Episode 251:

As agency owners, we are constantly searching for new ways to harness the power of persuasion and trigger an audience’s buy-button on behalf of our clients. Understanding what’s happening inside the consumer’s head and what drives their behavior is where that effort begins. We’ve always worked to understand how audiences in the past, but what if we could leverage data and science to crack the code and target the decision-making part of a prospect’s brain?

As a neuroscientist and an agency owner, my guest Patrick Renvoise bridges the gap between science and marketing so agency owners can understand what makes different audiences tick.

He has taken an entirely new approach to persuasion that enables agency owners to better recommend marketing solutions to their clients by explaining the science behind them. It is one of the many reasons Patrick co-founded SalesBrain, the world’s first neuromarketing agency, where he currently serves as the Chief Persuasion Officer.

In this episode, we’ll explore the science behind human decision-making and how we can harness that for our agencies and our clients.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Agency Owner | The science of marketing

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How the brain reacts to persuasion
  • The role of the primal brain in decision making, and how to reach it
  • The six stimuli of the primal brain and how to leverage them in your work
  • Why logical and emotional messaging is not enough to impact your customer’s decision
  • How to position your agency against all of the other agencies in the landscape

The Golden Nuggets:

“Traditional marketing is about asking people what they want, but it’s useless because people don’t know what they want.” @patrickrenvoise Click To Tweet “Until now, nobody has ever created a bridge between the world of neuroscience and the world of sales and marketing.” @patrickrenvoise Click To Tweet “The Primal Brain can only be triggered by an emotional stimulus.” @patrickrenvoise Click To Tweet “In reality, we still react to stimuli in a very primal way.” @patrickrenvoise Click To Tweet “Agency owners shouldn’t optimize their messaging for right now; they should optimize it for when the customer is going to make their decision.” @patrickrenvoise Click To Tweet

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for agency owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with over 250+ agencies every year, Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written several books, including Sell With Authority (2020) and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

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Speaker 1 (00:01):

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute community where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money, and keep more of what you make. The Build A Better Agency podcast presented by White Label IQ is packed with insights on how small to midsize agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Speaker 2 (00:33):

Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back to another episode of Build A Better Agency. Super glad to have you back. You know, on this show we try very hard to stay uber focused on talking to guests about, or am I solocast talking about how you can build your agency to be a stronger, more profitable business. And the whole goal is to help you scale it if you want to, help you sustain it so that you don’t have quite so high of highs and low of lows, but it’s a nice steady growth and down the road, if you want to that you can sell it, that you’ve built something that is worthy of a sale. But mostly what I care about is that your agency is running well, that you love the work you’re doing, and that you’re making great money doing it. So as a result, we often have guests that talk about business fundamentals and aspects of our work in terms of growing the business.

Speaker 2 (01:28):

We talk a lot about the business side of the business. And so we don’t tend to dabble in science very often. And this episode is going to be a huge departure from that because we are going to dive deep into science. But you are going to love it and you’re going to, I promise you, you’re going to quote this episode. That’s how good this guest is. And I cannot wait to pick his brain on your behalf. So I’m going to tell you a little bit more about him. But first I want to give you this reminder. If you have not taken the agency owner assessment that we built a couple of years ago or you took it two years ago and you want to compare your results that you got, then with what you would get today, head over to AgencyManagementInstitute.com/assessment. It’ll take you about six minutes to take the assessment and then it’s going to measure your agency in five key areas.

Speaker 2 (02:28):

And then it’s going to send you a report. It’s going to email you a report that tells you sort of based on your answers, where you need to focus your time and attention. And we also did a webinar late last summer that looked at all of the agencies that had taken the assessment. And so if you’re interested in seeing that webinar, you can watch that if you go onto the webinar tab on the website, you can see that. So, take the assessment first and then watch the webinars to see how you compare to other agencies. And again, that’s AgencyManagementInstitute.com/Assessment. All right, let me tell you a little bit about our guest. So Patrick Renvoise is a neuroscientist, but he’s also an agency owner. So he is fascinated by these two very disparate and yet connected topics, which are how the brain works, the science of how the brain works, and marketing.

Speaker 2 (03:28):

And so he’s written several books on this topic specifically around the power of persuasion and how we as marketers can find and trigger our consumers buy button. And so we’re gonna dig into this in terms of how the brain works and you’re going to find I think, based on my reading of the book and some other things, information that Patrick gave us is that oftentimes what we “know to be true”, there is science behind it and you can use the science to help clients understand why you’re recommending what you’re recommending. But also I will tell you there is science behind some of the things I’ve been telling you to do around your agency. So my first major in college was psychology. I really thought I was going to be a therapist. And I guess in some ways it turned out that I am, and there’s a long story, which I’m happy to tell you over drinks sometime with how it didn’t play out the way I thought it was going to.

Speaker 2 (04:30):

So I find all of this just fascinating and Patrick is the expert in this field of combining this brain science with marketing. And so I’m super excited to have him here with us and that he’s going to share with us what he knows. So without further ado, let’s get to Patrick Renvoise and find out everything he knows about our brains. Patrick, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us. Welcome.

Speaker 3:

Good day Drew. Thank you for your invitation.

