What Exactly Is The "Old Brain" And Why Is Tapping Into It So Crucial For Branding & Conversions
What Exactly Is The "Old Brain" And Why Is Tapping Into It So Crucial For Branding & Conversions

What Exactly Is The "Old Brain" And Why Is Tapping Into It So Crucial For Branding & Conversions

“Every decision you ever made was decided by your reptilian brain! “

Sounds like a direct insult and depending on the person who is saying it to you… well it just might be!

You are not being insulted here though. This is actually a true statement and tapping into this brain can provide astounding results for marketers and brands. Allow me to explain.

We have 3 brains so to speak, which can be classified as old, middle and new and each works and processes information differently.

While the Middle Brain “feels”, it is the New Brain that is the thinker. Mr or Mrs logical and ironically the one that we all like to think is making our decisions and also the one that many marketers focus 100% of their efforts on.

The Old Brain however is the most primitive part of our brains that we share with reptiles (which is why it is also known as the Reptilian Brain) and it hasn’t really changed since primitive times so the main focus of the Old Brain is survival. Food, fight or flight and fornication being the main concerns.

So that’s what the Old Brain is but why this is important is because of what the old brain actually does.

The Old Brain analyses the data processed by the other 2 brains and makes a decision. That decision hopefully to connect with your brand or buy your product.

Just to backtrack a little before you learn how to tap into the Old Brain, what gave me inspiration to write this post is Neil Patel posted a blog post on the CrazyEgg blog yesterday that revealed some great ways to emotionally connect with customers. You will learn why this is relevant after reading this post.

In fact, immediately after reading this post about the Old Brain, please take another 5 minutes to go and read the post on the CrazyEgg blog.

It will be well worth your time and if this is all fairly new to you then you will gain a real insight into the reasons “why” many brands communicate in the manner in which they do.


There Are 6 Ways To Tap Into The Old Brain To Sell More Products Or Connect People To Your Brand

1. Old Brain is selfish

You’ve probably heard this a few times but make it about THEM. Old Brain is concerned with survival remember and only cares about itself (and its family) so only communicate through text, image, presentation – whatever – in a way that is 100% about them and not about you. Get an unbiased person or people to check your website and feedback as you might not see it the same way as someone not directly connected to it.

2. Provide the Old Brain with contrast

It won’t make a decision without contrast. It looks for clear contrast to make quick decisions and the lack of clear contrast causes confusion and can affect the decision making process. Try to use contrast to show the benefits and/or end results of your products and services. Think before/after, with/without etc – this doesn’t just apply to the fitness niche showing before and after pics of people who have transformed their physiques, although that is the most common example.

3. No fluff!

An image can speak 1000 words so the saying goes, so I just did a quick search for CRM software and took a screen grab from 2 different sites:

Here’s one:

crm confusing value proposition


… and here’s the other:

crm clear vlaue proposition


The Old Brain looks for tangible input that can be processed quickly and easily to make a decision. Avoid using jargon no matter how technical your products and services and audience are. The Old Brain is pretty much the same as it always was remember.

4. First and last impression

You may have heard that people remember the first and last parts of interviews, meetings etc. Well this is due to the old brain. Thinking back to its main concern of survival, when things change, it could mean danger so it is more alert and receptive at the start and the end of an interaction.

What this means is that if your overall web page is quite monotone and flat with little to no change, the Old Brain will switch off and not pay much attention to it. Put a lot of thought into how your web page, presentation, video, content – anything – starts and finishes.

Novelty is key according to Neuroscience. A novel experience is new and unknown and demands the attention of the Old Brain. If you have longer form pages then break up the copy with images, sub headings and different layouts as they continue to scroll.

5. Visual & Instinct

If you sit on a bench and are about to put your hand down but catch site of a venomous spider right where you were about to place your hand, the Old Brain will react and make the decision to pull your hand away before the New Brain has even processed that it is a harmful spider.

Always use relevant, high quality imagery to communicate your message. Look at the image on the page for Paypal’s card reader. It clearly communicates the value of the product very quickly and easily.

paypal card reader image


6. Emotional

This ties into the CrazyEgg post I mentioned earlier. The Old Brain must have emotion to be triggered. Ask people to donate to save the puppies and show them a spreadsheet of numbers and it won’t get through but ask them against an image of cute puppies and they will convert like crazy… you reached the old brain.

Read the CrazyEgg post and a great post on the ConversionXL blog for more information about emotional selling.


Differentiate Your Claims

The Old Brain needs contrast remember and your prospects will no doubt have visited many websites before coming to yours and are likely to visit many more after visiting yours. You need to stand out and so does your value proposition. If you can differentiate yourself from your competitors then you are providing clear contrast to the Old Brain and it will be easier for the prospect to make a decision to proceed.


Back Up Your Claims

The Old Brain is skeptical and the New Brain needs logic to feed back to help with the decision making process. Sell to the Old Brain but back up your claims with reasons to believe. These could be testimonials, case studies, trust elements, scientific research etc.


Quick Takeaways To Tap Into The Old Brain

  • Use big, eye catching, high quality images
  • Be sure to grab attention right at the start
  • Make it about them – always!
  • Provide contrast that helps the decision making process
  • Don’t use jargon or language that requires thought
  • Use emotion
  • Think about first and last impressions

Further Reading – this book is on my list but unfortunately I’ve not got to reading it yet but I’ve heard very good things about it so if you do want to learn more about these concepts then it might be worth checking out: http://www.amazon.com/Neuromarketing-Understanding-Buttons-Customers-Brain

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