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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Announcer:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency Podcast, presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to midsize agencies are surviving, and thriving, in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable; scalable; and if you want down the road, sellable. With 25 plus years of experience, as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

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. On this show we try very hard to stay uber focused on talking to guests about, or my solo guest, 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 the 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. 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 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 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 it’s going to measure your agency in five key areas, and then it’s going to send you a report, it’s going to email you a report that tells you, 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 are interested in seeing that webinar you can watch that. If you go under the webinar tab on the website you can see that. So take the assessment first and then watch the webinar 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. 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 is how the brain works, the science of how the brain works, and marketing. 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 going to dig into this, in terms of how the brain works. And what you’re going to find, I think based on my reading of the book and some other information that Patrick gave us, is that oftentimes what we, air quote, know to be true there is science behind it. And you can use this 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 why that didn’t play out the way I thought it was going to. So I find all of this 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.

Persuasion, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Patrick Renvoise:

Welcome, good day Drew. Thank you for your invitation.

Drew McLellan:

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 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 understand this … I know you have a special name for it but this mapping of the brain, and how we persuade and make decisions.

Patrick Renvoise:

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. So my expertise is what’s called the complex sales. And then 20 years ago, after realizing that I had learned how to persuade people, I had learned it for myself, that was not exciting anymore for me to just continue to persuade other people. Instead I thought, “Well maybe I can teach other people what I have learned in a lifetime of persuasion.” And I found the answer is not in sales and marketing books but I found the answer is in neuroscience book. If you look at the world of neuroscience today people understand quite well how the brain works when it comes to making a decision, but we in the business world 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 you might not need.

So I created this very first [inaudible 00:06:46] the co-author was my partner. The very first book on nueromarketing. And then another 15 or 16 years later 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 had learned this over a lifetime of trial and error but when we looked at the science of what neuropsychologists, evolutionary biologists, all these experts on the brain they tell us about the brain work, then we can come up with a very simple step by step process of what it takes to persuade.

Drew McLellan:

So I know that you talk about the buy button and how that lies in the brain of the buyer.

Patrick Renvoise:

Yes.

Drew McLellan:

And one of the things that I found very interesting was that 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.

Patrick Renvoise:

Yes. Well for the longest thread of time, and because of a French philosopher called Descartes, we were under the illusion that homo sapiens was a rational decision making machines. In other words that we were using our neocortex, what makes this unique to a human. When in fact the name of our species in Latin is homo sapiens sapiens. You have to say it twice. It means the one who know they think. Why? Because of all the species on Earth we are the only one that are thinking a lot before we decide. Most animals they simply react to the stimulus. If you put a piece of sugar 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. If I put a piece of sugar in front of your nose you’re going to go, “No, it’s too early in the day. I don’t 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 neuroscientists have established today, beyond reasonable doubt, that when we decide it’s not our neocortex that drives the process. It’s actually a brain which lies underneath it. It has many different name. We call it the primal brain. A researcher by the name of Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economy called it system 1. And Kahneman, and some other high level researchers, have established beyond reasonable doubt that the primal brain, our ancestral brain, our reptilian brain, our old brain, our limbic system if you want to call it, they are not quite synonyms but that’s the idea, that that brain that lies underneath it is the key to persuasion. And 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 neurosystem.

So even a very primal animal, such as a reptile, has to make a lot of decisions every day, right? A reptile makes a 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 that still drives the decision making process. And, again, this is not something which is unknown in the world of business. People that have spent their time studying the brain they know this, 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 1 or that primal brain.

Drew McLellan:

I think most agency owners, and their employees, we talk a lot about that we get that people buy based on emotion.

Patrick Renvoise:

Yes.

Drew McLellan:

And that we have to stimulate that with our work. So basically we have to touch their emotional side and then we give them the facts so they can rationalize their buying decision, right?

Patrick Renvoise:

That’s right. In fact, Antonio Damasio, one of the most famous neuroscientists, said, “We are not thinking machines that feel. We are feeling machines that think once in a while.” So that knowledge has permitted it. And ever good agency knows this, right? But they yet don’t have a formal model of what it needs today, of what it takes to do this. In other words, as you said, that primal brain is the organ that can only be triggered by emotion. And, in fact, it’s one of the six stimuli that you can use to reach the primal brain. In other words, 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 or the neocortex. 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, to system 1.