Speaker 2:

You bet. So we’re going to talk science today, which is not something we talk about a lot on the podcast, so you may have to go slow for me and I may ask you to help me with it, the big words. But, I’m excited to get into this. So give people a little bit of an understanding of your background, of how you came to write The Persuasion Code and how you came to sort of understand this, sort of I know you have a special name for it, but this mapping of the brain and how we persuade and make decisions.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so I’m actually a nerd. I graduated in computer science and electrical engineering and I spent my life selling very expensive solutions, hardware, and software things in the millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars. And then 20 years ago after realizing that I have learned how to persuade

Speaker 3 (05:58):

people, I have learned it for myself, that was not exciting anymore for me to just continue to persuade other people. I thought, well, maybe I can teach other people what I have learned in the lifetime of persuasion. And I found the answers, not in sales and marketing books, but I found the answer in the neural science world. If you look at the world of neural science today, people understand quite well how the brain works when it comes to making a decision. But we in the business world, they have not connected with those people yet. In fact, my very first book was titled,  Neuromarketing. Neuro as in the brain and marketing as in I’m going to try to sell you something. So I created this very first book with my partner, the very first book on neuromarketing. And then another 15 or 16 years later when we finally realized that neuromarketing was yet only one tool to reach the ultimate goal. And what’s the ultimate goal? The ultimate goal in sales and marketing is to persuade people. So again, I have learned this over a lifetime of trial and error, but when we looked at the science of what neuro-psychologist, evolutionary biologists, all these experts on the brain, tell us about how the brain works, then we can come up with a very simple step by step process of what it takes to persuade.

Speaker 2 (07:17):

So I know that you talk about the buy button and how that lies in the brain of the buyer. And one of the things that I found very interesting was it then your premise was that I know you don’t mean this literally, but we don’t have one brain. We have two, so help us understand that a little bit.

Speaker 3 (07:37):

Yes. Well, for the longest period of time and because of a French philosopher called Descartes, we were under the illusion that Homo sapiens were rational decision-making machines. In other words, we’re using our neurocortex, what makes us unique? The name of our species in Latin Homo sapiens sapiens. You have to say twice. It means the one who knows and thinks. Why? Because of all the species on earth, we are the only ones that is thinking a lot before we decide. You know, most animals, simply react to the stimulus. Put a piece of sugar in front of the dog. Oh, in front of the nose of the dog. It’s going to be very hard for the dog to resist the urge of jumping on it.

Speaker 3 (08:17):

If I put a piece of sugar in front of your nose, you’re good to go. Oh no, it’s too early in the day. I do not need the extra sugar. I have cholesterol. I have diabetes. So we think more than any other species on earth before we decide, and in fact, that’s the name of our species. But no scientists have established today, beyond a reasonable doubt, that when we decide it’s not our neuro cortex that drives the process, it’s actually a brain that lies underneath it. It has many different names. We call it the primal brain. A researcher by the name of Daniel Kahneman who won the Nobel Prize in economics called the System One and Kahneman and some other high-level researcher has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the primal brain, our ancestral brain, our old brain or limbic system if you want to call it, they are not quite synonyms, but that’s the idea, that brain that lies underneath

Speaker 3 (09:07):

it is the key to persuasion. Okay? This is a brain that we share with all vertebrates because any animal that has vertebrates, their nervous system, in other words, the organ of decision making is the termination of that nervous system. So even a very primal animal such as a reptile has to make a lot of decisions every day. The reptile makes the decision of, am I going to eat this? Am I going to eat that? Am I going to crawl here? Am I going to crawl there? Well, that’s the brain inside the skull of Homo sapiens. It still drives the decision-making process. And again, this is not something which is known in the world of business. People that have spent their time studying the brain, they notice. But nobody has ever created a bridge between that world of neuroscience and the world of sales and marketing. So that’s what we do. We teach people how to reach that system one or that primal brain, right?

Speaker 2 (10:00):

So I think most agency owners and their employees, we talk a lot about, you know, that we get that people buy based on emotion and that we have to stimulate that with our work. So basically we have to, we have to touch their emotional side and then we give them the facts so they can rationalize their buying decision. Right?

Speaker 3 (10:23):

That’s right. In fact, Antonio Massaro, one of those famous neuroscientists said, we are not thinking machines that feel. We are feeling machines that think once in a while. So that knowledge has permeated and every good agency knows this, right? But they don’t have a formal model of what it means today, what it takes to do this? Right? As you said, the primal brain is the organ that can only be triggered by emotion, and in fact, it’s one of the 6 stimuli that you can use to reach the primal brain. If I give you a stimulus and that stimulus has zero emotional content, it will have to be treated by the higher levels of the brain, of the neuro cortex. So by definition, when you try and stimulate your audience, it needs to have an emotional component. But guess what? It’s only one of the six stimuli to that primal brain, that System One.

Speaker 3 (11:20):

So, I’m going to use another analogy. All the effective advertising agencies, understand the language of the primal brain, but they have not really come up with a simple step by step process that will maximize your chances to always talk directly to that brain. So that’s what we’ve done. It happens at a lot of agencies already fluent in the language and when we teach them that language, you know the light bulb goes off. They go, oh now I understand why I was doing it right most of the time, and in those five to 10% where we didn’t do such a good job and we failed. Now I understand why.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so I know that you’ve sort of outlined, and we’re going to get into the six ways and all of that. So I’m going to extract as much of this out of you as I can in our conversation, but I want the listeners to know that that is what you’ve broken down in The Persuasion Code, the book that you wrote and it’s also the topic of the Ted talk that you did, that we will also include a link to in the show notes.

Speaker 2 (12:29):

So if you listen to Patrick and you’re like, I want more of this, or I want to expose my team to this in a deeper way, those are some good resources for you to go to. Now let’s talk about what are the six ways that we can stimulate that primal brain to push the buy button.

Speaker 3:

So let me give just a quick snapshot of the difference between the primal brain and the neuro cortex. So our neuro cortex is a rather recent evolutionary term. In other words, our species is about 220,000 years old. So Homo sapiens is a very, very young species. By contrast, our primal brain is about 500 million years old. So our neuro cortex started to appear only about 10 million years ago. It really started to develop when we became Homo erectus, but even Homo erectus was not very, very smart.

