Neuroscience teaches us that memories don’t exist whole but as little bytes of sensory impulses that need reconstruction. Don’t make that reconstruction task more difficult than it needs to be. Though most marketers fear rejection, they should instead fear being ignored, explains Mike Teasdale. Here are five questions to ask yourself when developing messaging.

Let’s face it, most ad campaigns sink without a trace. Even most brands don’t register on the radar.

That’s not because an ever-fragmenting media landscape is clogged with countless messages. Nor is it because even the most basic of categories offer a proliferation of choice.

Although those factors don’t help, the reason most messaging and brands are invisible is because people filter out almost all the world around them. It’s a coping mechanism. As humans, we are hard-wired to focus on what really matters and that is highly unlikely to include a message from a brand.

Given this reality, it strikes me as odd that marketers continue to create and invest in messaging that is built on completely unrealistic foundations.

Why, for instance, do marketers continue to treat humans as rational beings making reasonable decisions based on knowledge? Why do marketers obsess about communicating a clear proposition and engaging consumers with what they have to say? Why do marketers bother measuring how well that information is delivered, or how engaged the audience is with their message?

The answer is because it’s comforting. It creates a sense of control over what is a scary and uncertain endeavour. It feels good to get all rational about the business of developing marketing messages. But the reality is that people don’t make buying decisions the way marketers make messaging decisions.

Humans have neither the time nor the processing power to do so. Instead, the brain devises intuitive strategies to help us make instant decisions driven by unconscious emotional reactions. At best, rational processing is used to justify and make us feel good about the emotional decision we’ve already made (this is the so-called intellectual alibi effect).

The bottom line is, marketers are obsessed with information when psychology tells us that humans are non-consumers of information. As my fellow AMV.BBDO planner Jeremy Thorpe-Woods (the strategic brain behind the Guinness Swim Black and Surfer TV commercials) is fond of saying, we should be thinking more about motive and alibi than proposition and support.

Jeremy works with Thom Noble from NeuroStrata and they wisely point out that if we make decisions in an emotional and intuitive manner, then it follows that brands need to be built the same way. Brands are not explicit memory palaces but implicit memory traces. Brands need to be built on sensory experiences and associations, not on awareness and communication.

Jeremy and Thom know that any strategy needs to influence the intuitive nature of decision-making, to focus on the impression we want to make rather than what we need to communicate. Basically, we should pay less attention to information and more attention to context.

Ads work by creating or strengthening implicit associations in the brain. That means we need ideas that exist in popular culture, ideas that create a pattern in our psyche, ideas that are adopted not force fed.

So, here’s a new year resolution that will enable you to make your communications more effective: ditch outmoded and unrealistic thinking as the basis for making messaging decisions.

You don’t need to be experts in neuroscience like Jeremy or Thom, just ask yourself these five questions when developing messaging…

First, how can you disrupt? The power of creativity is in its ability to surprise people. Surprise leads to fame and fame leads to brands being chosen on autopilot. Most marketers are worrying about being rejected when they should be worrying about being ignored. You’ve got to grab people from the get-go, so use disruption to increase attentiveness and memory formation.

Second, how can you stir emotions?  Surrounding a brand with emotion amplifies its level of mental availability because the stickiest memories are formed not from facts but from emotional responses. So, what visceral reactions can you stir in people?

Third, how can you make choosing you easy? Neuroscience teaches us that memories don’t exist whole but as little bytes of sensory impulses that need reconstruction. Don’t make that reconstruction task more difficult than it needs to be. Link your brand to visual and aural stimuli and other mnemonics.

Fourth, how can you be positive? Again, neuroscience teaches us that we like to feel good, not bad. Don’t fight that. You will lose. Even with challenging subjects, make sure ensure you generate positive feelings.

Fifth, how can you reward attention? The promise of needs met is the ultimate feel-good high so make sure any emotion you stimulate has a point. It’s not rocket science to realise that people sub-consciously ask "what’s in it for me?".

Adopt this basic advice and your messaging will work better. Or, ignore the advice and continue as you are doing. It’s easier to ignore the advice. It’s certainly more comfortable in the short run. But then so is peeing down your own trouser leg.