So for us by … I’m going to use another analogy if you want. All the effective advertising agencies they 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. We’ve unveiled that language. It happens that a lot of agencies are already fluent in the language. And when we teach them that language the light bulb goes on, they go, “Oh schmuck. Now I understand why I was doing it right most of the time. And in those 5% to 10% where we didn’t do such a good job and it failed now I understand why it failed.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I know that you’ve 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 co-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. 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. But now let’s talk about what are the six ways that we can stimulate that primal brain to push the buy button?

Patrick Renvoise:

So let me give just a quick snapshot of the difference between the primal brain and the neocortex.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Patrick Renvoise:

So our neocortex is rather recent in evolutionary term. In other words, our specie is about 220,000 years old, so homo sapiens is a very, very young specie. By contrast our primal brain is about 500 million years old, so our neocortex 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. It’s only recently in evolution that we started to use more and more of our neocortex. So the primal brain is 100 times older than our rational brain. It’s the brain that Daniel Kahneman calls the fast brain. And the primal brain is the brain that is meant to react quickly. Why? Because speed is more important for survival than smarts.

By contrast our neocortex is our 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. But there is a very simple reason why we still use our primal brain to decide. It’s that speed is more important for survival than smart. So finally the hardware that we use to decide is wired to make quick decision. And on top of that, if you want, we’ve built a little bit of software which is very thin, which is trying to make us smarter 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. In fact, 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 survived.

Drew McLellan:

And outsmarts us often.

Patrick Renvoise:

Exactly. Its survived because it can escape our hand. And it does that it’s almost a miracle because the fly does this with 20,000 neurons. And with 20,000 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 decide that, that’s our fast brain.

So I could go deeper into that fast brain but it’s really important for people to understand that we have both brain. And when those two brains are in agreement on how to make a decision that’s easy, 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 in your stomach so it can digest the apple but you’re not conscious of it, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Patrick Renvoise:

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 it radiates to the upper layers in the brain, not vice versa. But think of how most people, when they try to persuade, what do they do? They try to use logical argument.

Drew McLellan:

Right, facts.

Patrick Renvoise:

Right, facts. Smart advertising agency know that it’s not enough so they sugar coat that rational argument inside some kind of emotional stimulant but there is more to understanding that primal brain so that you make it react in the proper way. Again, by studying it for 20 years we’ve been able to highlight the fact that that primal brain is going to react only to six stimuli. The emotional one is the last one but I’m happy to describe with you more of the other six stimuli so that people understand how it works.

Drew McLellan:

Yes, please tell us that.

Patrick Renvoise:

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 cost. But it does that without any sense of compassion, if you want. In other words, 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 they don’t know compassion, they eat their own offsprings. Compassion is a neocortex emotion. It can be very effective when you try to persuade people in a lot of different situation, that’s not what I’m saying.

But what I’m saying is if I try to talk to you, Andrew, today and I try to sell you my book for example, right? I know you don’t care about my book. You only care about the fact that my book help your business, it helps your personal development, but you don’t care about me. So not only 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. So that’s the first stimulus, personal.

The second stimulus is contrastable. By the way, let me give you the list all together so that people get the hint of what it’s going to be about. But the primal brain is personal, it’s contrastable, it’s tangible, it needs memorable stimulus, it’s visual, and finally it’s emotional. So, again, personal, contrastable, tangible, memorable, visual, and emotional.

So first one is personal, second one is contrastable. What does that mean? Well that means your brain … Although you’re not doing much right now, rather than being sitting in front of a computer and talking to me, your brain is processing about 11 million bits of information per second. That’s what the neuroscientists tell us. Even at rest your brain is processing. Now this stimulus they come 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 what do you have in your fridge, or lunch or dinner tonight, that’s forcing your brain to process that information. So all together your brain is processing 11 million bits of information per second.

Unfortunately the field of focus, or attention, has proven that we can not direct our brain to process more than 50 bits per second. So of the 11 million bits that your brain is processing right now your field of focus is like using a laser, a little 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 lies, by the way, between the neocortex and the primal brain. And the job of those neurons is to 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.”

