The Zidane’s Head Butt

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How powerful are our Emotions?

When we saw Zinedine Zidane head butt Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final in 2006 summer, we witnessed an emotional response moving much faster and more strongly than rational thinking. What goes on inside the mind–from what we perceive to our ultimate behaviours, and how brain gives rise to the mind?

Conventional wisdom sees the Rational Brain as the decision maker. However, the Emotional Brain should be the focus of marketing folks. The Emotional Brain affects message reception and purchasing decisions. The Black Box diagram below shows a simplified view of the flow of sensory inputs from customer experiences through the Triune Brain. This view illustrates how emotional responses determine consumers’ choice of brands.

Beginning from (1) Customer Experience at various touch-points (from advertising messages to product experiences), (2) Sensory Inputs (hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch) enter into the brain. The (3) Attention Gateway performs the filtering function. Inputs which are complicated or unattractive and those which contradict emotional memories are rejected and not allowed to enter the brain.

Qualified messages are delivered to the (4) Emotional Thinking Region, and the initial scanning checks to see whether they satisfy emotional needs: improves positive emotions (e.g. feel good about oneself), creates a sense of rapport one can identify with (e.g. “Oh, this is just so me!”) or induces associations (e.g. projects the image of successful people). At the same time, messages are verified with the memories stored in the (5) Emotional Memory Region to determine whether these new messages strengthen, weaken, contradict or are indifferent to the old memories. Then this region creates updated expectations for future inputs from that message, brand, product or company.

The sensory messages sent to the (6) Rational Thinking Region move more slowly and with much less impact. It takes only 12 milliseconds (1 millisecond = 1/1000 second) for a message to travel from the Attention Gateway to the Emotional Thinking Region (including communications with the Emotional Memory Region) to (7) Emotional Judgment. It takes more than twice as much time (25 milliseconds) for the same message to make the journey from Attention Gateway to Rational Thinking Region to Emotional Judgment.

Emotional Judgment reflects our emotions and feelings via (8) Emotional Responses – this is where the fMRI tracks the neural activities within the brain. This emotional response directs final preference and choice in (9) Brand Selection. The whole process from step 1 to 9 is completed in less than the blink of an eye, just milliseconds.

The brain faces numerous messages everyday—recent estimates put the number of advertising messages touching an average adult in a modern city at about 3,000! It is impossible for the brain to assess each message for very long; it would simply overload. The brain’s processing and decision-making is fast and direct. Translation: we won’t (can’t) “think” in most cases. Within milliseconds, we decide to ignore, to like, to want to know more, or to take action, say to buy (or to head butt).

Zidane may not head butt Materazzi if he could react rationally (THINK after 25 milliseconds). But his emotions dictated his behaviour (ACT within the 25 milliseconds).

Our Emotions are terribly powerful. Agree?

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