Speaker 3 (13:22):

It’s only recently that we started to use more and more of our neuro cortex. So the primal brain is a hundred times older than our rational brain. It’s a brain that Daniel Kahneman calls the fast brain and it’s the primal brain that is meant to react quickly. Why? Because speed is more important for survival than smarts. By contrast, our neuro cortex is a slow brain, but it’s what makes us smart. It’s the brain that we use when we talk, for example. It’s the brain that we use when we solve complex mathematical equations. Right? But there is a very simple reason why you still use our primal brain to decide. It’s because speed is more important for survival than smarts. The hardware that we use to decide is wired to make quick decisions. And on top of that, we’ve built a little software which is very thin, which is trying to make us smarter.

Speaker 3 (14:20):

But in reality, we still react to stimulus in a very primal way. And again, it’s not just pure luck, it’s because even flies are surviving, right? And flies are not very intelligent. A human being has about 80 billion neurons in its nervous system. A fly only has 20,000 neurons in its nervous system yet the fly survives.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And outsmarts us often.

Speaker 3:

Exactly. It survives because it can escape our hand and it does that, it’s almost a miracle because the fly does this with twenty thousand neurons, you cannot show off. You can only be a fly. So your washing machine has more intelligence than a fly. But the fly survived because life is fundamentally meant to react quickly because speed is crucial for survival. So that’s the brain that decides, that’s our fast brain. So I could go deeper into the description of that fast brain, but it’s really important for people to understand that we have two brains and when those two brains are in agreement on how to make a decision, that’s easy.

Speaker 3 (15:26):

The decision is instant, but the problem is that most of the time our primal brain is really our unconscious brain. It’s the brain that, for example, when you climb the stairs, your brain is telling your lungs, you need to bring more oxygen so I can provide that oxygen to my lower leg muscles. And I’m going to need to increase your heart rate,  your breathing, your digestion. All this needs to happen very quickly and you’re not even conscious of it. See, when you eat an apple, your primal brain will tell your stomach to send more juices, more acid into your stomach so you can digest the apple, but you’re not conscious of it. Right, and amazingly enough, that’s the brain that drives the decision-making process. In fact, the expert on that field, they talk about the field of persuasion being a bottom-up approach. In other words, persuasion starts from the primal brain, and then you derivates to the upper layers of the brain,

Speaker 3 (16:22):

not vice versa. But think of how most people, when they try to persuade, what do they do? They try to use logical arguments.

Speaker 2:


Speaker 3:

Yes, facts. Smart advertising agencies know that’s not enough so they sugarcoat that rational argument inside some kind of emotional stimulus, but there is more to understanding that primal brain so that you make it react in the proper way. So you know, again, by studying it for 20 years, you’d been able to highlight the fact that that primal brain is only going to react to the 6 stimuli. The emotional one is the last one. But I’m happy to describe with you more of the other 6 so that people understand how it works.

Speaker 2:

Yes, please tell us that.

Speaker 3:

Right. So the first stimulus is personal. What does that mean? It means fundamentally our primal brain is trying to avoid pain or eliminate pain at all costs. But it does that without any sense of compassion.

Speaker 3 (17:21):

At the primal level, it’s all about my survival. And I know that whatever decision I am making today, I need to maximize my probability to survive. Now, remember that crocodiles, don’t do compassion. They eat their offspring. Compassion is the neuro cortex. Emotion. It can be very effective when you try to persuade people in a lot of different situations. That’s not what I’m saying. Well, what I’m saying is if I try to talk to you Andrew today, and I tried to sell you my book, right? I know you don’t care about my book. You only care about the fact that my book helped your business. It helps your personal development, but you don’t care about me. Okay? So for now, when you stimulate your audience, you have to always instantly answer the question, what’s in it for them? Because fundamentally the primal brain is a selfish brain that’s only worried about its survival.

Speaker 3 (18:16):

So that’s the first – personal. The second stimulus is contrastable. By the way, let me give you the list altogether so that people get the hints of what it’s going to be about. But the primal brain is personal. It’s contrastable, it needs memorable stimulus, it’s visual. And then finally it’s emotional. So again, personal, contrastable, tangible, memorable, visual, and emotional. So the first one is personal, the second one’s contrastable but what does that mean? Well, that means your brain, although you’re not doing much right now other than, you know, sitting in front of your computer and talking to me, your brain is still processing about 11 million bits of information per second. That’s what the neuroscientists tell us. Even at rest, your brain is processing. This stimulus from your five senses and what’s called internal cognitive processes, in other words, what you’re thinking about. So if right now you’re thinking about, you know, what do you have in your fridge for lunch or dinner tonight?

Speaker 3 (19:21):

Yeah, that’s forcing your brain to process that information. So altogether your mind is processing 11 million bits of information per second. Unfortunately, the field of focus or attention has proven that we cannot direct our brain to process more than 50 bits per second. So of the 11 million bits that your brain is processing right now, you feel the focus is like using a laser dot on a huge screen. And you can only be conscious of those 50 bits per second. So how does your brain decide which bits of information to focus on? There is a very complicated system in the brain called the reticular activating system, which slides by the way, between the neuro cortex and the primal brain. And the job of that brain is to say of those neurons, you still say, well guess what? If I could not detect any contrast in the information that I’m receiving for a very simple survival issue, I’m not going to pay any attention to that.

Speaker 3 (20:22):

The opposite of this would be, imagine if you’re driving in the dark at night and suddenly there is a flash of light on your right field of vision. As a reflex, your eyes will turn there because your brain will say there is a flash, maybe it’s dangerous. I need to focus my attention on this. So by definition, the primal brain can only be triggered by contrastable information.

Speaker 2:

So in other words, if the work we do looks like everybody else’s work, then we are less likely, and again, we know this intellectually, we know that sort of by instinct, but the reason that the brain, the reason why this works, why if our work is generic and it looks like everyone else’s, or if our agency looks like every other agency out there, we cannot garner the attention of our audience is because the brain just disregards.