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 bit.” So by definition the primal brain can only be triggered by contrastable information.

Drew McLellan:

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-

Patrick Renvoise:

That’s right.

Drew McLellan:

… with instinct but the reason that the brain … The reason why this works, if our work is generic and looks like everyone else’s, or if our agency looks like every other agency out there, we cannot garner the attention of our audience because the brain just disregards.

Patrick Renvoise:

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 provider of.” So if you’re an agency you’re probably claiming that you’re more creative than other people. But, I mean, I can demonstrate later that the proof that you give to people that you’re more creative than others is not going to be accepted by the primal brain of your audience because the proof that you’re using are not going to be working. So, again, contrastable is really important in what you have to be able to say. So what you’re doing now is you’re already translating one of the neuroscience concept into some direct business application, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

Patrick Renvoise:

What that means for an agency is you have to be able to say, “We are the only one who do this and that.” Not only does the agency need to do that but when they create a campaign for that customer they have to find a way to create that contrast in the campaign itself. 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 is severely pound and on the right side of the image they show you the same guy who only weighs 200 pound. So that stimulus has contrast because you see an instant before and after. And that’s 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 the head full of hair after he’s taken the miracle grow.

So that’s how you need to use contrast in your ads because the brain has an automatic filter that will eliminate all the information that is not contrasted enough.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Patrick Renvoise:

The third stimulus is tangible. And tangible, what does that mean? That means the primal brain does not understand complex abstract concept. Think of it as a brain that has helped us survive. In fact, as a specie you could even argue that we more than survived, we thrive as a specie, right? To the point that we might endanger the planet and ourselves in the long run. We don’t know, right? So the tangible stimulus is very important because if you cannot make that very primal brain see, smell, fear, hear the difference it will not decide.

It’s a 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’ve been using language as a way to try to influence each other, as a way to communicate. By contrast the primal brain is 500 million years old. So language, by definition, is not a 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. So that’s why we use our fast brain to decide because if you 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 because if you don’t have enough energy you might not resist [inaudible 00:24:39] that’s going to try to come and eat you.

Drew McLellan:

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

Patrick Renvoise:

Yeah. So it’s the KISS syndrome, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

Patrick Renvoise:

Keep It Simple Stupid.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Patrick Renvoise:

I mean, although again a lot of agencies know this very often the clients don’t know this. And when the client don’t know this you have to go out there and convince them that it’s going to work, right?

Drew McLellan:

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

Patrick Renvoise:

Exactly. So now suddenly if you have a model which is scientific, scientific means you cannot argue with it … I mean-

Drew McLellan:

Some can but I’m with you. Right, it’s-

Patrick Renvoise:

Right, right, right. I know, a few people even argue with the fact that-

Drew McLellan:

[crosstalk 00:25:36] Sure. Right.

Patrick Renvoise:

So yeah, you can always question science but when 98% of the scientists in the world agree on one thing I tend to follow those guys-

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Patrick Renvoise:

… as opposed to believing in any kind of guru. Because if I am a client and I need to buy my advertising campaign, my marketing, my new website, if I need to buy it from an agency that tells me, “Trust us, this is the way it works. It has to be emotional. We need to keep it simple.” I’m going, “No, I want to communicate all the reasons why people who buy from us. I have these fantastic functions and feature. 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?

Drew McLellan:

Yep.

Patrick Renvoise:

So that’s the third stimulus, tangible. The fourth stimulus is memorable. In other words, remember that it’s not how you stimulate your customers today, which is important, it’s the how. What will they remember about how you stimulated them with 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 for when the customer will decide. And that can be half a second. In other words, if it’s on a website and you need to have them click on call us, or give me more information, or buy … If you’re Amazon your objective is to have them click on the buy button right now. So at any point of time you need to optimize what you communicate, based on when they will make the decision.

Now very often, to make things more complicated, the customer doesn’t even know when he’s going to make his decision because remember that primal brain is the organ of the unconscious, not the conscious. So memorable is key now. It happens that human memory is one of the most complicated concept 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 when I asked them that question … I mean, one of them is called Antonio Damasio, the other one is called Joseph LeDoux. They are both head of the neuroscience department, one in Irvine, California, the other one at NYU in New York. And when they gave me their answer their answers were not compatible. What they were giving me was not the same answer. And they have no idea of how it works. In other words, it’s still the biggest mystery on Earth.

