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Hacking The Human Brain: What Every Marketing Professional Needs To Know

September 7, 2012

A recent illustration for The Partner Channel Magazine, which focuses on marketing and salesmanship. It was for an article entitled Why People Buy.

The author defined marketing as applied psychology, and began by asking this question: How do you get inside of people’s heads to get them to buy from you? A rather visceral image immediately sprang to mind. Here’s the final:humorous illustration for Partner Channel magazine about salesmanship and making sales and marketing skills and six essential traits needed for getting inside customer's head, showing salesman with briefcase opening trapdoor on man's head and about to descend ladder down into man's cranium to access his brain

A more interesting question, perhaps, was this: What tips the scale to get people to buy from you instead of your perhaps equally competent competitors? The author went on to discuss 6 psychological triggers that influence the way people buy and behave. Here’s a brief summary:

1. Reciprocation: Give to get. You comment on my blog, I’ll comment on yours.

2. Commitment: Small sales lead to bigger. A satisfied customer will ask you to take
on bigger, higher-paying jobs.

3. Social Proof: Evidence that people like you and your work: sales, commissions,
testimonials, enthusiastic followers.

4. Liking: People buy from people they know and like. Reach out, join groups, be
friendly and courteous.

5. Authority: We buy from people who project it. Good manners, good grammar,
knowledgeable blog posts all project authority.

6. Scarcity: The ol’ limited time only: People will buy it today if they’re afraid it might
not be available tomorrow.

I decided to incorporate these buzzwords into the illustration by running them around the perimeter of the face. Photoshop’s ability to string text along a path came in handy here. I could then adjust the path to align the text perfectly along the head’s contours.

There’s something amusing about “Reciprocation” curving along someone’s nose. Here’s a close-up:

detail image of humorous illustration for Partner Channel magazine about salesmanship and making sales and marketing skills and six essential traits needed for getting inside customer's head, showing salesman with briefcase opening trapdoor on man's head and about to descend ladder down into man's cranium to access his brain

You can see some slightly thicker lines running through the brain. They define its four principal lobes: frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal– what you’d see in a medical diagram. It makes me smile at myself for being such a stickler for detail.

I wanted the brain to be anatomically correct. Why? Because the humor in the drawing depends on the reader instantly recognizing the brain for what it is. It has to look the part, even if it’s only a “cartoon brain.”

It’s the old maxim: one has to know the rules before one can successfully break them. A humorous illustrator has to know what something really looks like before he can draw a credible cartoon version of it.

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What do you think? Ever heard anyone coming down that little ladder into your skull? Is blogging a form of salesmanship? one that requires us to pay attention to these same psychological triggers? Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Happy Birthday To Folksinger Patty Larkin And Her Machine Gun Guitar

Paula Deen, Twinkies, And The National Debt 

Ring Around The Rosary, We All Stand Together

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2012 1:39 PM

    Very interesting post. I am a detailist myself. Sometimes I wish I was not.


    • September 8, 2012 8:34 AM

      A detailist– I like that! The next time somebody tells me, “Stop obsessing over miniscule details!”, I shall say: “I beg your pardon, I’m a detailist– so there!!” : P

      Very kind of you to stop by, Beatrix– thank you! : )


  2. robpixaday permalink
    September 7, 2012 2:21 PM

    Gimme a truckload of those things! And send another gross to my warehouse in ChooChooXooPctaoel!!

    You and your work are splendid! Is being confronted with “splendidiosity” a trigger? Must be.

    I like his Bob Hope reciprocating nose and the realism in the brain structure. Quid pro nose! Wow!!!! So cool!!

    That image is super… the composition is so precise that we travel around it thoroughly and happily, returning to the place of origin, eager to take the trip again. :: applause::

    About selling (esp in this cyber-world): I left FB yesterday, just can’t bring myself to do it, can’t keep up, can’t SHARE my precious minutes that way. Closed Twitter and Google+, too. I’ll be here and Redbubble, exclusively. I’m not convinced about how useful it is to market that way, in spite of all evidence– mostly anecdotal– to the contrary.

