ALERT: INSTRUCTIONS FOR Neuro Copy WritingUSE
I always recommend writing a text with a single reader in mind, but when what you write is a book things get complicated.
You could be many things, from communication manager in a company to owner of your own business, through student, researcher or even copywriter, like me.
Since we get on, you could even be my mom (hello mom!), So I have to warn you of something. To convey everything I know to you, I am going to imagine that you don’t know anything.
You don’t know what copywriting is or where neuromarketing comes from.
You also don’t know any advanced persuasion techniques.
You do not know what is hidden behind the narrative resources.
That version of you that I imagine is a clean slate. However, he is eager to learn and is as open-minded as that 6-year-old boy who always asks the why of everything.
And now, get into sponge-mode, let’s learn.
WHAT IS (AND WHAT IS NOT) Neuro Copy Writing
Some say that the world is made of numbers, but… isn’t it also made of words? Language is the most powerful communication tool between human beings.
Our parents get excited when we learn to speak; there are words that leave deeper scars than the blows and speeches that have managed to move masses. In fact, thoughts are ahead of emotions and are also made of words that resonate in our head.
This book would make little sense 50 years ago, but today it seems necessary to reflect and deepen on the power of written persuasion, especially since a giant like the Internet and a phenomenon like globalization dominate our lives.
I explain it better with figures.
In an article in The Guardian1 they analyzed the average number of words that an active user on the Internet could visualize per day in relation to traditional media. The result? 490,000. Half a million possible impacts on our brain thanks to the hypertextuality of the Internet.
As the article itself said, we are faced with the same number of words every day as the novel War and Peace by Tolstoy. I repeat: in a single day! Between emails, social networks, web pages, product sheets, articles that we decide to read voluntarily, more articles that we recommend, etc.
That’s why I told you a couple of paragraphs above that the digital age forces us to delve into the importance of written persuasion. Whether you want to sell a product or service on the Internet, or if you want to improve your persuasive writing skills, on these pages you will find techniques and examples to achieve your goals.
But first let’s put a face to the protagonist behind this book. What is this neurocopywriting thing? Where did it come from?
As a philologist in the Spanish language, I do not defend the use of Anglicisms to describe new concepts, but I recognize that they manage to capture the public’s attention. If I had to translate neurocopywriting literally, it would be something likeneuro-writing digital advertising.
And if I had to do it extensively, I would tell you that neurocopywriting is persuasive writing for the digital medium oriented to a specific objective, taking into account neuromarketing and neuro-sales techniques.
In order for you to understand the full dimension of these words, I need to delve into their prefix first.
Neuro- comes from “neuros”, the Greek word for nerve. That is why neurosciences study the nervous system in all its forms. Due to the current massive use of this prefix for everything (neuroeconomics, neuropublicity, neuroleadership or even neurocopywriting), neurosciences may seem something recent, but in this excerpt from the Journal of Neurology2, you can see that it is not like that:
“From the point of view From a neuroscience point of view, the Egyptians for the first time described the brain, migraine, epilepsy, stroke, tetanus, Bell’s palsy and the sequelae of head and spinal cord trauma ”.
The brain has always fascinated us.
Before continuing, I want to remind you that the objective of this book is not to make a complex scientific dissertation, but to help you write texts to persuade and sell.
In order to get to the point of mastering these techniques, we must first understand how the human mind and persuasion work, so let’s dive a little into some basic concepts.
Many branches derive from neuroscience, and the one that interests us is cognitive neuroscience, which joins psychology and studies language, behavior, memory and even decision-making.
And how is it studied? There are several scanning techniques and methods, such as electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In short, these technologies try to collect information from the brain to transform it into measurable data, although they have never been available to everyone.
In neuromarketing they are also used, along withtechnologies eye tracking , biosensors (to measure reactions on the skin) and facial recognition systems (to identify emotions).
What I want you to understand is that we are taking giant steps. To give you an idea, in January 2018 they awarded the CES award for the best virtual reality innovation to the LooxidVR helmet, the first device with EEG and portable eye tracking.
This means that for about $ 4,000 we can analyze the brain response of a reader who enters our website, when hundreds of thousands were needed before.
Talking about LooxidVR with a neuromarketing lab manager, he told me that it was impossible for it to be as reliable as the hundreds of thousands of dollars they had.
