“New and Improved” Gets Attention

traffic cop

The subconscious brain directs message traffic 

[Photo: Kolkata traffic cop © Jorge Royan /
http://www.royan.com.ar / CC-BY-SA-3.0]

The “old brain” pays attention to only a few types of sensory stimuli.  Yet all other external stimuli first enter through the old brain.

So what does the old brain do with all that other input that’s not about danger, food, or mating?  The majority of it is considered boring by the old brain and it gets ignored!

Some of that input may get passed along to the new, conscious and analytical brain because the old brain is not sure how to evaluate the stimuli.  But it forwards that information in such a generalized summary that the new brain can’t really make a well-informed analysis.

Scientists estimate that about 90% of your message will never make it to the new brain because the old brain just can’t process details.  It only passes along the big picture summary of the most concrete information.

How does the old brain process your marketing message?

When you’re presenting your marketing message, it is being received initially by your prospect’s old brain.  There are 3 reactions you definitely want to avoid:   bored, confused, and threatened.

  1.  If your audience’s old brain considers your message boring, then the message will be ignored.
  2. Another possible response is that their old brain will feel threatened and must choose to fight or flee.
  3. The other possibility is that they are confused by your message.  That is also perceived as a threat, but not in the sense of danger like the previous condition.

A confusing or complex message is a threat because, if it has to be passed along to the new brain for analysis, it has the potential to use up way too much brain power!

Remember that the old brain – in yourself or in your audience – is handling all sensory input at an estimated rate of about 40 billion bits per second.  It’s primary purpose in reviewing all that input is to keep you safe.  So any task that requires valuable brain resources to be used for logical analysis can put the person in a state of compromise  because so much brain power is tied up in abstract reasoning.

The ideal response that you’re looking for is for your message to be new and exciting enough, their old brain becomes intrigued and even entertained.  In this way, it shares the message with  their new brain but in a way that identifies it with positive emotions and entertainment, not with complexity and a threat to brain resources.  This is the most desirable outcome.

How can you keep the old brain entertained?

Researchers have discovered that the human brain is not just watching out for what’s new and different; it actually craves surprises!  Our brains respond favorably to pleasant surprises, although not to unpleasant ones.  Providing your audience with an unexpected experience not only gets their attention, but provides them with pleasure as well.

Quickly let your prospects know what is unique and surprising about your message.

You want to clearly identify for your audience what makes you different from your competitors.  Make this as black and white as possible because the old brain relies on clear contrast to process input.

It’s also a good idea to make this information as simple and concrete as you can to make it very easy for the old brain to understand what makes you unique.

You need to include what makes your product or service exciting and new.  The old brain craves novelty and unpredictability, so this will help you keep your audience’s attention and keep them enjoying your presentation.

Finally, be sure to share all the above information within the first 7-10 minutes of any presentation, webinar, or video or close to the beginning of an article, blog post, or other short marketing message.  The old brain will tune out after about 7 minutes if there is nothing happening that commands its attention.

How would you put this principle into action in your own marketing or for your clients?

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