Speaker 3 (21:16):

Exactly. In fact, 98% of all websites start with the same sentence. What’s that sentence? That sentence is “We are one of the leading providers of …”. If you’re an agency, you’re probably claiming that you’re more creative than other people. But I could demonstrate later that the proof that you give to people that you are more creative than others, it’s not going to be accepted by the primal brain of the audience because the proof that you’re using is not going to be working. So again, contrastable is really important. So what you’re doing now is you’re already translating one of the neuroscience concepts into some direct business applications, right? Well, that means for agencies you have to be able to say we are the only one who will do this and that. And not only does the agency have to do that, when they create a campaign for that customer, they have to find a way to create that contrast in the campaign itself.

Speaker 3 (22:07):

And the easiest way to understand contrast at that level is you know the traditional way people sell you a program to lose weight. When you see a program to lose weight, they use contrast because what do they do? On the left side, they show you a guy who’s 300 lbs. and on the right side of the image, they show you the same guy, who only weighs 200 pounds. So that stimulates contrast because you saw before and after and as a visual there is almost no text, right? Or it’s the same idea when you see the guy with no hair on the left side and then the same guy with a head full of hair after he’s taken them. So that’s how you need to use contrast in your ads. The brain has an automatic filter that will eliminate all the information that is not contrasted enough. The third stimulus is tangible. What does that mean? That means that the primal brain does not understand complex, abstract concepts. I think of it as a brain that is designed to survive. In fact, we can even argue that we more than survive, right to the point that we might endanger the planet and ourselves in the long run.

Speaker 3 (23:19):

So the tangible, to me, this is very important because you cannot make that very primal brain see, smell, feel, hear the difference, right? It will not decide. No, it’s the brain that does not even understand language. Why? Because language is very recent. When you think about it, we’ve been using spoken language only for 50,000 years. We’ve been using written language for only 10,000 years. So it’s only a flicker of time that we have been using language as a way to try to influence each other as a way to communicate. In contrast, the primal brain is 500 million years old. So language by definition is not tangible enough stimulus to get people to react. Okay? Tangible means it needs to be very simple. In fact, the brain represents only about 2% of our body mass, but it uses 20 to 25% of our body energy. So in terms of energy consumption, the brain uses a lot of our energy.

Speaker 3 (24:18):

So that’s why we use a fast brain to decide because if it should take too long to decide, A, you’re going to be burning too many calories and B, because of that, you jeopardize your chance of survival. If you don’t have enough energy you might not resist the next tiger that’s going to try and come eat you.

Speaker 2:

So, again, this gets back to the super simple one image, not a bunch of images. Yeah. boil down what the complex thing you’re trying to say or sell into a very simple message, right?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So it’s the kiss syndrome, right? Keep it simple stupid. Right? But, a lot of agencies know this but very often their clients don’t know this. And when the clients don’t know this, you have to go out there and convince them that it’s going to work. Right?

Speaker 2 (25:11):

Right. Always trying and to shove 10 pounds of information into a five-pound bag. Right?

Speaker 3:

Exactly. So, suddenly, you have a model, which is scientific and scientific means you cannot argue with it.

Speaker 2:

You can, but I’m with you.

Speaker 3:

Well, you can always question science, but when 98% of the scientists in the world agree on one thing, I tend to follow those guys as opposed to believing in any kind of group. Because if I am a client and I need to buy my advertising campaign, my marketing, if I need to buy it from an agency that tells me, Oh, trust us, this is the way it works. It has to be emotional. You need to keep it simple. No, I’m going to want to communicate all the reasons why people should buy from us.

Speaker 3 (26:02):

Fantastic functions and features. I’m so in love with my own technology that  I cannot step out of my own shoes. Right? So hopefully the benefit of science is to provide a ground of discussion that everybody can use, right? So that’s the third stimulus, tangible. The 4th stimulus is memorable. Remember, it’s not how you stimulate your customers today, which is important. It’s what will they remember about how you stimulated them at the moment they will make the decision, right? So again, you don’t need to optimize the effectiveness of your message for right now. You need to optimize the effectiveness of your message when the customer will decide, and that can be half a second. You know, if it’s on a website and you need to have them click on call us or give me more information or buy. Right? Your objective is to then click on the buy button like right now.

Speaker 3 (27:04):

So at any point in time, you need to optimize what you communicate based on when they will make the decision. Now, fairly often, to make things more complicated, the customer doesn’t even know when he’s going to make his decision because remember that the primal brain is the organ of the unconscious, not the conscious. So, it happens that the human memory is one of the most complicated concepts in the universe. I had a chance to ask two of the top world’s greatest neuroscientists, what is human memory? How does it work? And as a business person, how can I optimize what people will remember? And I asked them that question, and they are both heads of the neuroscience department, one at California Irvine and the other at NYU. And when they gave me the right answer, their answers were not compatible.

Speaker 3 (27:59):

They were not giving me the same answer and they have no idea how it works. In other words, it’s still the biggest mystery on earth. And by the way, you know the minute you start asking about memory, you start asking questions about is there free will or is the human system a closed system? Right? Think about it. If you take the body of a human person, it’s made of trillions and trillions and trillions of molecules. But these molecules follow the law of physics, follow the law of biology. Right? So very quickly you ask yourself, how does memory work? What is consciousness? How can I drive my attention to one field of focus? And the next question that comes almost immediately after that is, is there a god? So we have no idea today and we cannot prove it either way.

Speaker 2:

These would be topics that we cover in another podcast. That’s right.

Speaker 3 (28:51):

That’s right. Exactly right. But on memorable, it’s key. Why? Because if you’re a business person, you cannot accept the answer that we don’t know how memory works. So I have spent the last 20 something years of my life to trying to explain to people how memory works and what are the three factors you need to remember. So, I simplified the most complicated concept in university into three factors. If you were a normal scientist, you would probably laugh at it. When I ran it by the two neuroscientists, they laughed because you can always walk off with it. And I kept saying, I don’t care that it’s more complicated. I want a simple format. So I’ll tell you what the formula is. A memory is equal to the intensity of the emotion at the moment of learning. And I can explain this one very, very easily. Drew, do you remember where you were on September 11th?

