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This week’s edition of The Economist was talking about the strength of Australia’s economy. Along the way, the editor mentioned that the country’s riches primarily come from China buying their huge resources of iron ore and natural gas.

Think about how easy it is for Australia to make money. Pull the resources out of the ground, refine them, put them on the ship, and watch the money come in. Is your sales strategy that simple and easy?

The post Australia’s Magic appeared first on Speaking Of Brilliance by Dan Russell.

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Marketing has been driven by free offers for years. Nordstrom offers free alterations, Ben & Jerry’s gives away free ice cream. Consultants give away free trainings. The “free offer” is a critical marketing strategy, but businesses rarely know how to use it.

Most of the time, free offers are used as an easy lead generation strategy. White papers, webinars, and demos are all the rage in the world of digital marketing. But few marketers actually stop to ask, “are these freebies actually getting us paying customers?”

Giving something away for free is only a good idea if you’ve given the strategy the proper amount of thought. Economically speaking, something is free only when there’s so much supply the price drops to zero. From a customer’s standpoint, when something is in abundant supply, it’s not scarce, which is a factor we use to determine value.

Unfortunately, most marketers go the easy route by simply giving stuff away without considering the consequences.

The Free Frenzy

When we get something for free, we make irrational choices we can’t explain. We forget that a downside exists to the transaction. In short, we go a bit crazy.

If you’ve ever come home from a conference with a bag stuffed with useless swag, you’ve experienced what can be pretty accurately called a “free frenzy.” Behavioral economist and TED speaker Dan Ariely puts it this way in his book, Predictably Irrational:

It’s no secret that getting something free feels very good. Zero is not just another price. Zero is an emotional hot button—a source of irrational excitement.

Would you buy something if it were discounted from 50 cents to 20 cents? Maybe.

Would you buy it if it were discounted from 50 cents to two cents? Maybe.

Would you grab it if it were discounted from 50 cents to zero? You bet!

Ariely, Dan. Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (pp. 55-56). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

With all of this mental short-circuitry happening around free offers, it can be tough to use a free giveaway to your advantage while not falling victim to “free-frenzied” leads who never buy.

Companies like the ones giving away conference swag are constantly falling into this trap. Other (smarter) companies have used free offers very carefully – and reaped the rewards.

How Nordstrom Uses Free Offers To Its Advantage

Derek Coburn, author of Networking Is Not Working, wrote a post recounting his experience signing up for a Nordstrom credit card. In this story, he was asked to sign up over and over again by the cashier – until they mentioned that Nordstrom offered free alterations to card members.

Typically, Nordstrom customers (and clothing customers in general) are turned off by the idea of getting their clothes tailored after buying them. The “mystery cost” of an alteration is too much to bear for many customers. So most of them don’t buy, and if they do, they hold back knowing they’ll soon pay for an alteration.

Nordstrom knew that people get an emotional rush from getting free stuff, so it set out to use that rush to its advantage. Their management likely realized that free alterations would be a great benefit for the credit card. They’d get a big boost in signups as well as a big boost in sales from removing alterations as a financial hurdle for their customers.

Since alterations were a service they already “up-sold,” Nordstrom knew what costs they’d incur if every customer took them up on their offer. They also likely understood the long game: offering free alterations to clothing purchases would bring in a greater number of sales than the cost of the free alterations. Imagine what they could expect from such a promotion:

  • Nordstrom would become a magnet for customers who were previously turned off by the “mystery cost” of alterations
  • Shopping cart values would be boosted now that customers weren’t mentally budgeting for alterations
  • Repeat business would be created when customers came back into the store to pick up their tailored clothes
  • New credit card usage would bring in a new revenue stream

In this scenario, Nordstrom harnessed the power of a free offer without damaging their margins or top line revenue. They took something they would have otherwise up-sold and offered it for free with every clothing purchase. They benefitted from increased sales from two new sources.

Side note: In his article, Derek Coburn went on to note how Nordstrom actually downplayed this alterations benefit, despite it being the selling point for the credit card. 

What We Can Learn From Nordstrom

Like Nordstrom, you can start incorporating a free offer WITH a paid offer that you already provide. By doing that, you make use of the free frenzy without incurring substantial costs along the way.

