Neurohack Your Way to Better Marketing
Neuroscience and neuromarketing can unlock the secrets of your customers’ decision making, but they can also shed light into how you can perform better at your own marketing job! Lauren Alexander, of Neurohacker Collective, helps us take our marketing game to the next level by understanding how our brains work and the mental energy every decision takes.
Rich: My guest today is the VP of Marketing at Neurohacker Collective, a company focused on making wellness products best known for their Quality Up Mind supplement.
She’s a mother of two young children, a passionate gardener and biohacker. Her passion for biohacking is reflected in her upcoming book, The Biohacker Experiment, which is set to be released in 2024.
Today we are going to be talking about how we can use neuromarketing to improve results of our digital marketing with Lauren Alexander. Lauren, welcome to the podcast.
Lauren: Oh, great to be here.
Rich: So I was skimming your LinkedIn post, and I saw that you put down ‘gardening’ as a surprising but powerful biohack. How do you define ‘biohack’ and what do you plan on covering in your upcoming book?
Lauren: Oh man, what a wonderful way to kick this off. I became a biohacker really with my first pregnancy with my daughter, and joining the Neurohacker Collective, and understanding what biohacking is. Which is really making changes in lifestyle in order to create more health, more optimization. And my primary motivation was to create a healthy pregnancy for my daughter, but as a rabbit hole, it led to me optimizing many other things.
Now, what’s fantastic about gardening as a biohack that you wouldn’t expect is one, outdoor light exposure, a light diet. There’s a fantastic book about the impact of increasing your exposure to natural daylight and its impact on health. Right now there’s a lot of people that have heard, oh, vitamin D production, et cetera. That’s just like the tiny tip of the iceberg.
We as humans have been designed to spend 90% of our time outdoors. In our modern lifestyle, we are spending 99% of our time indoors and 1% if we’re lucky, walking to our car out of doors. But every cell in our body has its own circadian clock, and it needs cues from the sunlight. And in order to create health, and these are cells,, your liver cells need it, your stomach cells need it, your brain cells. So it is hugely impactful. So getting out in the garden, having a reason to drive your butt out of indoors to the outdoors is one of the biohacks.
But also there’s an emerging amount of evidence for “earthing”. Being connected with the ground. Releasing the charge of a body. We collect ions as human beings, electrical and chemical. Chemical, I think everyone gets it. You eat food, there’s a chemical reaction, blah, blah, blah. But I don’t think a lot of people intuitively understand the electrical component of the human body. And there’s emerging research that connecting our bodies with the earth’s electrical charge neutralizes and creates health. Clint Ober, he is like the godfather of Earthing, and I encourage anyone who’s interested in learning more to follow his work.
And then lastly, you were in for one asking me about gardening, because I could really go on and on. But, Exercise. So the cross-body movements that are continually needed for gardening, this swooping down, the standing up, et cetera, there’s this fantastic study that Brian Mackenzie, who’s a well-known marathon runner – ran like 150 miles in one go or something – he showed me this study about how they studied pro athletes, yogis, like all different kinds of exercise types over a long period of time. And farmers, gardeners, people who are doing these kind of movements continually, actually had better health performance in the study that they were doing. And it’s amazing. It’s one of my passions, obviously.
Rich: I can tell. No, it’s exciting. And also it’s something I’ve started to get into in the last few years, ever since Covid. So it’s nice to hear some additional scientific positive feedback.
On the biohack side of things, so it’s so common these days to see things about hacks, life hacks, what have you. Is there something specific about the word ‘biohacks’ or what is it exactly that makes biohacks maybe different than some other things that might improve our lives?
Lauren: Yeah, a biohack – and my company’s called Neurohacking – so we take it a step even closer because it’s a subclass of biohacking, focusing specifically on the brain. But biohacks is really just specifically on body. And these are everything from shortcuts to long cuts, but looking for results in your health.