Speaker 2:


Speaker 3:

Do you remember who you were with?

Speaker 2:


Speaker 3:

Do you remember where you had lunch that day?

Speaker 2:


Speaker 3:

You don’t remember where you had lunch that day?

Speaker 2 (29:53):

Yeah. I don’t even remember if I ate lunch that day because we were so glued to the TV.

Speaker 3:

So you have a memory of that now. Where did you have lunch three days ago?

Speaker 2:

I don’t even remember what city I was in three days ago.

Speaker 3:

Exactly. The emotion that you experienced at the moment of learning, think of it as an acid that marked inside your brain some path of communication and because of that, you will remember it. In fact the most extreme cases of strong emotion, these people will suffer from PTSD. When the emotion is so strong and you’re going to be reliving that over and over again, you cannot get over that emotion. The second factor, which is pretty cool in memorization is repetition. Why? Because you didn’t learn the alphabet the first time you heard it, right.

Speaker 3 (30:44):

Your parents had to repeat the alphabet many, many times before you remembered it. In fact, because the primal brain does not even understand words, most likely your parents didn’t teach you the alphabet as a series of letters. Your parents taught you the alphabet as a song, right?

Speaker 2:

You’re absolutely right.

Speaker 3:

It is much easier for your primal brain to remember the music than to remember the lyrics. It goes back to the tangible state. The primal brain is preverbal, so it’s before the words, but music existed way before we were using words. So that’s the second factor. Remember, your memory is equal to the emotion, the intensity of the emotion at the moment of learning multiplied by the number of repetitions multiplied by the third factor, and that one is the hardest one to understand which is the position of the stimulus within a list. Here is the idea. If I give you a list of 10 words right now, guess what? You will remember the first words and you’ll remember the last words

Speaker 3 (31:38):

and you will forget everything in between.

Speaker 2:

And at my age, it may not even be that good, but I’m with you.

Speaker 3:

That’s right. Right? If I give you 10 words you will remember 3 or 4 and you will tend to remember the first word and you’ll tend to remember the last words and you will forget everything in between. In fact, this is one of the 188 known cognitive biases. The sciences, always come up with these very complicated names, and this one is called the recency primacy effect. The most recent stimulus, we remember it very well. Primacy, the very first two words we had on the list and we forget everything else. In fact, when George Lucas said the secret to making a movie is to create a hot opening and create a hot close and just don’t screw up in the middle because the middle is not that important. Okay? So if you are an advertising agency and you do a two-minute clip, right?

Speaker 3 (32:31):

The first five seconds are super important and so are the last five seconds. The ones in the middle, not that important. Same thing when you create a movie. Same if you do a PowerPoint, same thing if you create a website. Same thing when you create a proposal. Everybody knows, right? We look at the first page, we look at the last page and who cares about what’s in the middle. So again, memory is equal to emotions times repetition times the position of the stimulus in a list. Again, that’s an oversimplification but for a lot of people, it’s very helpful to remember. Then the next thing is, let me ask you a question before we go to the next stimulus. How many windows are there in your kitchen and dining room?

Speaker 2:

Counting the sliding door, four.

Speaker 3:

Alright, what did you do to get the answer?

Speaker 2:

I pictured my living room and dining room and counted.

Speaker 3 (33:22):

Right, so you switched your brain into a visual mode, right? And most likely I’m willing to bet that you pictured it for me inside of your house.

Speaker 2:


Speaker 3:

So yeah, I can read your mind.

Speaker 2:

It’s scary for both of us, probably. Yes.

Speaker 3:

But here’s what you did. You put yourself in the middle of your kitchen, you counted one, two. Then you mentally switched your head towards the dining room. You went one, two. And then you went 2 plus 2 is 4.  In fact, when you asked, people who have sight, everybody would do that except people who are blind at birth. You switch your brain into a visual mode. You would deliberately do that. Although that was not part of my instruction. And then you counted the number of windows. Well, guess what? The mode you are into right there, it’s the primal mode of the primal brain. Remember I said the primal brain does not like words, it’s words by definition, it’s all verbal.

Speaker 3 (34:12):

But the primal brain favors the visual channel.

Speaker 2:

As a writer, this hurts me, but I don’t disagree.

Speaker 3:

So, in fact, your optical nerve is 50 times faster, than your auditory nerve. The nerve that communicates visual information from the back of your eyes, the cornea, that’s the sensor onto your brain, that nerve is 50 times faster than the nerve from the ear to the brain. By the way, it’s not faster in speed. It’s faster in bandwidth. It carries 50 times more information per second than the auditory nerve. And that nerve happens to have a direct connection to the primal brain. So all this to say, and again, this is something that every agency has known for decades, right? In fact, about 80% of all brain activities are about processing images. In other words, switching your brain into that visual mode that I say and analyzing the data, et cetera. So the primal brain is a brand of visual. In fact, if you think about it, crocodiles, reptiles, well, pure, reptilian, right, but just have a primal brain. They only have a very, very thin layer of neurocortex, right? But they are mostly just primal animals and their eyes, right? And we have had eyes way before we started to develop a neuro cortex. So it’s that the fact that we’ve used visual symbols for a long time as biased our brains

Speaker 2 (35:37):

towards accepting visual stimulus and rejecting non-visual. And then the final, you know, the final stimulus is emotion. Now scientists have studied emotion and it’s not like emotions happen despite us. There is a biology of emotion. At least 22 different scientific models of emotion. In fact, the word emotions come from the Latin word, motus, which means to move, it means to move. And emotion is what precedes the motion. When you see a snake, you react instinctively.  You are afraid. That’s the emotion. And that emotion of fear is what allows you to back up and move away from the snake. Now, of course, when we are in advertising, we want to be the opposite of negative emotion. It’s called an approach emotion. You need to create a positive emotion that will draw the prospect towards you. So when you look at the scientists that studied emotion, they came up with a lot of very interesting rules on what you need to do to maximize the emotions, find the best emotion that will create the proper motion and et cetera, et cetera.