Most businesses take the easy route and just give stuff away for free.

Some of the time, that “stuff” is truly valuable and can work as a way to build a strong audience relationship – Gary Vee’s “Jab Jab Jab Right Hook” model reflects this. Most of the time, however, that free “stuff” isn’t something a customer would ever pay for in the first place, despite what the “Normally Priced” labels say (that’s a different mental trigger called anchoring, which is still a smart strategy – as long as the thing you’re giving away is actually valuable).

Uninformed businesses also get distracted by vanity metrics like Leads Per Week. They go for quantity rather than quality. They’re so distracted by the idea of getting tons of free-frenzied leads in the door that the important questions are never asked:

  • What if that free “thing” ends up being cheap or useless to the customer?
  • What if it attracts more tire-kickers than real customers?
  • What if you spend more money on it than you expected?
  • What if you can’t deliver the free “thing” at scale?

It’s a bad strategy to risk your brand or bottom line for a short-lived promo and an email list of people who will never pull out their wallets.

Let’s zoom out: so you don’t misunderstand me, I’m not arguing against free offers. I’m making a case for the fact that you need to measure the costs of offering something for free and consider the alternative of charging leads for something upfront.

Sometimes, your conversion rates are so great on a free webinar that you get a positive ROI on the investment. In that case, keep going!

In my experience, however, more businesses blindly go for the free offer. Founders and management expect a free lead magnet to be their saving grace when, in reality, it’s the nail in their coffin. They only realize months later that they took a shortcut and lost out big time.

The Science Of Fee vs. Free

This leaves us with the question: How do we know whether or not a free offer is right for your business?

The answer to this is in two parts.

  1. It’s important to know how people behave in free frenzies and why a zero price causes your offer to be de-valued.
  2. It’s important to know how the math works between paid and free offers so you can determine for yourself what works best for your business.
#1: Human Behavior In Free Frenzies

A few years back, two economists set out to run an experiment. They assembled a desk in the main hallway of a college building, dumping a pile of candy on the desk and setting up a sign which announced “For Sale: 1-Cent Candy!”

Over the course of a class break, 58 students stopped by the desk and purchased an average of 3-4 pieces of candy at $0.01 each. The next class period quickly started and the hallway then emptied.

During the next class, while the students were busy learning, the two economists flipped the sign over.

It now said “FREE Candy!!!”

Not surprisingly, when the next class break rolled around, a flood of 207 students stopped by the desk. But that’s when things got interesting. Although more people stopped by in total, each person bought less candy on average. Instead of taking 3-4 pieces of candy each, the students now took 1 piece each.

When the candy was offered for FREE, those 207 students valued the candy LESS than the 58 students who had to reach into their pockets for spare change. Now ask yourself the million-dollar question: if you had a bag of candy to sell, who would you rather be talking to: the group of 58 paying students or the group of 207 free-loaders?

If you know your “free candy” is so good that those 207 students will buy more than the 58 students, then you have a killer free offer. Go all in.

If, on the other hand, you know your “free candy” is attracting free LOADERS, it’s time to start pitching for a sale. If you don’t, then you risk investing in a bunch of candy, attracting all those free-loaders, and then returning to them with the same sales pitch you would have given in the first place.

#2: The Math Of Paid & Free Offers

Now that you understand the way humans behave around free offers, it’s time to look at the math and find out which option is better for you.

Below are two sales funnel cases that I’ve assembled to describe the difference between the profitability of a paid offer and a free offer. Note that the conversion rates in this experiment are chosen to illustrate the experiment above: it’s tougher to find paying customers, but when you find them, they will pay you faster.

CASE 1: Free-First Campaign

We’re paying $5 per lead, and each lead has a 10% likelihood of buying Product A at $50. If we attract 10 leads, we’ve paid $50. Out of those 10 leads, 1 person buys Product A, resulting in $50 in revenue. Thus, profit is $0 and we’ve broken even. You cannot retain earnings or reinvest any cash into this campaign.

