get the words right, so that  your web pages, blogs and e-newsletters get results for your business.

Words matter. Content matters. Sometimes it boils down to just one word or set of words that can make the difference between a customer who reads or one who clicks away. For example, which do you think has more impact:

  1. The surgery has a 95% survival rate
  2. One out of 20 patients die from the procedure

If you are like most people, you would find the second statement far more worrisome even though the odds are the same. Even in today’s marketing world, where we are inundated with images and sounds, words still matter a great deal.

There is a subtle but important difference between “10 percent” and “1 out of every 10.” Roger Dooley cites examples in his book Brainfluence: Read More→

Content Marketing: Stories are Key

If you want your content marketing messages to be remembered, you must engage the emotional memories of your readers. Memory formation happens in two ways:

1.  You say or do something that makes an emotional connection.

2.  Something happens that closely resembles a previously established emotional connection.

What results is a neural network of associations that get triggered by a hot-button stimulus. Everything we retain in memory is because it’s gained an emotional place in our brain. At some point, something was important enough because it was emotional. That’s what hot-buttons are… we feel as if someone has poked us.

As a content marketing professional, you have words and visuals in your quiver of tools. How do you poke someone and push their hot buttons?

Stories are key. Negative stories can get people’s attention, but can also leave a negative aftertaste, if not followed by positive stories. I’ve talked about this before, and here’s a graph to illustrate this: Read More→

The Ladder of Emotional Values: Pleasure Reigns

What emotions are people seeking to satisfy online? What can we understand about human motivations and values in order for content marketing to work?

Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs tells us we are motivated to satisfy our basic needs first (food, shelter, clothing), before we seek to obtain satisfaction for social, intellectual and spiritual needs.

A similar hierarchy of emotional values exists. As incoming information from web and blog pages enters the brain and is processed, our emotional centers assign values to offers.

Brain science, along with studies on decision making from behavioral economics, has shown that people often don’t use logical reasoning. Instead they go with their gut reactions. They make decisions based on feelings.

Later, when that leads to a buying decision, people justify their actions with rational logic and intellectual “alibis.”

At the lowest level, people have a desire for security. The next thing they seek is comfort. At the top of the ladder, people will pay the most to satisfy a desire to experience pleasure.

Although these values are all emotional, rationality plays a part. Online, an offer must work properly for consumers to feel secure. A marketing offer also provides comfort through ease of purchase, and also by providing reasons to defend the purchase to friends and family. But rationality is never the deciding factor. Read More→

Content Marketing Tasks: Practice Makes Progress

If you’ve spent your career avoiding certain marketing tasks because you don’t think you’re any good at them, you struggle each time you try, and you end up with weak results, take heart. Persistence has been touted by poets for a reason.

Your brain learns a lot each time you try something, even if you fail. If you stop trying, you’ll walk away with nothing. If you persist, however, the rewards are huge.

Example: public speaking. Many small business owners and entrepreneurs including many of my clients love the chance to get up and speak. The larger the group, the better. In my experience, they are extroverts. They love people and love conversations.

On the other hand, they usually don’t like writing. (Which is why they are my clients… they need content and they need to publish on the web – blogs, e-newsletters, ebooks, etc.)

Other people tend to focus their online marketing on content; they write books and they publish blogs and newsletters… and they hate speaking. They would rather have a root canal than deliver even a 3 minute elevator speech at a networking event.

While you can outsource your written content, especially online, you can’t outsource your speaking. You’ve got to deliver a speech yourself in order to represent your business and get clients.

Make no mistake, there is magic that comes from speaking from the podium. It works like a magnet for drawing people to you, creating credibility and potential working relationships.

You have to persist at things in order to learn them. Writing gets better each time you write, the same goes for blogging, revising web pages, writing sales copy, email promotions. The more you practice the better you are and the easier the task becomes. Here’s an example: Read More→

Why Writing Like You Talk
Works Better for Your Brain

Today’s guest post is by Barb Sawyers:

Many experts who try to write their own content need to rewire their brains, to abandon the lessons drilled into them at school in favor of the more conversational approach that works better online. The good news is that they can evolve.

Think about the conclusions of Dr. Norman Doidge in The Brain that Changes Itself, and other neuroscientists who have confirmed that people can recover or develop new regions to compensate for brain damage caused by strokes or congenital defects.

If they can make changes this profound, certainly you can rewire your writing process, even if it’s deeply entrenched from higher education, professional experience or other neural programming. Your neuroplasticity, as the brain geeks call it, means you can move from an objective style that builds walls to content that sticks to emotions and subconscious longings.

Yes, this takes practice, discipline and an open attitude, but luckily some of these changes come easily because they’re based on talking, the communication mainstay we all learned before writing.

I don’t have a million dollar research grant, but let me share what I’ve learned as my writing has adjusted. If you compared scans of my brain before and after writing for the web, I bet you’d see different areas light up, maybe new synaptic tangos too. Read More→

Basic Human Motivation: 4 Ways to Engage Readers

If you are writing content designed to persuade and influence, you need to know what makes people tick. (photo courtesy of digitalart/

There are universal drives that are common in all human beings, across cultures, across the globe. When you create content that appeals to either of these four basic drives, you can’t help but engage the hearts and minds of readers on a profound level.

