This is part 1 of a 5 part series about my time at the SXSW Interactive Conference 2017. I’ve consolidated information around five trends and some of the most interesting things I learned about each of them. (Originally sent as a series of emails to a smaller group of associates, RPA thought this was so great that we decided to archive them on our website.) 

I’ll start off with a nice, light one:  Neuroscientific Applications to Marketing.

There was a whole neuroscience track at the conference and many of the sessions had catchy names like the one I stole for the subject line of this email. Over the past few years there have been remarkable advances on how brain activity can be measured. This is leading to studies of the links between neural responses to ads and eventual purchase. What if we could measure an increase in purchase intent in a physiological way? That would be cool, weird and creepy. But probably a lot more accurate than asking people to self-report if their likeliness to purchase increased after seeing an ad.

Not necessarily marketing related, but just to show the power of understanding how our brains work:

  • 95% of the decisions we make happen subconsciously. This tactic evolved over years to conserve processing power versus needing to make active decisions. We default to these hard-wired decisions whenever possible
  • In wine stores, when French music is playing, people are more likely to purchase French wine – without even being conscious of music playing. Change the music to Italian and Italian wine purchase go up
  • People pay more for homes with “Country” (+4%) and “Country Club” (+9%) in street name
  • Top wine experts were fooled by white wine that was dyed red. They used red wine evaluating language and techniques
  •  Even neuroscientists can’t escape these subconscious triggers-  they will rate articles as more credible when pictures of brain scan activity are included

Marketing applications – how can we play into these subconscious triggers? Here are 7 principles:

  • Von Restorff effect: we are hard wired to noticed differences. Like caveman coming out of cave to evaluate if anything has changed. How can we use that?
    1. Hand drawn CTA button or emoji in subject line create a visual difference we can’t ignore
    2. Oops mistake emails get a 46% click through rate - people can’t resist knowing how we screwed up
  • Psychology of surprise: change what people might be expecting
    1. Turn a headline around from a phrase you'd expect
    2. Not knowing what the exact benefit is can be compelling. People are much more interested in taking a chance on a big payoff versus a small prize they are guaranteed
  • Storytelling: this activates additional parts of your brain. And the more activated different parts of your brain are, the better you'll remember. Think about the story as a Trojan horse for your message
    1. Let people fill in their own conclusions – we don't argue with our own conclusions
      1. Budweiser “Born the Hard Way” Super Bowl spot let people fill in their own conclusions around entrepreneurship, immigration, the American Dream, the election
    2. People hate starting a story without finishing it – tool for increased engagement
    3. Once we've shared something, we feel bad if we don't have equivalent action. If we share that we like rioja with prosciutto, we'll go out of our way to try to live up to that. If we share a recipe, we are much more likely to actually make it ourselves
    4. We are most likely to be impacted in storytelling by these four emotions: anxiety, awe, wonder and fear. We are twice as motivated to avoid pain versus seeking pleasure. Fear: Women searching for birth control find the headline “worst forms of birth control” much more intriguing than “the best forms of birth control.” Wonder: eBay crap with a story added to it makes it much more valuable - snow globes with made up stories attached to them sold for 10x the original price when they were listed without a story
    5. Availability bias: people will take shortcuts when they are made available to them
      1. People will evaluate their need for your product if they can remember a time when they would have needed it. Sharper Image sent a hand cranked radio email with storm watch headline right after storm stuff was in the news.
      2. Dinner with Barack fundraising email showed the table map and where you would sit so you can picture yourself there. Makes the prize much more appealing versus getting an email and thinking “I’ll never win that”
  • Scarcity principle: rarity actually changes how we perceive/experience products
    1. People rated cookies in jar with fewer cookies as better tasting cookies than the same cookies that were in a jar with more cookies
    2. Emails see a 22% lift in click through when some kind of scarcity tactic is used. Tactics include: countdown clock for a sale, “only 7 seats left,” "if you're waiting for this to go on sale, if probably won't still be around"
    3. Beyond the Rack shows what's already reserved by people (for products you can’t even get anymore)
    4. In emails show who the audience of the email is so you don’t assume everyone else is receiving it. Show the exclusivity. Subject- “you have been selected because of ___”
  • Framing: how you position things means everything
    1. Most people said no to “can you smoke while you pray” but said yes to “can you pray while you smoke.”
    2. Changing “$5 fee” versus to “small $5 fee” created a 20% uptick in conversion
    3. “Public record” versus “online petition” dramatically changed participation
    4. Yes/No bias- we are less likely to say “no” when both options are presented. Have “yes” and “no” buttons, with description on “no” (no, I'd rather not know how my marketing is performing)
  • Cognitive ease: here are tactics that make decisions easier by offering shortcuts to reduce the cognitive load of a decision
    1. Pictures are absorbed much more quickly than words. Simplified product landing page increased conversion by 220%
    2. Express the benefit- “Show me outfits I’ll love” outperformed “Sign up now” CTA button
    3. Anchoring- put more expensive option or price on the left or top because that first price becomes the anchor and what people will compare the other options/prices to moving forward
      1. Williams Sonoma introduced a more expensive electric mixer model to increase sales of their standard $499 mixer
    4. Social Proof- each yelp review star is worth an increase of 9% in sales, topping out at 4.2 stars (people are skeptical of 5 stars)
  • Decoy pricing: there's a physical pain when paying, so we are very primed to want to decrease that pain during the purchase process
    1. “.00” takes up more space, reads as longer # = more expensive
    2. Having the dollar sign half the size has shown to increase sales
    3. For magazine subscriptions, people who only want the $25 digital version will purchase the $40 package with the paper and digital version because it’s the same price as the $40 paper version (even though they didn’t even want the paper version) – too good of a deal to pass up
    4. Hedonic bundling- get these two and then get HBO free versus saying you'll get all three
    5. Single choice aversion - give a second option so people don't feel the need to mull over the single option
    6. Similar items with slightly different prices helped people make a purchase decision versus items having the same price

More to come tomorrow!