Speaker 3 (36:48):

And by explaining to your customers that, they’re all not rational decision-making machines, they are emotional. They only respond to emotion. The agencies are going to be able to do a much better job.

Speaker 2:

This is fascinating. So I want to talk to you about how do we take these six facts and bake them into the work we do. But first, let’s take a quick break, and then we’ll talk about how to actually apply this to the work. Hey guys, sorry for the interruption. But I want to tell you about a workshop that we offered in 2019. It was so amazing. We are offering it again twice in 2020. So the workshop is called Selling with Strategic Insights and it was the brainchild of Robin and Steve Boehler from the Mercer Island Group. And basically, it was born from the idea that when they watch agencies pitch, one of the things they’re not seeing is a lot of strategy.

Speaker 2 (37:45):

Or the agency may have had a strategy, but they didn’t explain it very well. And agencies, good agencies are losing in those pitches because they’re not articulating a really strong strategy. The other reason why we’re doing this because one of the things I hear agency owners say all the time is that you are the bottleneck in your shop because you’re the only one, or maybe you have one or two other people on your leadership team who can really think strategically for both your existing clients and for biz dev opportunities. So we put together this workshop. It teaches you a methodology that you absolutely can take back to your shop and teach everybody in your agency that will allow you to approach a current client or a prospect with an amazing strategy that really grabs their attention and makes you look very different from everybody else. I will also tell you that of the 100 agencies, but it probably wasn’t even a hundred because a lot of people brought more than one person, so let’s call it of the 70 or so agencies that took a workshop in the last two sessions,

Speaker 2 (38:50):

those agencies have reported over $39 million of new AGI that they absolutely can credit based on the client’s comments to using the methodology that they learned in that workshop. Again, $39 million. Anyway, this workshop is going to be in August in Chicago and in January of 2021 in Orlando, Florida on Disney property. Check it out on the website. Again, Selling with Strategic Insights. I highly recommend it. It’s really amazing and it really can change how you and your agency approach and deliver strategy for clients and prospects. All right, let’s get back to the show. All right. Welcome back, guys. So we are talking about the reptilian or the primal brain and how we can help our clients sort of tap into that with the work that we do, but also as we’re listening to Patrick, I hope you are also sort of seeing all of this from the lens of how do you present your agency against all the other agencies in the landscape.

Speaker 2 (39:57):

Because this is as applicable to us and the work we do to sell our own services as it is to the work we do to sell a client’s product or service. So when we left, you had just gone through the sort of six elements, that would, in terms of appealing to the primal brain. So now let’s talk about that buy button. How do we take the stimuli that you just walked us through and how do we leverage those to be more persuasive? Because at the end of the day, that’s what yours and my conversation are all about, right?

Speaker 3:

That’s right. So there are six stimuli and what we’ve done is we’ve translated them into the four steps of persuasion. So let me tell you what the four steps are and we’re going to walk through that really quickly.

Speaker 2 (40:44):

The first step is to diagnose the pain. Then you need to differentiate your claims. Then you need to demonstrate the game and then finally you need to deliver to the primal brain. So again, four steps, pain, claim, game, primal brain. So the first step is the idea that because the primal brain loves personal stimulus, you don’t want to talk to them about you, you want to talk to them about how your product and services will eliminate their pain. The problem is that the unconscious pain has less of an impact on the final decision than the conscious pain. So the best example that I like to use is the case of people who sell home delivery pizza. So, if you sell home delivery pizza, what do you think is the average pain of the average consumer of the United States?

Speaker 3 (41:33):

No. What is the normal one psychology process

Speaker 3 (41:36):

that drives the decision of people to buy home-delivered pizza? What do you think it is?

Speaker 2:

Oh, there’s nothing in my house and I don’t want to go out.

Speaker 3:

Okay. And that’s not number one. So a lot of people will say, well, they don’t want the pizza to be cold. They don’t want to be overcharged. They will smell a little better than cardboard. Well, 35 years ago there was a small company and they figured out that the number one pain of people buy pizza is the anxiety of not knowing when the pizza will arrive. So think of it as a real primal reaction to needing food, right? It’s not so much that you need food, it’s that you need the food right now because your primal brain is saying me, feed me. And guess what? That little pizza place that came up with a slogan and the slogan was “30 minutes or less or it’s free”. And you probably guessed by now that’s Dominoes and

Speaker 3 (42:24):

they became number one. They didn’t become number one because they made the best pizza. They became number one because they created a whole organization with a unique purpose that was the elimination of that pain? So they are a FedEx organization, which happens to sell pizza. The pizza is only an accessory to the business.

Speaker 2:

Right. Great. Interesting. Right, it makes sense.

Speaker 3:

I’ll give you another example. I’ll give you the other example of people buy coffee. So as you know, Starbucks, the most successful franchise ever. Do you think that Starbucks is in the coffee or black water spiked with sugar business? No, because Starbucks, very early on in the history of the company, realized that people spend half of their life at home and the other half in the office. And you know what the mental thing is that gets people nuts? It’s not having that transition between home and the office.

Speaker 3 (43:19):

So do you know how Starbucks trained our marketing agencies? They trained them on the concept of a third place. So I mean, I’m sure you’ve heard it right? All the agencies, of course. And what’s the third place? The third place is the transitional environment for people to switch from home to the office and vice versa. And guess what? They just happen to sell coffee. The coffee is just a necessity. I could go on and on and on with examples of this, but the bottom line is when people tell you I want pizza, in reality, the want is the neuro cortex. You ask people, what do you want? In fact, traditional marketing is about asking people what do you want? And it’s useless because people don’t know what they want. But you need to dig deeper inside the unconscious.

