5 Psychology Hacks to Activate the Amygdala and Influence Your Customers

Effective marketing is usually a mix of creativity, science, and psychology. This alchemical concoction is what tends to produce the greatest and most transformative business results. However, a lot of companies miss the mark when it comes to tapping into their consumer’s brains. That’s what one area of marketing focuses on and it’s called neuromarketing.

We know… It sounds like an overly fancy buzzword for psychology, but we didn’t make it up. This post will teach you 5 neuromarketing hacks to activate the amygdala and influence your customers (in a positive way).

“98% of what the brain does is outside of conscious awareness.” –Michael S. Gazzaniga

What is the amygdala (reptilian brain)?

The amygdala is an almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe. Shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making and emotional responses (including fear, anxiety, and aggression). This is often referred to as someone’s reptilian brain.  

What is neuromarketing?

Neuromarketing is a commercial marketing communication field that applies neuropsychology to marketing research, studying consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. Neuromarketing seeks to understand the rationale behind how consumers make purchasing decisions and their responses to marketing stimuli in order to apply those learnings in the marketing realm.  

How is this tested?

Cup o’ joe test In 2008 Lawrence Williams of the University of Colorado conducted an interesting experiment that detailed how certain stimuli can affect our emotions and decision making. Called the “cup o’ joe test.” Subjects were handed a cup of coffee right before being asked to write down their thoughts about a man, “Joe,” whose photograph they received after receiving the coffee. In the experiment, there were two test groups. One of the groups was handed and allowed to briefly hold a warm cup of coffee, and the other group was handed an iced coffee instead. What they found was extremely interesting. Subjects who held the warm cup of coffee had a more positive view of Joe than those who held the cold cup, even though the photograph and everything else was identical. The only difference being the temperature of the coffee.

What does this mean?

This suggests that the subject’s reptilian brain was activated and the subject is reacting to the physical sensation of the warm cup of coffee. The subject without even realizing it, made conclusions about Joe based on physical stimuli, deciding that warmth was a positive indicator for Joe. From here the limbic brain, which supports our emotions, takes over. Warm = Good Warm + Person = Trust Cold + Person = Less Trust Conclusion: It is better to be around warm people since they can be trusted more than cold people. From here the lingual or better known as the rational brain (neocortex) is left to quickly understand why and is able to rationalize the decision that has previously been made about Joe by the other unconscious parts of the brain. The rationalizing brain literally makes up whatever good reasons it can think of to like a warm cup Joe and to dislike cold cup Joe.  

Why does this matter to you?

Well, there are a lot of potential benefits for those leveraging these techniques such as more efficient and effective marketing campaigns and strategies, fewer product and campaign failures, and ultimately the manipulation of the real needs and the wants of people to suit the needs and wants of your specific marketing interests. Now that you understand how all of this works, here are 5 Almost Magical Neuromarketing hacks to activate the amygdala and supercharge your social media.  

Hack 1: Support your customer’s self-preserving mission.

Our reptile brains first and foremost concern is survival. It actually cares very little about anything other than itself. Understanding that is the first step in effectively communicating with your customers. It’s their world, and we just live in it. Any social media post should support the customer’s self-preserving mission. Obviously, we’re not talking about running away from dinosaurs here, but more specifically translating this knowledge into posts that appeal to primitive needs such as survival, or the ability to reproduce.

For example, a medspa that posts about how a person can look more youthful with their botox injections resulting in a more attractive you uses neuromarketing well because by looking more attractive it enhances a person’s ability to reproduce.

Hack 2: Become your customer’s healer.

What do you do in response to your pain? According to scientists, the brain´s response is three times stronger when trying to avoid pain than when seeking pleasure. This means that messages targeting pain avoidance have a direct effect on the region of the brain responsible for decision making (the prefrontal cortex). As a business owner, your focus should be to become the source of your customer’s comfort for whatever pain your business is looking to alleviate. When you become a safe source of comfort for your customer you build brand power and cement yourself into their minds more permanently.

For example, a company that sells sleep aid product could make a post on helpful home remedies to help you sleep at night. This is great because it shows the customer that the company is invested in their pain (not being able to sleep) and not just their wallet.

Hack 3: Be specific in how you can help.

Most people don’t trust things they don’t understand. That’s because our survival instinct relates specifically to the tangible. So if your desire is to engage with your audience, which is generally the desire of all business owners, we recommend you are specific in your language. Talk about the way your product or idea will affect them and their pain in a positive way. Be as specific as possible, the more they understand and see, the more they feel they can trust you. A confused customer is an unhappy customer and is likely to not be a customer for very long.

For example, a company that makes an e-book with detailed tips with examples of how to leverage neuromarketing hacks to help their audience increase their engagement and sales. 😉

Hack 4: Humanize your brand.

People like to engage with brands that have a unique and typically relatable voice. When your customers start to see your brand as a personality that has certain traits and characteristics, it makes it more relatable and therefore more trustworthy. A brand that has a vague voice fails to connect with its target audience and ultimately loses the appeal to another competing brand that speaks better.

For example, Wendy’s, the fast-food company, is well known on social media for having a funny and engaging brand voice. They experienced huge growth in 2017 when they started roasting their followers and competition. According to bizjournals.com, their Net income was $159.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to net income of $28.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. Wendy’s experienced a 49.7% growth in profit from $129.6 million to $194 million for the year. Additionally, for the first time ever, Wendy’s sales exceeded the $10 billion global sales target for 2017. Check out Twitter.com/wendys to see them in action.

Hack 5: Instill the fear of missing out (FOMO).

Ever felt left out before? We are willing to bet you hated it. One interesting truth found by neuromarketing is that your customers hate it too. People really don’t want to lose out or miss a potential opportunity to capitalize on something that they perceive benefits them. They are worried about loss and gain equally. For this reason “buy before it’s gone” strategies are highly effective.

For example, a Yoga studio that does a post on a limited-one-time-flash sale on their weight loss program makes good use of this neuromarketing technique be limiting the term of the sale, and also appeals to the customer’s pain, which is losing weight. According to neurosciencemarketing.com, when the alternative option is posed as a loss, consumers are much more likely to buy.


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