Rich: All right, so we’re looking for optimal outcomes, whether it’s biohacks, neuro hacks, even life hacks, even though that’s more of a general term for you should be doing these things. Good to know.
So with that in mind as we think about this, for the people who are listening, why are we talking about gardening? First of all, gardening’s cool. But secondly, because we’re going to talk a little bit about how we can use some of these neuro hack techniques or ideas or heuristics in our marketing to motivate people to do the right thing. Which of course is to work with us or to take action that we want them to take, but also maybe a little bit about how it might impact us as marketers.
So starting with the first half of this, maybe also defining, I mean you’ve defined neuromarketing, but what are some of the things that we should keep in mind as we’re developing marketing and digital marketing campaigns that can help our campaigns really click with our prospects?
Lauren: Yeah. And as a marketer, I’m super tactical. And some of the toolkit, the tactics of neuromarketing have to do with understanding the recency bias, understanding how an anchoring heuristic, understanding the escalation of effort heuristic. These are all things that the brain does that takes shortcuts. It needs to take shortcuts to save energy.
But before I get like super into the tactics, I think we should set the table about things that you need to understand about how the brain works. And there’s five things that you should know about the brain. One is that it uses a ton of energy. Like pound for pound the brain uses more energy than any organ in the body. And because of that, our body is constantly looking for ways to conserve energy.
And number three, the brain is designed to forget. It does not want to hold on to everything. It, it just can’t. And it knows that, and it’s designed to do that.
And number four, it’s designed to over-index negative things. This is a survival thing that’s as old as can be, but it is designed to hold on and index these negative emotions.
And then five, it’s designed to over-index emotional experiences. And so when you look at this and you look at how the brain’s trying to conserve. And so one thing to think about is that everything requires mental energy. You wake up and you have a bank account. I love this analogy. As a marketer, I think all marketers, we’re budgeters, right? We’re always using a budget. And so you wake up and you have this bank account of mental energy, and your body doesn’t know if it’s a thousand dollars day, if it’s a hundred thousand dollars day, it starts conserving immediately. And so everything you do draws from your bank account. putting on socks, passing an email over, deciding what route to take to work, to school, whatever. All of those things draw from your bank account.
As marketers, we have to make so many decisions every day. Like rapid fire and ingest so much information, reading copy, reading what’s trending, looking at our competitor’s ads, reading our emails that are going out, et cetera. So there’s so much volume that by noon you could have spent your whole bank account. And so then when you’re pulled into meetings, et cetera, and feeling frazzled, emotional, irritated, et cetera, these aren’t personality traits. These are traits that are showing that you have overextended your bank account for the day.
And a couple things to understand, and I think it’s really important to understand this bank account analogy. And as a budgeter there’s two ways to handle a budget. You make more money, or you spend less money. And so the body is working whether you consent to or not, it is working to conserve energy.
And one of the ways that it does that is automatic processes and habits. So once you start doing something that your body says okay, I can habitualize this, and it will firmly wire those neurons together. And it does that because it knows that it takes less effort to process a habitual thing. So if every morning you come in and you’re scanning news articles and you do the exact same thing every morning, your body’s going to get good doing that fast, doing that a certain way. Same as if you’re always driving to work the same way and you get out the car and then one morning you need to go in the other direction, you’re going to you might already be going the way that you’ve habitualized.
And that’s probably a whole other podcast, because Atomic Habits and optimizing your habits for what outcome you want to be a peak performer, is like a whole exciting and amazing conversation. But I’m going to just leave it there and just know that your body’s looking to habitualize everything it can.
Rich: Alright. And with that in mind, first of all, I’ve been taking incredible notes here as you’re talking. You mentioned there were five things that you need to understand about your brain. I wrote down four of them. I think I skipped over number two. So you’re telling us that our brain uses a ton of energy. You’re telling us, and I think you said that was number one. Number three, your brain can’t hold onto everything so you lose something. You know it’s going to pay attention. Four is you’re going to over-index or pay more attention to negative things over positive things. And the fifth thing was you’re going to over-index emotional things as well. What did I miss when you had your top five list of things that we should understand about the brain so we can do a better job?