    What’s the best way to sell to me? People shouldn’t try to sell to me. They shouldn’t even think about it, because I can feel the “Buy this” vibrations that emanate from sales-souls. Seriously. It’s like how elephants use long-distance low-frequency communication, inaudible to human ears. The intent to sell creates that kind of infrasonic phenomenon.* I grew up with selling in my genetic code and I can feel the vibes from miles away. ::shivers::

    LOL… I like the list of triggers. It’s a fascinating way to look at things, a different perspective.

    *I made up the phrase “infrasonic phenomenon” but the elephant thing is true. And how many comments need footnotes? Ha!
    OK, I’m leaving now. Thank you for this wonderful post! ::runs::


    • September 8, 2012 10:23 AM

      Yee-OWWW! Wot a comment! I feel like I done got run over by a herd of elephants emitting infrasonic sound–! : P

      Aw thanks, Robin! Your gleeful exuberance and riotous imagination are prized and coveted in this here blogging neighborhood… : )

      The degree to which social media actually affects people’s buying decisions is, I think, open to debate. But one thing that seems indisputable is that social media sites require a great deal of time. Regular blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, leaving comments, responding to comments– the list goes on and on. I can certainly understand your decision to opt out of some of it. There are few things more important than how we decide to spend our time.

      I had some Girl Scout Cookies I was gonna try to sell you, but I can see now that would be a serious mistake… : P

      Quid pro nose– I shall be laughing about that for the rest of the day!! Thanks for all your spritely support!! ::hops on elephant, steps on gas, disappears in a cloud of infrasonic phenomenon::


  3. September 7, 2012 3:32 PM

    Oh I love how this all came together! From the guy opening the brain hatch and looking inside to the brain itself (I don’t know how you decided on the color but it is instantly recognizable as a brain (which I wouldn’t think would be easy to do in cartoon form) and then the guy himself. He’s the perfect blank slate. Who is just waiting for a suggestion on what to buy and finally the text.

    I love the way it fits like that. Especially the word “reciprocation”. I bet your client went away quite happy Mark! 😀


    • September 8, 2012 10:35 AM

      How did I decide on the brain’s color? Simple: I opened the little hatch on my skull, took out my own very small– I mean, compact– CPU, and ran it through my color spectrometer. And when that didn’t work, I googled “brain color.” Some folks said “pink,” some folks said “beige,” so I aimed for somewhere in the middle. Not the most attractive color, whatever the heck it is!! : P

      My client was pleased, and I am very pleased by your lovely comment– thank you, dear Linda!! : )


  4. September 7, 2012 7:33 PM

    You’re in there, I know that you are in there rummaging around in my gray matter…!!!

    I love the 6 triggers, and how you composed them in a ‘general appreciation about life’…

    So true, dear Mark… You could not be successful in your humourous illustrations unless firstly you had a great understanding of the psyche and its meanderings… You do this so well… Does this mean that you too have flirted with the ups and the downs of life as a mere mortal… I believe this must be true; for life does not give up its secrets easily… 🙂

    Wonderful illustration; wonderfully understandable…

    Thank You for the Photoshop tip… I shall have to investigate…! 🙂


    • September 8, 2012 10:52 AM

      Oops! Sorry if I disturbed your gray matter. I was just doing a little dusting and tidying up… : P

      A great understanding of the psyche… Hmm. Well, I went to a fortune teller once, but I didn’t understand a word she said. Oh wait, I’m thinking of a psychic… : P

      Yes, I have flirted with life occasionally, but I’m always being rebuffed. That’s what comes of assuming the guise of mere mortal. From now on, I’m staying up here on Mt. Olympus where I belong… : )

      Drawing a path, then typing text along it, is, I think, one of the lesser-known cool features of Photoshop. Takes a bit of experimenting. Many times one must reduce the font size and/or the space between letters in order to make the text fit on a relatively short path. Give ‘er a try!