We can learn a lot from evolutionary studies. Our brains haven’t changed much, nor have our fundamental motivations.

I suggest a frame work for understanding basic human motivations: the Four Drive Theory, presented by Professors Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Noria in their 2001 book Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices.

There are many theories about what motivates behaviors, but I like this Four Drive theory because it is based on studies of primitive man, primitive societies, and the evolution of brain functioning over the last 100,000 years.

It doesn’t matter if you view humans as being motivated according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or Freud’s Pleasure/Pain framework, or any other drive theory. What matters for marketing is that you understand basic human drives, and what drives peoples’ behaviors at their most fundamental sources.

This theory doesn’t exclude other theories, but as a framework for marketing, I think it works quite well. Keeping these four things in mind, you can create more effective marketing that reaches the subconscious brains of your consumers. Read More→

Neuromarketing Books for Marketing to Brains

If you want to know more about how to write content that makes an impact on the brains of your readers, here are some interesting sites and books about the emerging field of neuromarketing.

There are new neuromarketing companies and books galore, and I believe most offer important clues for content marketers. Here are a few of my favorites:

“WIIFM”? Neuromarketing Improves Your Odds

Every time I read about a new neuromarketing study, it seems they’re only confirming what copywriters and marketers knew all along: to get readers to take action, you must address the “what’s in it for me” filter in consumers’ minds.  Easy, right?  Well…

Although we can’t directly cause people to do something, we can use knowledge of the brain to improve our chances of influencing their buying decisions. We can write better content because we understand how consumers make decisions.

We know more about the subconscious functions than ever before. We know what kinds of messages reach the emotional brain and the old brain, even though consumers aren’t aware of their influence. More importantly, we now understand that much of our decision making goes on in the old brain, out of conscious awareness.

Neuromarketing and science can help improve your content writing so that it has more of an impact on people in your target audience.

I just love this site: SalesBrain, a neuromarketing company. Founded by Christophe Morin and Patrick Renvoise, authors of Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Button Inside Your Customers’ Brains. The company does sales training using neuroscience as it applies to what influences buying decisions.

I recommend you visit the site, as it is clear and easy to navigate to find great information about buying decisions. I found the page on 6 ways to stimulate the old brain especially illuminating.

Here’s an excerpt from

The ‘Old Brain’ is Self-Centered

The ‘Old Brain’ is a very self-centered entity and general considerations about others do not reach it. Think of it as the center of ME. Do not assume that it has any patience or empathy for anything that does not immediately concern its survival and well-being.

The ‘Old Brain’ Seeks Contrast

Before/after, with/without, slow/fast all allow the Old Brain to decide. Contrast is a safe decision engine. It allows quick and safe decisions. Without contrast, it enters a state of confusion, which ultimately results in delaying decision.

The ‘Old Brain’ is Tangible

Numbers work for the neo-cortex, but the ‘Old Brain’ won’t decide based on numbers alone! It is constantly scanning for what is familiar and friendly, what can be recognized quickly, what is tangible and immutable. It cannot process concepts like “flexible solution”, “integrated approach”, or “scalable architecture” without efforts and doubts.

The ‘Old Brain’ Remembers Beginning and End

It forgets most everything in the middle. This short attention span has huge implications on how to construct and deliver powerful messages. Placing the most important content at the beginning is a must, and repeating it at the end an imperative. Keep in mind that anything you say in the middle of your delivery will be mostly overlooked.

The ‘Old Brain’ is Visual

Neuroscience demonstrates that when you see something that looks like a snake, you react even before the conscious mind physically recognizes it’s a snake. This implies that visual processing enters the ‘Old Brain’ first which can lead to very fast and effective connection to the true decision-maker.

The ‘Old Brain’ Responds to Emotion

Neuroscience has clearly demonstrated that ’emotional cocktails’ create chemical reactions that directly impact the way we memorize and act.

What do you think about this? Makes sense to me.

How will you apply it to your content marketing?


Memory + Emotional Attention = Content Marketing

How do you write good blog posts that connect emotionally with readers and turn them into loyal fans? Oh, heck, that’s easy. All you have to do is:

  1. Grab their attention
  2. Get them emotionally engaged
  3. Make a memorable impact

There you go, right? Easy-peasy. This is what you need to do whenever you write any content designed to market your products and services. Attention, emotions, memory.

Neuroscientists are now showing that the two most important elements of persuasion are emotional engagement and memory. Of course you can’t get either of these unless your marketing messages gain readers’ attention first.

Why this is so important? We’ll go into how to do it another day, since this involves quite  number of suggestions and tips.

These three goals for your content marketing are required if you want to write stuff that is effective to attract prospects, and get them interested and primed for making a purchase or other desired action.

This information comes from research on neuromarketing and what makes people buy. If you’re interested in learning more about the brain from a marketer’s viewpoint, I recommend The Buying Brain and Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brains. Read More→