CASE 2: Buy-First Campaign

We’re now paying $15 per customer of Product A, which costs $50. Every customer has a 20% likelihood of buying Product B at $150. If we attract 10 purchases of Product A, we’ve paid $150 and generated sales of $500, thus netting $350 in profit for Product A. Out of those 10 purchases, 2 people buy Product B, which generates sales of $300. Since we’ve already paid for these customers, this is pure profit. We’ve profited $650 from this campaign, which equates to 433% ROI. That amount can be retained as earnings or reinvested into growing our advertising budget.

Your Assignment: Do The Math

Whether you have a free or paid offer as part of your sales strategy, do the math.

Find out what your sales conversion rates are and how much you’re paying for a customer who has paid YOU. It will become clear right away what’s going on in your business and whether you should be changing up strategies.

Two Strategies For You To Use

If you happen to find that a plain old “free giveaway” isn’t serving your business, it’s time to shake things up. In the same way that Nordstrom offers free alterations on its clothing, you can offer a free “add-on” to your paid offers. Including something for “free” along with your product will make it more enticing and bring in more sales. Here are two strategies to incorporate free “add-ons” into your sales process:


Video game consoles use this strategy all the time. If you ever walk into a Best Buy, take a look at the video game section – you’ll see Playstations for sale as bundles. Buy the console, get a couple free games. The manufacturer takes a short term cut in their margins, but receives a huge burst in console sales from all the excited gamers who don’t have to shell out another $80 for a game. Win-win.

Free Bonuses

Another example is high-ticket online courses. If you’ve seen an online course sold for over $1,000, odds are it came with a few bonuses. As you scroll down the sales page for a high-priced online course, a small part of your brain is excited to stumble upon a section titled “Limited Time Bonuses.” You start salivating at all the free stuff you can get access to – so long as you pay for the course itself!

In Summary

I wrote this article to open your eyes to how tightening up your lead generation process. Whether you have a paid offer or a free offer today, it’s worth investing the time to find out how both perform. It may make a big difference to your cash flow and your bottom line.

Thanks for reading!


The post This Is Your Brain On “Free” appeared first on Speaking Of Brilliance by Dan Russell.

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If you’ve never been to an IKEA, try to imagine a huge maze.

Except this maze is full of kitchens, dining rooms, and entertainment centers, each with its own unique style. Every one of these “household scenes” are impossibly fitted together in a way that leads you through a showroom labyrinth from hell. You start out loving it and end up walking out of the place like you have a new lease on life.

I’ll leave it at this: IKEA is a truly massive store.

But with such a huge store size, IKEA had to figure out how to use their space efficiently. Storing “spare” kitchens wasn’t exactly a possibility. Especially considering that their stores are already enormous warehouses.

So, like any enterprising Dutch furniture maker would do, IKEA got efficient.

They decided to hand off the “assembly” part of their products to their customers. Instead of buying a whole dresser, you could bring home your very own corrugated (and deceptively flat) box labeled with “Fluggenflaggen” (or something like that) – skeptically hoping everything was in there.

My first IKEA box was sort of a magical letdown.

I wanted to open the box and have a beautiful new kitchen island pop out like it would in Harry Potter. With a sort of “scchhhhOOP!” sound.

Unfortunately, though, I was met with a BOOK of instructions in seventeen different languages. I proceeded to start finding the letter labels on random pieces of wood and metal, stepping back every couple minutes to see if things were starting to take shape.

I was trying to see if my kitchen island was taking shape. A smooth wooden counter-top, clean white shelves underneath, and a couple stools to sit at. The perfect addition to my new apartment. But my creation was taking awhile. Eventually, two hours and four backwards-installed (and then fixed) legs later, I finally had my kitchen island. But the thing was – I wasn’t pissed off about the extra work. In fact, I was proud.

I had just built a kitchen island! Badass!

The manual labor I had invested in that kitchen island (which IKEA saved) actually led me to liking the thing even more.

Which brings me to today’s featured Spark: The IKEA Effect.

The IKEA Effect is a documented phenomenon in which customers are willing to pay more for something if they played a part in creating it.

Here’s what happened with my kitchen island:

When I assembled it by hand, I invested time and effort (and I admit, a little pain) into creating it. It transformed from some factory-assembled mass market thing into MY kitchen island. I had put every screw into the damn thing. It was standing up because of ME. I developed an emotional connection to it.

For real.