And, by the way, the minute you stop asking about memory you stop asking questions such as is there free will or is the human system a closed system, right? Think of 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 on one field of focus? And the next question that comes almost immediately after that is, is there a God, right? So we have no idea today and we cannot prove either way that there is a God, that there is no God-

Drew McLellan:

These would be topics we would cover in another podcast.

Patrick Renvoise:

That’s right, exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yes, right.

Patrick Renvoise:

But on memorable it’s key. Why? Because if you’re a business person you cannot accept the answer that, “Oh we don’t know how memory works.” So I have spent the last 20 something years of my life to try to explain to people how memory works and what are the three factors you need to remember? I simplified the most complicated concept in the universe into three factors. Now if you were a neuroscientist you would probably laugh at it. In other words, when I ran that to Damasio and LeDoux they laughed at us because they go, “No, it’s more complicated.” And I keep saying, “I don’t care that it’s more complicated. I want a simple formula.” So I’ll tell you what the formula is.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Patrick Renvoise:

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?

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Patrick Renvoise:

Do you remember who you were with?

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Patrick Renvoise:

Do you remember where you had lunch that day?

Drew McLellan:

No.

Patrick Renvoise:

You don’t remember where you had lunch but at least you remember in which city you were, right?

Drew McLellan:

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

Patrick Renvoise:

We were glued to the TV, that’s right.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Patrick Renvoise:

So you remember that. Now where did you have lunch three days ago? You don’t, right? And what’s the difference-

Drew McLellan:

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

Patrick Renvoise:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right.

Patrick Renvoise:

But 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.

Drew McLellan:

Sure.

Patrick Renvoise:

When the emotion is so strong, and you’re going to be reliving that memory over and over again, you cannot get out of that deep, so the emotion. The second factor, which is critical in memorization, is repetition. Why? Because didn’t learn the alphabet the first time you heard it, right? Your parents had to repeat the alphabet to you 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.

Drew McLellan:

Right. You’re absolutely right, yep.

Patrick Renvoise:

It is much easier for your primal brain to remember the music than to remember the lyrics. And that goes back to that tangible thing, the primal brain is preverbal, so it’s before the words but music existed way before we were using words as a way to communicate. So that’s the second factor. Remember your memory is equal to the intensity of the emotion at the moment of learning multiplied by the number of repetition, multiplied by a 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, you’ll remember the last words, and you will forget everything in between.

Drew McLellan:

At my age it might not even be that good but I’m with you.

Patrick Renvoise:

That’s right, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Patrick Renvoise:

And if I give you 10 words you will remember three or four and you will tend to remember the first words, you will 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 scientists they always come up with very complicated names for that. It’s called the recency-primacy effect. Recency, the most recent stimulus we’ll remember it very well. Primacy, the very first stimulus we had on the list, and we forget everything in between. In fact, George Lucas said the secret to making a good movie is create a hot opening, create a hot close, and just don’t screw up in the middle because the middle is not that important, right? So if you are an advertising agency and you do a two minute clip the first five seconds of the clip super important, the last five seconds super important, the one in the middle not that important. Same thing if you create a movie. Same thing if you do a PowerPoint. Same thing if you create a website, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

Patrick Renvoise:

Same thing if you create a proposal. On your proposal everybody knows 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 repetitions, times the position of the stimulus within a list. Again, that’s an oversimplification but for a lot of people it’s very helpful to remember these three.

Then the next stimulus … Now let me ask you a question before you start the next stimulus. How many windows are there in your kitchen and dining room?

Drew McLellan:

Counting the sliding door four.

Patrick Renvoise:

Sure. All right. Now what did you do to get the answer?

Drew McLellan:

I pictured my living room and dining room, and counted.

Patrick Renvoise:

Right. So you switch your brain into a visual mode, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Patrick Renvoise:

And most likely, I’m willing to bet, that you pictured it from the inside of your house?

Drew McLellan:

Yes.

Patrick Renvoise:

See, I can read your mind, right?

