Tom Roach, VP Brand Strategy at Jellyfish and Knowledge Theatre speaker at IBTM World 2022, explains to Mike Fletcher how neuroscience and a greater understanding of the principles of communication can help event marketers.
Q: You talk about the human brain as a constant that if fully understood, can help event marketers better understand audiences and how to reach them. Can you elaborate?
A: We’re obsessed with technology and change in marketing. But the one thing that never changes is the human brain. It’s the hardware that all of the software involved in marketing events and event design works off. Our emotional responses to things are hardwired. So how you communicate your event brand is all about tapping into those responses by creating powerful and consistent stimuli that align your activity with people’s emotional and subconscious habits. You don’t need people to love your brand, you just need to trigger them into thinking of you so that they habitually choose you over your competition.
Q: How does the way the brain works impact people’s behaviours when attending an exhibition or event?
A: Psychologist Daniel Kahneman outlined the two systems of mental processes that govern all human behaviour and decision-making. System 1 is quick, intuitive, automatic, lazy and effortless, and governs the vast majority of our decisions and behaviour. System 2 is slower, more conscious, more deliberative and more effortful, and is responsible for only a tiny minority of our behaviour. So although people assume we’re thinking creatures that feel, we’re actually feeling creatures that think.
In environments that are providing sensory overload, people’s System 1 mental processes will be far more powerful in choosing which way to go than System 2 thinking. In terms of event design, therefore, it’s possibly why exhibition organisers always seem to place the bar in the centre of the floor plan or why simple yet effective and striking branding or stand design is better for attracting new enquiries.
Q: Of your seven principals of effective marketing communication that will always be true because they’re based on how our brains work, which comes first?
A: You have to start with reaching as many people as possible and grabbing their attention through creativity. It’s a good place to start as it reminds you that most people in any given timeframe just aren’t that into you. As Martin Weigel puts it: “Your brand’s health depends on lots of people who don’t know you well, don’t think of you much and don’t buy you often, if at all.”
So remember, your most important audience isn’t nearly as obsessed about your brand as you are and don’t just speak to existing fans. You need to reach people en mass and start by delivering universal human truths.
Once you’ve caught their attention you can then influence individual emotional responses, which is something that events do incredibly well by delivering consistent, distinctive and motivational content.
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