Speaker 2 (44:04):

So how do you do that? So I’m listening to you and you’re using examples that are obviously legendary in the marketing space, and we all go, well, oh, of course. But somebody had to figure that out. How do we either for ourselves and our agency or our clients, how do we figure out when a client comes to us and lays their product or service on the table, how do we figure out what that is?

Speaker 3:

Well, that’s the first book that I wrote 20 ago. It’s that we no longer trust what the customers say. Instead, we’re going to put electrodes on their head and we’re going to measure their brainwaves. Instead, we’re going to measure the pupil dilation. We’re going to measure how electricity flows between their fingers. We’re not going to trust our self-reported responses, but we’re going to trust the body responses, right? Like the simplest way to talk about is the lie detector. But lie detectors, over the last 20 years, we’ve made progress. So we use FMRI tools now. We use systems that analyze the voice frequency response.

Speaker 2 (45:07):

Oh, okay. So, so if our clients say there will be no probing, there will be no electrodes, there will be no whatever. Are there other ways short of hooking up humans to machines to figure this out?

Speaker 3 (45:20):

Yeah. The other ways to use traditional marketing, but to do it with people that are not marketeers but people who have a Ph.D. in psychology or neuropsychology.

Speaker 2 (45:31):

Well, I think a lot of agency people started with a psych degree or something like that, so they may have the underpinnings, some skills around that.

Speaker 3 (45:40):

Yeah, that’s right. If you have a guy who has a good nose, right? He has a better understanding of all these psychological concepts that are constantly churning inside the head of the consumer. In the case of Domino’s, they didn’t do a marketing study 35 years ago because it did not exist. They had a really good VP of Marketing who had a very strong idea around that.

Speaker 3 (46:08):

So that’s the first step. Know, diagnose the pain. The second step is to differentiate your claims. And it’s the idea that you need to differentiate it at all costs because by definition, the primal brain, will filter any information that is not contrasting. So this is where we help our clients say, “we are the ONLY provider of”, and then you finish that sentence.

Speaker 2 (46:29):

So wait. So what I’m hearing you say is when 10 agencies introduced themselves as a full-service integrated marketing agency, that’s not useful to the buyer.

Speaker 3:

Zero impact because there is nothing unique. So if you look just from a statistical perspective, if they have 10 competitors, that means at any point in time they only have a 10% chance to win.

Speaker 2 (46:53):


Speaker 3 (46:54):

And that’s what you leave randomly if you cannot increase the contrast between you and your competitors. So I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy, but if you cannot find what makes you unique in the product itself, you have to find it elsewhere. You have to find it in maybe the fact that your people are nicer people, so your communication will be better, faster, cheaper, easier, et cetera. So you base everything on we are the communication experts. Do you see what I’m saying? In the case of Starbucks, they did not make their success based on the quality of their coffee. The coffee is only average. There are other companies that make better coffee than Starbucks, but they made it on that third place. Same for Dominoes. There are a hundred thousand companies out there that can deliver a home delivery pizza, but there is only one that gives it to you in 30 minutes or less.

Speaker 3 (47:50):

So that’s the differential of claims. And we need to make those claims explicit, not implicit. So we could have a long discussion but when we talk about the concept of branding, I don’t like to talk about brands because most people have a very cozy definition of what a brand is. In fact, I insist that people use the same definition of a brand. And I can make a quick test with you in the next two seconds. I’m going to give you a very famous brand of car and I’m going to ask you why would people buy that brand? So if I say Volvo, what’s the claim?

Speaker 2:


Speaker 3:

That’s right. And it typically took you only about half a second to do that. So you had associated the concept of Volvo with the concept of safety and that’s what a brand is. So I have a very narrow but very precise definition of a brand and a brand is that associative memory that lives in the brain of the consumer,

Speaker 3 (48:43):

that connects the brand, Volvo, with the brand attributes. We don’t want to use the word brand attributes. We want to use claims, which we call safety. So as you go, Volvo has been claiming for 60 years that their cars are safer than others. And that’s why when I asked you today, you give us the answer like that. Right? So that’s the second concept of claim. You need to differentiate your claims at all costs. We understand it’s very difficult, especially when you are an advertising agency. Because guess what? It’s not that difficult to be another advertising agency. You don’t have technology that makes you fundamentally different. In other words, if I talk about Apple or if I talk about Tesla, they have unique technologies so it’s going to be much easier for them to come up with a claim that is going to be unique to that technology. Agencies, don’t have that much in terms of differentiation.

Speaker 2:

But they can, if they have a depth of knowledge that nobody else has, differentiate themselves by being an authority or an expert. That’s something that other agencies can’t claim. That’s a different podcast for a different day.

Speaker 3 (49:44):

That’s right. Yeah. And in fact, I have an agency myself. I mean, we have a small team of creative people. That’s the core of our business, but we found very early on that it would be much easier for us to sell our knowledge in neuroscience than it would to sell our knowledge as an agency. In fact, right now I don’t want any work on the agency. I want to teach other people how to do it. We have created a certification process for agencies where we teach them everything we’ve learned and we say, now that you understand this, use it with your clients and see the results. We’ve done this for 20 years, so we’ve passed the step where we have to demonstrate that it works.

Speaker 3 (50:34):

The proof that we have today is extremely strong. In fact, that’s a good segue into the third step of the process, which demonstrates the game. So first you need to diagnose the pain, then you need to differentiate your claims, then you need to demonstrate the game. Demonstrate the game is if you tell me you’re an advertising agency, that you’re going to do a better job than one of your competitors, what kind of proof are you going to give me?