Drew McLellan:

Scary for both of us probably.

Patrick Renvoise:

Yes. But here is what you did, you put yourself in the middle of your kitchen, you counted one, two; then you mentally switch your head towards the dining room, you went one, two; you did two plus two equal four. In fact, when you ask people who have sight that … 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 is the primal mode of the primal brain. Remember I said the primal brain does not like words?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Patrick Renvoise:

Those words, by definitions are verbal, but the primal brain favors the visual channel.

Drew McLellan:

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

Patrick Renvoise:

Right. So, in fact, your optical nerve is 50 times faster than your auditory nerve. In other words, the nerve that communicates visual information from the back of your eye, it’s called 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. So it carries 50 times more information per second than the auditory nerve, okay? And that nerve happens to have a direct connection into the primal brain. So all this to say … And, again, this is something that every agency has known this for decades, right? In fact, about 80% of all brain activity is about processing images. In another word, switching your brain into that visual mode, that I say, and analyzing the data, et cetera. So the primal brain is a brain of visual.

In fact, if you think about it, crocodiles, reptiles, who have a pure reptilian brain, they just have the primal brain, they only have a very, very thin layer of neocortex but they are mostly just primal animal. They have eyes, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Patrick Renvoise:

And we have had eyes way before we started to develop a neocortex. So it’s the fact that we’re using visual stimulus for a long time has biased our brains towards accepting visual stimulus and rejecting non-visual stimulus.

And then the final stimulus is emotion. Now scientists have studied emotion and it’s not like emotions happens despite us, there is a biology of emotion. And there are at least 22 different scientific models of emotion. In fact, the word emotions come from the Latin words emovere, which means to move. So emovere means to move and an emotion is what proceeds the motion, right? In other words, when you see a snake you react negatively, you’re afraid, right? 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 create the opposite of a 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 emotion, find the best emotion that will create the proper emotion, and et cetera, and et cetera. And by explaining to your customers that they are not rational decision making machines, they are emotional, they only responds to emotion, the agencies are going to be able to do a much better job.

Drew McLellan:

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.

When it comes to conducting a client satisfaction survey your agency has three choices. The first one is adopt a don’t ask, don’t tell policy and just roll the dice. Your second option is to do the study in-house. And the third option is to use a third-party to conduct your client satisfaction survey. If you decide that you’re ready to invest in protecting your client relationships, and improving your win and keep ratios, we believe there are some benefits of using AMI as your third-party research partner. Number one, we know emphatically that your clients will tell us things that they just won’t tell you. The reality is they’re going to speak more freely if they’re not talking to you directly. They don’t want to hurt your feelings and they don’t want to get into a big conversation about it, so a third-party is a safe place for them to share their real feedback.

The second is that at AMI we don’t have a bias about any particular client. We don’t know if you like them, don’t like them, if they’re a pain, if they’re your favorite. And so because we understand the agency business, but we don’t come in to those conversations with any preconceived notions, we can absolutely give you unbiased and unfiltered information based on what your clients tell us. And, you know what? We know agency clients. We can hear what they’re saying and we know which threads to pull on, as we’re talking to them, to get more information for you and more insight. Your clients will be comfortable talking to us because we speak their language.

If you’re interested in having AMI do your customer satisfaction survey head over to AgencyManagementInstitute.com and look under the How We Help section of the website to learn more. 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 tap into that with the work that we do. But also, as we’re listening to Patrick, I hope you are also seeing all of this from the lens of how do you present your agency against all the other agencies in the landscape? Because this is as applicable to us, and the work we do to sell our own services, as it is the work we do to sell a client’s product or service. Okay, so when we left you had just gone through the six elements, 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 is all about, right?

Patrick Renvoise:

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 them really quickly. The first step is diagnose the pain. Then you need to differentiate your claims. Then you need to demonstrate the gain. And then, finally, you need to deliver it to the primal brain. So, again, four steps, pain, claim, gain, and primal brain.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Patrick Renvoise:

So the first step is this, it’s 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 conscious pain have less of an impact on the final decision than the conscious brain. 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 pizza in the United States? Now what is the number one psychological process that drive the decision of people who buy home delivered pizza? What do you think it is?

