Emotional Branding: There’s a Lizard in Your Brain!

We all have brains. Reptilian brains.

And much of our activity is driven by the associated limbic system. It’s not high-functioning, it’s not tremendously analytical. It’s visceral. And it’s this “neuro-gut” response that drives much of our behavior. Our neo-cortex is a much later evolutionary development that is responsible for higher thought and reason. It’s the “thinking man’s” brain. Well…that’s true until you really think about it.

The limbic system defines us across 4 specific areas: fight, flight, feeding and sex. Our limbic reaction to confrontation is often fight or flee—there isn’t much thought around potential outcomes. It’s just fight or get the heck out of here. Further, our desire for food, at some point, becomes less about the menu and more about the primal drive to eat. And, of course, there’s the basic sexual drive.

Now here’s the interesting part…and it’s the ad man’s secret!  The limbic drivers that define our “animal origins” serve very nicely as the emotional drivers for advertising. As much as we like to think about sophisticated campaigns that appeal to our intellect, the base aspects of human emotion take over.

Let’s take a closer look.

Fight:  It’s all about the battle. The fight with the spouse. The fight against “ring around the collar” or even the fight against yourself that’s driven by personal conflict. Confronting our household demons–like two animals fighting in the forest—provides a potent emotional basis to communicate.

Flight:  Who doesn’t want to flee!?  The notion of escape is classic—from Calgon to Club Med. Our escape reflect our base desire to “run away.” The hot and soapy bath, the drive in the cool car, the restaurant with the exotic cuisine, and the hotel that treats you like a queen are all part of our limbic brain that drives our behavior.

Feeding:  It’s not just about your stomach!  Feeding your soul and enriching yourself also feeds your limbic needs.

Sex:  How many times has sex been the basis for advertising?  But it stands to reason that this primal driver can be a very successful tool to gain interest, action and adoption.

Now the advertising fun really starts!!!  Imagine combining these four core elements. The escape to a luxurious, sexy island. The fight that concludes with a romantic interlude. Or even the erotic nature of food. The combinations are endless. And the results are very powerful.

So, next time you think about why you drive a BMW or choose a vacation destination, ask that little lizard who lives in the middle of your brain.


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