Speaker 2:

This is where case studies and all of that become critical, right?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that’s right. But the case study is always based on, Oh, but you don’t have knowledge of my vertical markets. So sorry, but I’m going to find somebody who is an expert in wine because I sell wine. Yeah, but at the end of the day, selling wine and selling water might be almost the same thing, right?

Speaker 3 (51:17):

But everybody always wants, because the primal brain is very personal, they will not take proofs that are slightly different from the old situation because we all think we’re unique. So when it comes to demonstrating the game, this is why we have a very simple model. And we said that value comes from three sources. So there are only three sources. Whenever somebody buys something, the value that you have is either financial, you all help them make more money or save more money. It will either be strategic, in other words, it is good for their business, but you cannot translate that input all the time. Or if you provide them with a personal value. So personal values are anything like pride of ownership, working late, being less stressed, being promoted, rubbing it in the face of your friends. So, the idea is whenever you’re trying to sell, you need to maximize the financial, strategic, and personal value.

Speaker 3 (52:09):

And we found that there are only four ways you can prove it and they’re organized in decreasing order of strength. But the best way to prove value is to use a customer case, right? I mean, I sold supercomputers to NASA for example, but since I had sold the same supercomputer to Boeing, I use the story of Boeing to prove to NASA what they would get? So customer case is the best proof of value. Demonstrate. In the case of Domino’s, for example, when they say 30 minutes or less or it’s free, the fact that they added, “or it’s free” to their slogan, is a demonstration that you will get it in 30 minutes or less, right? They just didn’t tell you 30 minutes or less. They applied the model and they demonstrated it. The third type of proof is data as in statistical or marketing data.

Speaker 3 (52:55):

But by definition, the primal brain does not like data at all. And the last type of proof is a vision. It’s when you tell your customers, trust me, I don’t have any proof, but I have a vision of how I’m going to save you money, or I have a vision of how am I going to help you lose 50 pounds. So these proofs organized in decreasing order of strength, customer case, demo, data, vision. So we teach people how to maximize the amount of value and then we teach people how to maximize the type of proof that they use to communicate so that the skeptical primal brain will accept it.

Speaker 2 (53:26):

So that’s the first three steps in our process, pain, claim, game. When you answer those three questions, you haven’t started to question what you need to say, but at the end of the day, you still need to say it so that the primal brain will understand it. And it’s a brain that is not very, very smart. So you need to dumb down your message without being either arrogant or oversimplifying it. That’s where our model gets a lot finer.  Sorry, I’m sure we have people on the phone and they won’t be able to see this but I am showing you our poster, Andrew, and there is all this concept art here. So we’ve already talked about the six stimuli and the four steps, but you can see in our model there’s still a lot more that needs to be applied and these are pure communication techniques.

Speaker 2 (54:11):

So the visual that Patrick has held up will be something we include in the show notes. So don’t freak out if you’re on the treadmill or you’re driving, just come over to the Agency Management Institute site and you’ll be able to download that visual off of the show notes. Okay. So I know that we are tight on time so I want to wrap this up, cause it feels like we’ve just scratched the surface. If people want to learn more about this, if they want to learn more about your certification program, things like that, where can they go to learn more about your work Patrick?

Speaker 3:

So if you have 17 minutes to invest, you can Google my name on YouTube. You type neuromarketing, Patrick Renvoise, or just neuro marketing Patrick. And there will be, you’ll hear my 17 minute Ted talk on the subject.

Speaker 23(55:04):

If people have a few hours, we can buy our book. It’s on Amazon, it’s called The Persuasion Code. So for, something like $20, you will have a lot more explanation and then they can visit our website where everything is explained. The website is salesbrain.com.

Speaker 2:

Okay. So we’ll include links to all that. You don’t have to Google them. We’ll show you where the TEDx talk is. We’ll show you where the book is. We’ll show you where you can get to their website. Obviously, this is super valuable information for us to have, not only as we think about marketing our agency, but also as we think about how to explain to our clients with proof points as Patrick said which is critical, with proof points of why we do what we do. So if nothing else, this helps you justify the recommendations you’re making to clients.

Speaker 2 (55:57):

Patrick, this has been awesome. Thank you so much for joining us and thanks for sharing your expertise and thanks for making it simple enough that I could understand it. I appreciate it very much.

Speaker 3:

Thanks, Andrew. Talk to you soon.

Speaker 2:

Alrighty. Hey guys, this wraps up another episode of Build A Better Agency. A couple of quick reminders. Number one, make sure that if you want to join us in the Facebook group that is specifically for podcast guests, you just head over to Facebook and search for the Build A Better Agency group. You have to answer a couple of questions because we’re restricting access but once you do that, come on in. We’re talking about current episodes and hopefully what I’m hoping is you guys get to know each other and you ask each other questions and we can kind of create a community around the podcast listeners. Also, please remember that we are happy to recognize and reward folks who leave us a rating and review on this podcast. So go and leave a rating and review on your favorite podcasts site, wherever you download the podcast, iTunes or Google or Stitcher or iHeartRadio or wherever you do that. And then take a screenshot of it so I know it’s you. Shoot me an email of that screenshot. So [email protected] and we will put your name in a drawing. And every single month we give away a seat at one of our live workshops or in one of our on-demand workshops, and I would love for that to be you. So if you’ve already entered once, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to do it again. Just hang in there and keep listening for your name. All right. Thanks so much for listening. I am grateful as always, that you’re with us and I will be back next week with another guest, probably not one with this cool of an accent but with another guest, nonetheless, with great information to help you think differently about your business. I’ll talk to you soon.

Speaker 4 (57:50):

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Build A Better Agency, visit AgencyManagementInstitute.com to check out our workshops, coaching packages, and all the other ways we serve agencies just like yours. Thanks for listening.