      Always lovely to see you, Carolyn– thanks so much for your comment!


  5. September 7, 2012 10:24 PM

    It’s the old maxim: one has to know the rules before one can successfully break them.

    Yes. It’s an underlying structure that people recognize and gives strength to the material. The notion of craftsmanship and skill, if you will. Even in the more subjective world of abstract art, critics and audiences still seem to agree on some sort of rule set that they judge it by.

    In my experiences as I writer, I saw it written (and heard it said) that well-regarded fiction drew on things readers recognized or related to: history, everyday experiences, etc. I recently read “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell, and of course it references the mythology, lore, and legend referenced by countless storytellers for millenia. More specifically, though, Campbell’s assertion in the book was that the stories were symbolic and representative of the journey towards light and pure truth.

    Is blogging a form of salesmanship?

    Well, this does slide to another tangent for me, but I tend to do that– sliding to tangents, that is– anyways. The Internet has scholarly roots, some in the military (DEFCON) but most (that I recall) in academia. You may have read that recent debates regarding the Internet are partly between those old academic interests (that information should be the domain of education) and modern-day merchants and contemporary business guilds (that information should be bought and sold). The issue of net neutrality seems to rest on the struggle between the two, and I’ve also heard it said that contemporary politics in America is influenced by these two interests– business and higher education/schooling.

    It’s like opening a can of worms where the worms, metaphorically speaking, is me blathering on and on about all the possible connections, origins, and implications, that could drive dozens of other blog posts.


    • September 10, 2012 8:25 AM

      Many thanks for your thoughtful comments, Jak.

      I remember how shocked I was the first time I encountered the notion that authors keep manipulating the same few plot lines over and over. It had never occurred to me that they were bending the same “rules” (narrative forms) and coming up with brilliant variations. Like cartoonists always trying to wring one more gag out of the old desert island cartoon… : P

      And it’s certainly more than a little ironic that there’s this great struggle to keep the internet “free,” while at the same time we’re all constantly bombarded with online ads and sales pitches. Clearly, there’s no free cyber-lunch… : )

      Your can of worms quip made me laugh– thanks again!


  6. September 8, 2012 6:00 AM

    This came at a perfect time Mark, as my work season just ended and I’ll need a new way to make dough (cookies for everyone!). I wonder if this works for grant proposals as well.

    What a great illustration! I can tell you that a few of my neighbors are authors, and although I felt guilty it took me 5+ years of being friends of theirs before I bought their books. And if it looks like a blog is selling something, that’s an instant turnoff. Yours doesn’t. It’s more like an artist’s page which made me want to learn more. And you’re a good blogging friend.

    I once had a blogger leave this comment on one of my posts:

    “interesting! You can visit my website at such-and-such dot com.” I couldn’t stop laughing. That made my day.


    • September 10, 2012 9:01 AM

      What?? You’re going to bake us all cookies as we head into the chill of autumn?? Excellent! I know the ingredients will be pure, the execution flawless, the taste exquisite… : )

      I think we all have friends who are artists or craftsmen, who are trying to sell their work– and sometimes it’s just not our cuppa tea. I’ve bought more than a few things out of guilt, trying to be supportive. A common dilemma, I would guess… : (

      Your story about the guy who left you that shameless it’s-all-about-me comment really made me laugh. Yes, I’ve gotten a few of those. I’m resigned to a certain amount of manipulation, but blatant transparent manipulation is a bit much, and I must click on ye olde Trash button… : )

      When it comes to good blogging friends, you’re top of the pops, and I thank you for that lovely comment. Surely there must be work in the nature preserve this time of year. Here’s hoping someone will have the good sense to snatch up you and your unique talents post-haste! : )


  7. September 8, 2012 6:01 AM

    Nice work autocorrect!