It’s the same emotional connection we hold toward heirlooms or other personal items. Objects in our lives trigger memories and feeling in much the same way people do (only my kitchen island doesn’t talk – that’s the new model).

The Research

When researchers were looking into this method, they gave two identical groups a bunch of IKEA boxes. One group had to assemble the boxes on the spot and the other group had the boxes assembled FOR them.

Afterward, both groups were asked to say what they were willing to pay for their new piece of furniture. The group that assembled their own boxes were willing to pay 63% MORE for their boxes than the group whose boxes were assembled for them.

That premium was created in the minds of those group members because of the emotional connection that was established during the building process. That’s the IKEA Effect in action.

So my question to YOU is: how can you create this same emotional connection between your customers and what you’re selling? How can you create a risk-free and satisfying sense of involvement in your customers – so they’re more loyal to your products and will pay a premium for them?


P.S. The ironic part of the IKEA Effect is that IKEA doesn’t actually benefit from it. The increase in perceived value of their products happens at home – after the thing is already assembled. They’d have to force their customers to build their furniture in the checkout line. Which would make for a great TV show – just not a great business model.

The post How To Use The IKEA Effect To Close More Sales appeared first on Speaking Of Brilliance by Dan Russell.

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TLDR: Tasks that haven’t been completed carry 2x the memory power of completed tasks. This allows us to increase advertising engagement and employee productivity.

Do you know the nagging feeling of having overdue items on your to-do list?

How about the weight you feel on your shoulders to call a family member you’ve wanted to reconcile with? Or the annoyance that you still haven’t called the bank before your upcoming international trip?

All of these “nagging” feelings – the weight of an incomplete task – are a result of what’s known as the Zeigarnik Effect.

In essence, the Zeigarnik Effect places a psychological “weight” on our minds when tasks aren’t completed in the time we’ve scheduled. That weight causes us to be less focused, more stressed, and more aware of the tasks that haven’t been completed than the tasks which are done.

Applications To Your Business

What areas of your business create a sense of “incompletion” for your customer or your employees?

For your customers, this could look like:

  1. A checkout recovery process which uses one simple click to resume an order
  2. A lead generation or sales page which explains the emotional “release” the visitor will feel after they take action
  3. A phone call follow-up for customers who expressed an interest in ordering a product/service but it wasn’t the right time

For your employees, this could look like:

  1. Assigning a reasonable number of accounts to an account manager as to avoid overwhelm and ensure frequent project completion
  2. Specific micro-steps in the Accounts Receivable & Collections procedures to ensure your accountant and/or collections agent don’t feel like they’re hitting their heads against the wall with late clients
  3. A round-robin assignment protocol and celebration milestones for your customer service representatives
Key Strategy: The Zeigarnik Ad Campaign

Advertising offers a unique application of the Zeigarnik Effect. In a normal ad campaign, you use certain language and visual designs to promote your company. Toward the end of the ad campaign, however, you have two choices: (1) turn off the campaign and leave it behind, or (2) launch a follow-up campaign that uses the Zeigarnik Effect to your benefit.

In its simplest form, a Zeigarnik Ad Campaign focuses on the tension-release feeling that we all experience upon the completion of a task.

Over the course of an ad campaign, your “frequency” (the average number of times a person in your target audience sees your ad) increases. Over time, they’ll become familiarized with the language and imagery you’ve used in the campaign.

In response to this increase in frequency, a Zeigarnik Ad Campaign removes certain elements from your ad language and imagery, thus turning the ad into an interactive experience that the person will want to “fix” in order to match the language and/or design that were in your original campaign. The best format for these ads is to use Facebook or Instagram with an automated bot designed to deliver a gift upon someone leaving a comment with the right word.

Note: Catch up on Facebook’s Ad Policies to ensure you’re not “comment-baiting” Facebook users. Use language such as “fill in the missing word” rather than “comment below” – or leave no instructions and let viewers figure it out for themselves! Experiment, experiment, experiment! 

The benefit of making the Zeigarnik Ad Campaign interactive is twofold.

First, you’re increasing engagement with your ads, which lowers your cost per click and, ultimately, cost per acquisition. Second, it’s been proven that this level of engagement will increase a person’s memory of your ad.