Drew McLellan:

There’s nothing in my house and I don’t want to go out.

Patrick Renvoise:

Okay. And that’s not number one. So a lot of people will say well they don’t want their pizza to be cold, they don’t want to be overcharged, they want the pizza to 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 who buy home delivered 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, “Feed me, feed me.” And guess what? That little pizza place, they 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 Domino’s and they became number one. They didn’t become number one because they make the best pizza. They became number one because they created a whole organization who’s unique purpose is the elimination of that pain. So they are a FedEx organization which happened to sell pizza. In other words, the pizza is only an accessory to the business, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right. Interesting. Right. No, it makes sense.

Patrick Renvoise:

I’ll give you another example. I’ll give you the other example of people who buy coffee. So as you know Starbucks is the most successful franchise ever, right? Do you think that Starbucks is in the coffee or black white with spite and sugar business? No. Because Starbucks, very early on in the history of the company, they realized that people spend half of their life at home and the other half in the office. And you know what is the mental thing that gets people nuts? It’s not having a transition between home and the office. So do you know how Starbucks trained their [inaudible 00:42:51] people, trained our marketing agencies? They trained them on the concept of the third place.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

Patrick Renvoise:

I mean, I’m sure you’ve heard it, right? All the-

Drew McLellan:

[crosstalk 00:42:59] Right. Of course.

Patrick Renvoise:

And what’s the third place? The third place is a 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 an accessory to the business. 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 neocortex. 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. You need to dig deeper inside the unconscious-

Drew McLellan:

So how do you do that? I’m listening to you and you’re using examples that are, obviously, legendary in the marketing space. And we all go, “Well of course.” But somebody had to figure that out.

Patrick Renvoise:

Yes.

Drew McLellan:

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?

Patrick Renvoise:

That’s the first book that I wrote 20 years 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 their self-reported responses but we’re going to trust the budding responses, right? The simplest way to talk about it is the lie detector. But lie detectors, over the last 20 years, we’ve made a lot of progress. So we use FMRI to do that, we use system that analyze the voice frequency response-

Drew McLellan:

Okay, 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-

Patrick Renvoise:

Yes.

Drew McLellan:

… to figure this out?

Patrick Renvoise:

Yeah, the other way is to use traditional marketing but to do it with people that are not marketeers, but people who have a PhD in psychology or neuropsychology.

Drew McLellan:

Well and I think a lot of … Actually I think a lot of agency people started with a psyche degree or something like that.

Patrick Renvoise:

Sure.

Drew McLellan:

So they may have the underpinnings of some skills around that. Yeah.

Patrick Renvoise:

That’s right. If you have a guy who has a good nose he has a better understanding of all this psychological concept that are constantly turning inside the head of the consumer, then they might be … I mean, in the case of Domino’s they didn’t do a neuromarketing 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.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right.

Patrick Renvoise:

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

Drew McLellan:

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

Patrick Renvoise:

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 of time they only have 10% of chances to win.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Patrick Renvoise:

And that’s what you leave randomly if you cannot increase the contrast between you and your competitors, right?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Patrick Renvoise:

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,” right? You see what I’m …

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Patrick Renvoise:

In the case of Starbucks they did not make their success based on the quality of their coffee.

Drew McLellan:

Thank goodness.

Patrick Renvoise:

Their coffee is only average. There are other company that makes much better coffee than Starbucks, right? But they made it on that third place. Same for Domino’s, there are 100,000 companies out there that can deliver a home delivery pizza, right? But there is only one that gives you 30 minutes or less. So that’s the differentiate your 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 positive 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 few seconds. But I’m going to give you a very famous brand of cars and I’m going to ask you why would people buy that brand of car? So if I say Volvo what’s the claim?

Drew McLellan:

Safety.

Patrick Renvoise:

That’s right. And it typically took you only about half a second to do that, right? 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, again, narrow but very precise definition of a brand. And a brand is an associative memory that lives in the brain of the consumer that connects the brand, Volvo, with brand attributes … Or we don’t want to use the word brand attributes, I prefer to talk about claims, which we call safety. So as you know Volvo has been claiming, for 60 years, that their cars are safer than others. And that’s why, when I ask you today, and you gave us the answer like that.