Lauren: Number two is it’s constantly looking for ways to conserve energy.
Rich: All right. Excellent. All right, that makes sense. So with this idea, and the idea that all humans share these traits, and putting on our marketing hats as creating content or deliverables or campaigns right now, how might some of these things impact the way that we think about our marketing or the campaigns that we put together, knowing that people are going to over-index negative and emotional things, that they can’t hold onto everything, and that their brain is using a ton of energy?
Lauren: Yeah, so going to the number three on my list where it’s designed to forget, this is like a great opportunity to talk about a part of the brain that is responsible for this. Which is the reticular activating system, RAS for short. And this is the filter that looks for patterns and looks for things that you are signaling are important.
So one of the things that is the classic example for the reticular activating system is the red car syndrome. You buy a red car and then all of a sudden you’re like, man, there’s so many red cars on the freeway. And that was because up until you bought a red car, there were red cars everywhere, but your brain didn’t focus on them whatsoever. But once you signaled that you’re a red car or a Jeep owner or whatever, your brain started looking for those things.
And so as a marketer, a lot of success happens with what I call like a triangulation of marketing, where you have multiple points repeating the same message over and over again. And then all of a sudden someone who’s never seen your brand before is like wow, this brand is everywhere, I can’t believe it. And obviously a little retargeting in algorithms are at play, but a lot of it also is that reticular activating system filtering that this is important.
When I see an ad for Qualia, I’m going to pay attention. And then when they see another ad, they go, oh, look at that. And then they see another ad, and they look at that. So everything is omnichannel now, right? So thinking about ways that you can strengthen and know that the body is designed to forget. So how do you anchor and repeat your message so that the brain is going to start indexing that this is important, this ad is important, I’m going to pay attention each time I see it.
Rich: If our brains are more wired to remember things that are emotional or negative, does that mean we have to go negative in our advertising? I’ve certainly heard that whatever bleeds, leads in news. And often negative headlines will grab our attention faster than positive ones. But what if we don’t want to go negative?
Lauren: Me too. I am like a diehard optimist. The fact of the matter is that, because of survival mechanism… Now again, we’re out and about and we step over in a bush and a snake bites us, we’re going to super remember where that is because that was a negative experience. We ate from a bush and got food poisoning all night long. We’re going to super remember never to eat those berries again. So this is our wiring, and we can’t escape that. And so it is like pretty foundational that negative experiences are going to catch more attention and be negative.
Despite that, I mean I share your conviction that we have to overcome that, and sometimes it’s negative to miss out on opportunities and so that’s been a way to still be positive, not fear mongering, but to create a FOMO experience in my advertising and to get creative about I know this about the brain, I know this about our survival. Like how can I do it and still have my way about it? And that’s my kind of response on that one.
Rich: And maybe it’s a matter of, I hate to say ‘bait and switch’, but I remember an article once that talked about you’re always going to tune into something about, lunches that will make your kids sick versus healthy choices for school lunches. It’s just like you’re worried about it, but once you get past that headline, then it could be the same kind of content. It’s just maybe you need to use those heuristic tricks or triggers to get somebody to pay attention in the first place. I’m not sure.
So what are some of the other ways, you mentioned some things like anchoring and recency bias, how do those play into some of these heuristics that you’ve talked about, and how might we employ them?
Lauren: Yeah. So I was talking earlier about ways the body’s conserving energy, and this is the perfect way to talk segue into heuristics. So way one I listed was processes and habits, and way two is creating and relying on shortcuts, heuristics. So that basically making snap decisions, snap judgments based on limited information rather than engaging in this like thorough thought, time consuming analysis for every piece of data that comes through. And especially now, we would never do anything if we, executed that.
