Sex Doesn’t Sell that Well! – How to make real visceral connections with customers

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I have long been an admirer of the work of Martin Lindstrom. As you probably know, Martin is a revolutionary thinker in the area of consumer behavior, branding, and neuromarketing. In fact he worked with a group of 20 noted scientists to conduct a 3 year 7 million dollar study that used state-of-the-art brain scanning and other physiologic measures to assess 2000 international consumer volunteers. Research subjects were measured in response to ads, commercials, brands, products and logos. Principally, the research addressed dimensions that lead to logo effectiveness, how engaging a consumer’s senses during marketing ultimately influences their purchase behavior, what you should know when making advertising placement decisions, whether subliminal advertising works, and how advertising effectively incorporates elements of religious symbolism and ritual.

The findings of that research which are reported in Martin’s book Buyology are fascinating at least and relevant to anyone who wants to make a visceral connection with their customers. Here are just a few tidbits and then some implications for the rest of us:

Great brand icons affect physiology and create powerful emotional experiences. For example:



Place a blue Tiffany box in front of a woman who is familiar with that icon and her heart rate increases 20%,

Take a smoker and place a sheet of paper colored with Marlboro red in front of them and the brain center that regulates cravings lights up on brain scans,

Place a blindfold on a child, put some Play-Dough near their nose and they can almost instantly recognize the product.

Marketing isn’t only a visual phenomena – with smell and sound being big draws. Some supermarkets bakeries and quick service restaurants actually use artificial smells of fresh-cooked food to draw customers into a purchase. The nationality of music playing in a wine shop can effectively be used to drive purchase behavior between French and German wines.

Sexual imagery in advertising is probably less effective for product sales than you might think. Sexual images definitely capture attention but that attention goes to the sexual content not to the product associated with the imagery. In fact, findings suggest 1-in-10 men exposed to a sexually suggestive ad were able to recall the product from the ad. That is about half as many as could remember a product when presented in a non-sexually suggestive advertisement.

So what is the take-away, well for Martin Lindstrom it is all about increasing the effectiveness of marketing messages amidst the clutter of advertising. As a customer experience and leadership consultant, however, my take-away is a little different. Lindstrom’s work reminds me to audit sensory input at every customer touchpoint (not only during the marketing or purchase phases). Unequivocally, Lindstrom and his research colleagues prove that sensory stimuli produce visceral responses in consumers which can translate into a positive emotional connection between a customer and a product or brand.



So as you map out each contact point with your customer, I would encourage you to ask, is their a smell, sound, texture, or visual image presently associated with that touchpoint? If not, should their be one of these elements integrated into the customer experience at that moment? Conversely, if there are colors, smells, sights etc at a touchpoint are they ones that you should have their to produce the desired visceral response? Finally, should something be removed to simplify the clutter of sensory input at a given touchpoint?

Advertisers are not leaving emotional connections to chance. Lindstrom empowers them through high tech research to be even more effective at creating physiological and emotional reactions in all of us exposed to their advertising. Why shouldn’t those of us who wish to create compelling customer experiences take a page from Lindstrom’s work to drive physiology and emotion at every customer contact point, even those that occur after the sale?

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