So that’s the second concept of claim, you need to differentiate your claims at all cost. We understand it’s very difficult, especially when you’re 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 technology, so it’s much easier for them to come up with a claim that is going to be linked to that technology. Agencies they don’t have that much, in terms of differentiation.

Drew McLellan:

But they can if they have a depth of knowledge that nobody else has, right?

Patrick Renvoise:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

They could differentiate themselves by being an authority or an expert on something that other agencies can’t claim. That’s a different podcast for a different day, right?

Patrick Renvoise:

That’s right. And, in fact, I am … I mean, I have an agency myself. I mean, we have a small team of creative people. That’s not 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 be to sell our knowledge as an agency. In fact, right now I don’t want any work of an agency. That’s not what I want to do. I want to teach other people how to do it. In fact, look 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 client and see the results.” Again, we’ve done this for 20 years so we’ve passed the step where we have to demonstrate that it works. Now the proof that we have today are extremely strong, right?

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

Drew McLellan:

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

Patrick Renvoise:

That’s right. But the case studies are always based on, “Oh but you don’t have knowledge of my vertical market. So sorry but I’m going to find somebody who is expert in wine because I sell wine.” I mean, at the end of the day selling wine, selling water, might be almost the same thing, right? But everybody always want … 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 are unique. So when it comes to demonstrating the gain this is why we have a very simple model and we say that value comes from three sources, so there are only three sources.

Whenever somebody buys something the value they derive is either financial, it will help them make more money or save more money; it will either be strategic, in other words it’s good for their business but you cannot translate that into it all the time; or if you provide them with a personal value. So personal value is anything like pride of ownership, working less, being less stressed, getting your bonus, being promoted, rubbing it in the face of your friends, right? So all of that. So the idea is whenever you are trying to sell you need to maximize the financial, strategic, and personal value.

And we found that there are only four ways you can prove it and they are organized in decreasing order of strength, but the best way to prove a value is to use a customer case. I mean, I sold super computers to NASA, for example. But since I had sold the same super computer to Boeing I used the story of Boeing to prove to NASA what they would gain. So a customer case is the best proof of value. Then a demo. Now 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. So they just didn’t tell you 30 minutes or less. They applied the above, they demonstrated it by adding, “Or it’s free.”

The third type of proof is data, as in statistical or marketing data, 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 I’m going to help you lose 50 pounds.” So these proofs are 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.

So that’s the first three step in our process, pain, claim, gain. When you answer the three questions you have answered the 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 the brain that is not very, very smart. So you need to dumb down your message, without being either arrogant or oversimplifying. And that’s where our model gets a lot finer. In fact, I know people are on the phone so they are not going to be able to see it but I’m showing you, Andrew, the poster. This says all this concept are here. So we’ve only talked about the six stimuli and the four step but as you can see in our model there is still a lot more that needs to be applied and these are pure communication techniques.

Drew McLellan:

So the visual that Patrick just held up will be something we include in the show notes. 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. If people want … Because 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?

Patrick Renvoise:

All right, so if you have 17 minutes to invest you can Google my name on YouTube. You type neuromarketing Patrick Renvoise or just neuromarketing Patrick and they will hear my 17 minute TED Talk on the subject. If people have a few hours they 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 on the whole thing. And then they can visit our website where everything is explained and the website is SalesBrain.com.

Drew McLellan:

Okay, so we’ll include links to all that. You don’t have to Google him, 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. And, 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. 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. Appreciate it very much.

Patrick Renvoise:

Thanks Andrew, talk to you soon.

Drew McLellan:

All righty. Hey guys, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Couple 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 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, you ask each other questions, and we can 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 podcast site, wherever you download the podcast, iTunes, or Google, or Stitcher, or iHeartRadio, or wherever you do that. And then take a screen shot of it, so I know it’s you; shoot me an email of that screen shot, 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 with as cool an accent, but with another guest nonetheless with great information to help you think differently about your business. All right, I’ll talk to you soon.

That’s all for this episode of AMI’s Build a Better Agency Podcast. Be sure to visit AgencyManagementInstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to midsized agencies. Don’t forget to subscribe today so you don’t miss an episode.