And so one of the most famous for marketers, heuristic is this anchoring heuristic. Which likely everyone’s already implement. But like the classic example is having a price at a high point, striking through offering a lower. So you’ve anchored a high price point, but you’re offering a limited special at a lower.
Another classic example of this is anchoring. Buy three bottles for X amount, or you could get one bottle at X amount, which is much lower. So again, you’ve anchored. Already the expectation is in a different direction.
One of the ones, I don’t know if it’s all I think this is opportunity for everyone to look into, and this is called the escalation of commitment heuristic. And basically we are overly influenced by what we’ve already committed to. So the brain, once you’ve made the decision, the brain is like, I don’t have to make that decision again. I’m done. I’m good.
And so think about someone going through your landing page experience and thinking about the commitment that they make and the steps of commitment that they make. And the more steps of commitment they make, the harder it is to unwind the brain into winding that down.
This one as a marketer, I’ll just be fully transparent, is my kryptonite on making agreements. And so once I’ve made an agreement or signed a contract for something, I still am like let’s just keep optimizing. Or I’ll find a new way or getting more creative instead of stepping back and being like, oh, I need to untether this commitment. I’m sure we all can think of examples where you’ve thrown good money at bad because of this classic heuristic. But it’s really fundamental as the brain being like, hey, I can only make so many decisions. I already made that one, I’m not going to remake it.
Rich: And there’s been some really cool research. I’m sure you’ve seen the same kind of things that I have out there, where it’s once you get a consumer to say a series of small yeses, then they’re so ready for that next yes. Because they’ve already started to see themselves as that kind of person.
And I’ve heard some people like on a landing page after they fill out the app, after a contact form or something, or a free email sign up, that on the landing page they actually have a much bigger offer only available right then, which also plays into scarcity, about look, you’ve already said that you want to be a better marketer. Here’s my paid course that will then take you to the next level. And you’re like yeah, I guess I did say that, and I do want to be one, so maybe I do need your course.
And obviously this can be very manipulative, it can be used for good or evil. And of course all of our listeners here are very good people, so I don’t mind sharing these tactics with them. But it is something that can be very powerful and put to use.
You mentioned the recency bias. I’m less familiar with that one. Can you explain what that is?
Lauren: Yeah. So this is like what is immediately accessible we can hold onto and carry as a truth. And so if you just agreed or read something about this marketing course that every marketer’s doing TikTok wrong or something, and you have a series of yeses. You tell the brain, you’ve signaled that, like you buy into that and then you’re submitted with an offer. About something. So you’re agreeing with something you recently saw. It’s really difficult unless you’re sensitive to this part of the brain, to keep moving in that direction.
Rich: So we’re more heavily influenced by things we’ve just recently seen. Even if maybe we looked at the whole of history, we’d be like that’s just a recent blip. But we’re just paying attention, we see an article about a car crash, and suddenly in our minds, car crashes could happen all the time, or whatever it may be.
Lauren: And this is another one, like to bring it back as a marketer, right? So you just got served data from your email campaign person that’s like sending at 2:00 PM doesn’t work anymore, because of one send or whatever, right? And all of a sudden you’re like, 2:00 PM’s terrible, blah, blah, blah, blah. And you set in motion this recency bias, even though if you zoom out, look at the series of hundreds and thousands of different time tests, that was an isolated thing.
And so recency’s bias is really potent, and because of so much data that we have our hands in, it is one to just really step back and be like, am I responding to this because I just heard a podcast about this thing and I have this lens, this recency thing glowing over me?
Rich: And I’m wondering, as a marketer, if we can use this if there’s been something in the news a lot lately, like artificial intelligence or some of the stuff that’s going on right now with the espionage charges. Is there a way for us to tap into those? And again, this can be manipulative. We’re not suggesting that you should use it to manipulate people, but how might we use some of these elements in our own marketing campaigns and what can we do to maybe tie into something that’s been in the news lately?