  8. September 8, 2012 1:59 PM

    Mark, you have correctly outlined why I’m a victim of mass media hype. Clever illustration – I would expect no less from you, and clearly defined path of how advertisers, politicians and others get inside our heads in an attempt to manipulate us into action. Cool!


    • September 14, 2012 11:53 AM

      What?? You, too, are a victim of mass media hype?? I can see we have much in common, besides our natural brilliance… : )

      Yes, so many people are tryna get inside our heads. My only consolation is, when they finally succeed in getting into mine, they get all tangled up in cobwebs and other yucky stuff– serves ’em right!! : P

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment, and I apologize for my tardy reply. Your comment was somehow routed into my comment spam folder– a true outrage! This is something that seems to happen occasionally, for no discernible reason. It’s a good reminder to check my comment spam folder more frequently– just in case. Thanks again! : )


      • September 14, 2012 9:50 PM

        Spammed? Oh, I’m so glad you checked your folder. I’ve only had one blogger in my spam folder and quickly rescued that brilliant post. Not sure why it happens. But I do appreciate your alertness.


  9. yourothermotherhere permalink
    September 9, 2012 6:39 AM

    The drawing reminded me of one of my most loved actors\comedians – Bob Hope.


    • September 10, 2012 9:15 AM

      Must admit, I thought of Bob Hope while I was drawing that nose. I, too, am a huge fan. One of the greatest comedians of all time, IMO. In his prime, he was simply untouchable. His movies from the 1940s and 50s never fail to reduce me to tears.

      Many thanks for stopping by! : )


      • yourothermotherhere permalink
        September 10, 2012 9:52 AM

        This is cool. On “I Love Lucy” this morning, it was the episode with Bob Hope where they all sang “Nobody Loves The Ump”. You just put a smile on my face saying you thought of him when you were drawing the nose too.


        • September 10, 2012 4:34 PM

          Excellent. I just read your comment, now there’s a smile on my face.

          Just goes to show you the amazing power of, uh, a nose… : )


  10. September 10, 2012 5:43 AM

    I love how I learn something new each time I visit here. Thank you for sharing your work this way!


    • September 10, 2012 9:17 AM

      One of the nicest compliments I’ve received. Thank you, Juan, I sincerely appreciate your kind support! : )


  11. September 13, 2012 2:46 PM

    Umm, if one uses their imagination, the brain looks like crumpled up garbage. Just another satiric take, Mark. I like the trap door to a person’s brain… difficult to get through the door.


    • September 18, 2012 7:44 AM

      Crumpled up garbage… hmm! I think you may be on to something there, Jean!! The ol’ “garbage in, garbage out” routine. That would certainly explain the state of my brain, anyway… : (

      And yes, it is hard to get through the door into a person’s brain– at least that’s what my teachers used to tell me, especially when they handed me my report card… : (

      Many thanks for your good-humored comment, Jean. Wishing you many delightful rides during this beautiful autumn season!


  12. September 17, 2012 8:21 PM

    The thing that most makes me laugh loud is the guy on top of the head. That looks really funny to me!

    Cleverly done, Mark, as you stated it in your last paragraph! 😀


    • September 18, 2012 8:59 AM

      Ha! Yes, there’s something funny about little people crawling around on top of big people’s heads. What a shame this happens so seldom in real life… : P

      And you’ve given me a great idea: From now on, I’m going to end all my posts with the words “Cleverly done!” This will encourage readers to nod their heads in agreement and murmur, “Yes, yes, the man’s a genius…” : P

      Thank you, dear Inge, for all your support! : )


  13. December 11, 2012 6:22 PM

    yes… Cleverly done! The entire idea works so well together. Brilliant 🙂


    • December 17, 2012 10:33 AM

      Many thanks! Guess I really used my head on this one. Of course my own brain cavity has a lot more empty space than the one shown in the illustration… : (


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