Marketing to Neanderthals

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Evolutionary biologists are confident that somewhere around 200,000 years ago Homosapiens swung down from the trees, and spread out across the African Savanna. 

Our pre-human ancestors were basically slow-moving food for bigger, stronger, predators. Without fur, razored teeth, titanic strength, or sharp claws, they survived because their brains had evolved differently than other species; it was their competitive advantage.

Although we’ve managed to fly to the moon and land robots on Mars, our brains haven’t changed very much over the last 50,000 years, and for the last 10,000 they have not really evolved at all. Regardless of our societal and technological growth, we are very much driven by our original instinct to survive.

How does any of this uber-nerdy evolutionary science factor into marketing you might be wondering? We’re going to connect the dots pretty soon, but understanding some of this stuff is critical to understanding how delivering effective marketing works.

As different as people might seem to be, there are a few things that are hard-wired into every one of us.

In 1939 cortical-driven emotions were discovered by Heinrich Kluver and Paul Bucy.  The limbic system, also called the paleomammalian cortex, and often referred to by many as the ‘Lizard Brain’ is responsible for our emotions. 

The Lizard Brain is one of the most primitive parts of our brain and the part of our grey matter that controls our basal instincts; fear, fight, flight, freeze, feeding, and fornication.

Regardless of the industry you are in or what you are marketing, the common denominator is people, and the common denominator of people is their emotions.

Humans have an intrinsic drive to survive. Fear and Pain are triggers for our survival instincts to kick in, and take over. Our emotions drive our actions, including those that make people pay attention (marketing) and ultimately to buy (sales).

Many of us believe we have control over our emotions. Realistically, we don’t. Emotions are the result of almost instantaneous chemical reactions within our brain triggered by the release of various neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and hormones and include things like Adrenaline, Dopamine, Serotonin, Acetylcholine, Oxytocin, Estrogen, Testosterone, Norepinephrine and epinephrine.

The vast majority of our emotions are measured and observed through physiological responses; a smile, increased heart rate, perspiration, flushing of the face and skin, etc.

If you’ve ever watched the TV show, Lie to Me, you’ll recognize how physical facial expressions are triggered by thoughts and emotions. Human expression is associated with both the central (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS). It is an involuntary physiological response to chemically derived emotions.

These complex systems engage the motor cortex, limbic system, and brain stem, and we have no control over the response. It is triggered within the part of our brain that is the oldest and the part that allowed us to survive without natural defences.

Our lizard brain responds instantly to both external and internal stimuli, and the emotional seed has already been planted, before we recognize any feeling has occurred or what we should do about it. our reptilian brain is extremely efficient at delivering its initial information.

The modern parts of our brain, which evolved since swinging down from the trees, control reason. They have the job of overcoming the powerful emotional messages that control action, and reaction, and process what happens next.

Marketing is fucking difficult because you need to find a balance between triggering the irrational and emotional side of the brain, while at the same time providing enough information that the rational brain needs to justify whatever action you want them to take next. 

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