How Brain Science Turns Browsers into Buyers


The panel of Roger Dooley (Dooley Direct LLC), Derek Halpern (Social Triggers), Brian Clark (Copyblogger media) and AK Pradeep (NeuroFocus) presented their perspectives on how to turn browsers into buyers. Their thoughts ranged from observed behavioral lessons, to hardcore neuroscience (fortunately explained in marketers terms by the hilarious and entertaining AK Pradeep).

Dooley focused on a phenomenon he calls the Doppleganger effect, that elicits a greater response if you put the customer in the ad – think Personalization works for our direct marketing communications, but you’d need to be careful about how to execute this without it appearing cheesy and / or creepy.

Derek Halpern has done extensive testing to understand how people read and absorb text on the web. People say they prefer to read text in narrow columns, like a newspaper.  But tests showed people who read wider content across a full web page, were more likely to retain what they had read for longer.

The same applies to fonts. In another  study, two groups were asked to read a description of a workout routine presented in two different fonts. One a simple font such as Arial or Verdana, another a complex scripted font such as Comic Sans. They were then asked to estimate how long the routine would take. Those who had read the simple font, grossly underestimated at 7.2 seconds, while the other group estimated more accurately at 15.1 minutes.

Derek applies this information to increase readership on his own blog. He starts with narrow copy, and then broadens it on the third of fourth paragraph. He also includes ‘soundbites’, ‘tweetable’ phrases, highlighted in bold with a bright border. This increases the number of retweets on his blog postings by a factor of four, and increases the tenure over which people Google his blog posts – people are searching for posts over a year old using keywords in his soundbites.

Brian Clark (@copyblogger) encouraged brands to use storytelling as a way to turn browsers into buyers. When we hear stories, our neurons fire, because we place ourselves in the story. With social, brands argue they ‘lose control’ of the story. The story can be steered, it’s only control of the distribution that’s lost.

Finally, AK Pradeep took to the stage, and despite a #SXSWTECHFAIL that rendered his PowerPoint unavailable, he managed to get his points across in the most entertaining presentation I’ve seen yet. Don’t miss this man speak if he’s in your area.

He started out by explaining the behaviors Derek Halpern observed. The human brain processes vertically, so it’s easier for us to scan down a narrow column. Reading broad columns, the brain stutters. This is why we can read more easily downwards, but tend to remember less.  Presumably the same applies to more complex fonts. The ‘soundbites’ Derek uses, AK termed ‘pop-up paradigms’, like people walking through the jungle – the brain looks for predators first, which explains the volume of retweets, but then the brain looks for context. In the case of the soundbites, it reads he content around the soundbites, which explains why they are more memorable.

AK then went on to explain three thoughts on turning browsers into buyers.

1)     It’s about me, not you. Why do people log into and post on Facebook? Is it to  be advertised to? No. They log in to Facebook, because they want to know if someone became their friend.  Second, they want to try to express themselves. They post in the hope that someone will appreciate them (“Oh my goodness, what an interesting life you lead”) or to get support (“oh, I’m so sorry your PowerPoint didn’t work).

We all know this, but still we help our clients to talk about themselves, rather than their customers.

2)     B2B = brand to brain. Acknowledge  the brain has an episodic way of processing, and context is important.

3)     Don’t sell, tell. Instead of brands asking “What kind of products would you like to buy” (so I can sell you more stuff), or  “Tell me your preferences” (so I can sell you more stuff). Tell what’s important to people to have some relevance on social networks.

AK closed by saying, “I’m going to show you a video. Something in a different voice. Not that you don’t like my voice, I don’t suffer from that kind of insecurity.” Enjoy…


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  • Nice wrapup, Chris, thanks!


    Roger Dooley
    March 14, 2012

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