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Influencing the Human Brain in a Digital World, Part One

// June 10, 2010 // Advertising, Public Relations // 3 Comments

One of the most fascinating presentations at the PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference was “The Emotional Context of Rational Thought” by Carol Schiro Greenwald, PhD. Carol explained how the human brain works and why assumptions like Consumers think in a reasoned, rational way and Consumers can readily explain their thought processes are a mistake.

Carol asserts that multi-tasking is a myth as our minds are linear. This was confirmed in a recent NYTimes article stating that “technology is rewiring our brains.” But as Carol pointed out, rewiring is evolutionary. Perhaps in another generation or two, the brain will be able to juggle multiple messages and tasks at the same time, but right now we’re kidding ourselves – we can’t successfully pay attention to a number of messages or inputs simultaneously.

I sat down with Carol and asked her a few questions about the human brain and marketing:


Some key takeaways about the human brain for marketers:

95% of cognition occurs below the level of conscious awareness – In other words, we make decisions mostly from our subconscious and emotional brain centers. Touching someone’s emotional center, repeatedly, is going to be more successful than throwing “information” at them. All text rarely works.

80% of communication occurs through nonverbal means – A big challenge for digital marketing. Emails and short word communications leave out a lot of the message.

66% of all stimuli reach the brain through the visual system – We need to see something in order to understand it. We need to paint a picture to capture the senses.

My conclusion, confirmed by Carol in our video interview, is that video and photos will continue to grow in importance in digital marketing. Apple’s addition of video to the iPhone4 isn’t random. We want pictures. We want stories. Words just aren’t enough.

    author bio

    Founder/Chief Influence Officer. Strategist, writer, editor, PR and social media pro. Love to speak publicly (ping me) and spend time in my kitchen baking (don't ping me, I'm busy).


    1. I got here via San Diego Hospice while googling for Alzheimer’s information. I liked the brain/body descriptions and would like to see the concepts applied to emotional sites rather than mental–music and visual stimulation rather than puzzles and word games. Things that might put a smile on my wife’s face rather than confusion in the shrinking brain. Anyway, I’m impressed with your presentations. Cheers.

    2. Thanks Jim. As a marketing agency we are looking at these concepts as they relate to emotional messaging. I agree that music and visuals are more engaging.

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