One of my clients sells a small appliance to help people sleep better by creating an improved oxygen flow. She’s a dentist and has decades of experience with medicine and science. When she talks about this product, she can go on for hours about the appliance’s health benefits.
There’s Your Brain and There’s Your Belly
We all want to think we buy with our brain, but that’s so rarely true that I swear there’s a “brain lobby” out there paying for advertisements to make us continue to believe it. We buy from our belly, our guts. We buy from desire, more often than not.
Sure, when you go to the hardware store to replace a blind the cat knocked down in a frenzy, there’s not a lot of belly there. But when you buy a coat, a new car, a pair of shoes, or anything where one of the options is “I don’t really need to get this,” it’s your belly that does most of the thinking.
So why, then, do we try to market from the brain? If I tell you the easiest way to lose a lot of weight is to eat whatever you were going to eat but also add eight cups of broccoli to your daily consumption plan, you’d hate the advice. Even if you like broccoli. But it’s reasonably good advice (barring some medical afflictions).
But if I tell you that you can eat a cookie every day and drop some weight, you’re all over that cookie. (There was a cookie diet, and at least two companies sell protein cookies instead of bars the last time I checked.)
Bellies Buy. Brains Justify
Your brain works to justify things. But what I love to tell my clients is always the same: once you hook the belly, the brain just needs the paperwork to sign off.
In a business-to-consumer setting, you have to convince the significant other. In business-to-business, you might have five significant others to convince. But it works both ways.
We use our brains a lot when we don’t want to buy something, or when we feel threatened. We use our brains when we find ourselves startled into a sales pitch when we weren’t ready for it.
That’s why the smartest salespeople (and marketers) work on the belly first. Our bellies talk to our hearts, to our fantasies and to the prospect of possibility. We love language that helps us see ourselves in the future we want to imagine. And once we’re done with filling up the belly, we give the brain the paperwork it needs to close the idea.
Two Different Languages
Bellies like different words than brains. A belly wants words like:
Brains, on the other hand, prefer sensible words like:
- State of the art
And so on.
Look at how various products are marketed:
- Buick: At the heart of every Buick SUV is you - belly
- Milwaukee Sawsall: Best in class performance - brain
- Four Seasons Hotel (NYC): A landmark hotel on billionaires’ row - belly
- Lenovo Yoga: Smart, sleek and secure - a mix of two belly, one brain
The more you start looking for this, two distinct experiences will happen for you:
1. You’ll notice more when people are trying to appeal to your belly and you can decide whether to let them.
2. You’ll believe you’re now immune to marketing to your belly (and you’ll be wrong).
Marketing works because our brains and bellies want it to work. We need shortcuts throughout our daily processing of information so that we can decide whether we want to devote any time or effort into thinking about something.
You might be a “buy a bag of black socks” person or the “I love funky fancy socks and I show them off at conferences” type. Marketing lets you choose which person you want to be and how you want to feed those interests.
How are you selling to people? Are you aiming for their bellies or brains? And why?
About Chris Brogan
Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.
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