But what matters is not how reliable it is, but that the first portable gadget has ALREADY been invented to measure the emotions of the potential consumer using software connected to the computer. And it is a matter of (short) time that this technology is more accessible and easier to use for everyone.
This makes me think of the criticisms of neuromarketing. Its detractors speak of the exaggerations when associating it with a “new way of selling”, when the psychology of the consumer and the traditional market studies were already oriented to achieve the same objectives.
After having read, spoken and even interviewed both parties, I must say that it is more a question of mental walls. Everyone sweeps for their house without being aware that they live under the same roof.
On the one hand, neuromarketing is the evolution of experimental psychology and applied cognitive neurosciences. On the other hand, traditional market studies can still provide complementary data.
What is the problem then? That sometimes we are unable to look up and see that we are pieces of the same puzzle.
As the doctor of neuroscience José Viosca says, neuroscience is sexy.
Sounds good, attracts. Therefore, any marketing strategy accompanied by the “neuro” will come much better.
And I wonder, is that bad? Absolutely. What you must understand is that neuromarketing has not come from under a stone nor is it the miracle pill that will solve all your problems. It is a very (very) powerful tool and, above all, constantly EVOLVING. Used well, it will help you understand your consumer and sell more.
Now that you know where neuromarketing comes from, I am going to introduce you to the second protagonist of the title of this book, copywriting or copywriting.
In the first chapter of my other book, The Questo Libro è stato scritto in 12 ore e 56 minuti, I explained that advertising as we know it has its origins in the 20th century (although newspaper advertising spaces have existed since 1700). However, centuries before the “pay 2 get 3” claim came into our lives, human beings were already aware of the importance of persuading.
Around 450 a. of C. the first treatise of rhetoric of hand of Corax of Siracusa was born, that proposed a series of rules and norms to make a speech more convincing.
At that time, Córax knew that many citizens needed to convince the courts to obtain the return of their properties (previously confiscated by the tyrant Thrasybulus) and that document helped them to make the requests more truthful. It was a real guide to persuade.
From time to time I receive a message blaming me for teaching manipulation and calling my work a utopia, even telling me that copywriting will never be as ethical as I defend.
This eternal debate has already been suffered by Córax himself -and many behind him-, but as Professor Francisco García says in one of his articles3, the use of the word must be taken very seriously and rhetoric must never lose from an ethical point of view.
The fine line that separates manipulation from persuasion is the same that separates the use of a knife as a stab or as a practical tool.
Just as you can cut bread or kill someone, you can also use copywriting techniques to offer a good product or to sell smoke. You decide (and I hope you decide well).
I have gone back to classical Greece so that you understand once again that it is not about inventing the wheel or assimilating concepts created from nothing.
Digital copywriting is copywriting adapted to the online world. It is about developing a convincing persuasive text to achieve action in the recipient of the message, taking into account the behavior of the digital reader and new formats.
I explain better that of the formats:
In full s. XIX no one could imagine that newspaper advertisements would end up in bright little screens called televisions. And in the 40s of the s. XX also did not imagine that television spots could be seen and played on tiny devices called smartphones and tablets, and even that anything could be bought at the click of a button.
The evolution of copywriting is completely linked to the digital revolution. If before we could write advertising copy for magazines and letters, now we can do it for emails, social networks and web pages.
And that implies knowing well how two key elements work: the Internet and the user’s brain on the Internet. In the next chapter we will focus on the second.
HOW ALL YOUR CLIENT’S BRAINS WORK
At the beginning of the book I told you about my adolescent obsession with taking advantage of 100% of the brain, based on the misconception that we only use 10%. This false myth is totally discarded, but there are theories from which we can extract half truths.
“Are you a logical or creative person?” Surely you have heard many times about the duality of the hemispheres, but it is not entirely true that we use one or the other more.
I’ve been hearing all my life that being left-handed I am more creative because I use the right hemisphere a lot, but studies show that creativity is bilateral. That is, it is found on both sides of the brain. Julio Romero, in his essay The Myth of the Right Hemisphere and Creativity4, tells us that “the brain should be considered a system, not a set of parts.”
And I tell you this because now we are going to delve into the exciting world (not without controversy) of the 3 brains of the consumer. Everything I’m going to tell you must start from that idea: the brain is a system, a set of interrelated elements. Remember it.
In the 1960s the neurologist Paul MacLean launched his hypothesis of brain organization into 3 independent systems (triune): the logical brain (neocortex), the emotional brain (limbic) and the instinctive brain (reptilian or R-complex).