Rich: So we’ve talked a lot about how we might use some of these heuristics to create more effective digital marketing campaigns, but I know you’re also thinking about it from the prospect of our day and how we can be, use some of these biohacks and neuro hacks on ourselves to just be better performers. So what are some of the things that we may want to be aware of as we’re in the office or working from home, so that we’re not overextending our brains and maybe doing the best job and optimizing ourselves?
Lauren: Right. And so going back to my budget example, make more money, spend less money. So I’ve talked about the three most classic ways of bodies conserving mental energy; habits, heuristic shortcuts, and the filtering out of unnecessary information via the reticular activating system. But we haven’t talk about how to build your bank account. And that is a great way.
One of the most studied is through neutropic supplementation and things like that. Because basically there’s a variety of ingredients that have been studied to boost the brain’s ability, neuroplasticity. And so thinking about things that you can do to boost neuroplasticity. If that’s something that’s new to the group, this is the brain forming and reorganizing synaptic connections. And so again, just how the brain’s like wiring tight habits. If the more you can loosen and create new connections, the more agile and the bigger your mental energy bank account can be.
Neuroplasticity is a really becoming more and more in the news stream. But there are everything from exercise has been proven to increase gray matter volume in the cortex, meditation, definite structural changes from meditators, diet plays an enormous role in this. And Neurohacker has such an opportunity, I get to work with one naturopathic doctor in particular who studies Ayurvedic medicine, and he’s known for Ayurvedic. And one of the things about Ayurveda is that every food is classified with what kind of energy it will give you. And not to get too deep into that, but just to understand that the energy in your food determines the energy in your mind.
Rich: Please tell me burritos are good for marketing.
Lauren: Well…. Depending.
Rich: I guess it depends on what’s in the burrito, right?
Lauren: What people agree on for that is quite challenging to distill. But what things to eliminate for neuroplasticity and brain boosting mental energy. Ruthless elimination of seed oils, attention to healthy fats like avocado, eggs, et cetera, reduction of processed foods, rich sources of vitamins, polyphenols, and regular fasting as part of a diet.
And so there’s that whole piece, like neuroplastic creating. And everything, like literally, it’s really an interesting time right now because studies are coming out showing that brushing your teeth with your non-dominate hand can create.
Neuroplastic events, juggling, learning a new language, practicing a music instrument. These are all things that while they’re not directly affecting your business, they are because they’re creating more plasticity. And so instead of you running out of your bank account funds at noon, maybe you can keep going till two or three without hitting that.
Rich: I’ve seen something in, in my newsfeed at some point about how difficult it is to brush with your non-dominant hand and how it can open up… And so when you’re talking about neuroplasticity, you’re talking about really opening up new pathways in your brain, right? Being able to be more creative, think new ways, because you’re doing things out of habits.
Some of what we talked about is the fact that we fall into habits. That can be good because it saves up some of our energy. But you’re also saying that other tactics may free up or create more energy or more bank account for us because we’re not doing things the same way. And so it’s a little bit of trying to do a little bit of both, it sounds like.
Lauren: Yeah. You’ve got to conserve money and make more money in order to get…
Rich: To keep that bank account full. Excellent. Lauren, this has been really fun and very eye-opening. If people want to learn more about you, about Qualia Mind supplements, where can we send them online?
Lauren: Yeah. So I actually set up a page for you with a special offer for Qualia Mind, if anyone is interested. It’s neurohacker.com/agentsofchange. So if you go there, you’re going to have a special treat from me on Instagram. We are always publishing new content and stories, so please follow us there, it’s @Neurohacker would be another great place to find us.
Rich: All right, awesome. And we’ll of course have those links in the show note. Lauren, thank you so much for coming by today and sharing your expertise.
Lauren: Thank you.
Lauren Alexander creates winning marketing strategies by overcoming blind spots in marketing using her 5 science-based biohacks. Follow her on Instagram, and check out her special offer exclusively for listeners of The Agents of Change podcast!
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.