At the time it was an accepted theory and MacLean himself published a book in the 90s, but scientific advances (and especially studies in comparative neuroanatomy) show that it is a counter-evolutionary theory.
So why are we talking about the reptilian brain in neuro-sales?
Making scientific knowledge more accessible to society, most of the time happens by simplifying theories or taking elements that may be attractive so that the reader understands better what we mean.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Manuel García-García in cognitive neuroscience about this topic. When I asked him about popular science in marketing, he told me that many theories, although partially flawed or too simple, had made possible the ordinary reader’s approach to the study of the human brain.
That is to say, when we speak, for example, of the importance of activating the “emotional brain”, we are not trying to confirm MacLean’s theory, but rather that, said like this, it is easier for us to understand the relationship between the brain and emotions.
Because yes, that relationship exists and is indisputable. For example, the brain amygdala is involved in the memory of fear; and the insular cortex (another part of the brain) is linked to basic emotions such as hatred or love.
Clearly, if we understand how they work, we can use those relationships to our advantage.
What interests us about the “reptilian brain”?
I mentioned above that the new studies in comparative neuroanatomy indicate that the brain is not made up of three rooms without doors or windows. The different areas connect with each other.
There are parts in charge of processing logical information, other parts that are activated by emotions, and those connected with the most primary stimuli, such as survival and intuition, which are the ones we are going to talk about now.
Gerald Zaltman, a sociologist and professor at Harvard Business University, decided to investigate why 8 out of 10 products launched on the market failed. He focused on studying the mind of the buyer and found that 95% of human cognition occurred unconsciously5, and that included consumer decision-making when evaluating or buying a product.
In his studies, he assured that to connect with that unconscious mind it was not enough with the traditional dynamics (surveys or interviews), it was necessary to deepen and speak in “another language”.
To achieve this, Zaltman patented ZMET®, a research method based on images and metaphors that tries to discover the deepest thoughts and feelings of the consumer, in order to correctly focus the sales strategy of a product or service.
The clients of the ZMET® method are giants such as Microsoft, Samsung, KFC, Audi, Condé Nast and dozens of renowned companies that have understood that neuromarketing should be part of their strategy.
And how do we speak to that unconscious and “reptilian” mind? Understanding what your motivations are and how you activate.
In one of his TEDxtalks6, Patrick Renvoise talks about everything that stimulates the instinctive brain and summarizes it in 6 keys that we can apply to our copywriting strategy:
- Personal: he is interested in everything that has to do with his survival
- Testable: he likes them comparisons and contrasts
- Tangible: understand what you recognize and what is simple.
- Memorable: the first and last thing you see leaves a mark on you.
- Visual: you connect with this sense, you need to see to be activated.
- Emotional– Emotions help you remember.
In copywriting we say that we should avoid descriptive messages to focus on benefits, but if we combine persuasion with neuro-sales taking into account what stimulates the instinctive mind, we can create messages based on their needs.
Here is the example that I shared in my presentation on neuro-sales and copywriting at EventoDays 2018, the 12th edition of the events sector fair, where I tried to explain how to improve the same message by changing the words.
- Approach with descriptions
“For our event we have the 10 best speakers in the sector.” 2. Approach with benefits
“Come and discover exclusive techniques from 10 leading speakers in your sector”.
- Needs approach
“Do you want to increase / improve X? Ten leading speakers in your sector teach you in 24 hours what has taken them years to learn ”.
As you can see, the first example does not meet any of the stimuli. It speaks of “our event” instead of focusing on the reader, it begins with a preposition, and although the number 10 attracts attention, it is a message without any attraction for the reader.
In the second we improve it by adding a benefit (discover techniques) and we start with two action verbs (come and discover), in addition to using a power word (exclusive), but it can also be improved.
In the third, what I do is call the attention of the possible assistant through an initial question that includes a need (Do you want …?), I am using something tangible (time) and verifiable (years vs. hours), I give more relevance to action verbs (want, improve, teach, learn) instead of adorning with unnecessary adjectives.
As you can see, it is not about writing well, but about writing and building a strategic message where each word occupies its rightful place.
Adapting a text with copywriting techniques and neuromarketing principles may seem complicated, but when you finish the book you will see that you only have to put on your scientist’s coat to write. In the next chapter I will explain a practical case so that you can see that something as simple as prioritizing needs over characteristics can make you multiply sales.