In essence, you’re getting double the exposure of the same campaign you ran before – without the ads going stale or annoying people. Quite the opposite, in fact; you’re actually increasing engagement and brand recall.

The Bedrock Of Brilliance

A central goal of the Zeigarnik Ad Campaign is having the ad recipient “complete” the ad for themselves.

As a result, it’s possible to design your ads in a way that have the person fill in the blanks with words that would normally be associated with another brand, which would assign your ad more authority in their minds. This is authority that you did not earn, nor do you have a claim over it.

Strictly adhere to the Neuromarketing Code Of Ethics tenet #4, Be Yourself.

This tenet states the following:

“Establish your own identity and represent that identity through all channels of your marketing. Unless you have their explicit written permission, you’re prohibited from impersonating other brands or use neuromarketing strategies to subconsciously associate yourself with their brand equity.”

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be on the road toward a business that has more engaged (and relieved) followers, happier employees, and an identity that is wholly your own!

The Brilliance Alliance

As a member of the Brilliance Alliance, you get access to these strategies and more, including monthly Assemblies, direct consulting, live webinars, and events. If you run an authentic business and want to use ethical neuromarketing to boost your growth, this is the place for you.

Additional Applications Of The Zeigarnik Effect Available To Members:

  1. Zeigarnik Loops In Copywriting
  2. Incomplete Assignments In Online Courses
  3. Emotive Amplification Of Task Completion

Click here to learn more about the Brilliance Alliance

Sources ?

This post was written with the following research support:

  1. Nugget #27 from the CoGlode team
  2. Original study by Bluma Zeigarnik and follow-up studies by James W. Atkinson in 1953 and ten years later by A.D. Baddeley in 1963
  3. The Ziegarnik Effect In Advertising by James T. Heimbach

The post How To Use The Zeigarnik Effect In Your Ad Campaigns appeared first on Speaking Of Brilliance by Dan Russell.

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Why do smokers pay closer attention to ads with cigarettes?

Why do people with eating disorders spend more time watching fast-food ads?

Why do people with anxiety pay more attention to threatening faces?

These tendencies to pay closer attention to certain stimuli than others are all documented in psychological studies ranging from smoking to anxiety to pain, among many others.

This phenomenon is known as Attentional Bias.

It’s the tendency for our minds to pay closer attention to stimuli (including marketing messages) which align with our “recurring thoughts” at the time. What is a recurring thought, you ask?

Well, let’s consider someone who has anxiety.

Those who are experiencing this state of mind have recurring negative thoughts. These thoughts set your mind up to, in a way, wear “blinders” so you’re primed to only see faces which reinforce this state. So if you have anxiety, your attention will be attracted to threatening faces, threatening situations, and threatening ideas. Thus, you have a higher tendency to enter a downward spiral toward depression.

Conversely, if you train yourself to have an attentional bias toward positive stimuli (such as happy faces, happy situations, and happy ideas), you have a higher tendency to be more socially engaging, abundant, and resistant toward negativity.

Using Attentional Bias In Your Marketing

If you are marketing to a group of people with a similar deep-set challenge, there’s a high likelihood that the Attentional Bias will play in your favor.

It’s important that this challenge is deep-set and uniform across your audience; otherwise your messaging will only “land” with a select few. Once you have identified this uniform and deep-set challenge, it’s time to activate the Attentional Bias through your marketing. We do that through the use of Attentional Imagery and Attentional Copywriting.

Attentional Imagery

When you’re deciding what imagery to use in your website, advertising, or social media, stick to photography. Attentional Bias will be most directly applicable to real-life events that you audience can identify with and relate to (illustration and other graphics won’t do that).

Carefully choose high-quality photography from sources such as Pexels (or find a local photographer with services like PhotoSesh) and have the core focus of the imagery (meditation, in the case of those with a deep-set uniform challenge of achieving deeper mindfulness) be the primary focus of the image.

Tip: Make sure you have several variants to test across your website, ads, and social imagery. This will ensure you can constantly experiment and improve with your Attentional Imagery.

Attentional Copywriting

Gaia knows the language that their mindfulness-focused audience uses. So they include it in their messaging to strike a chord with their ideal visitors.

When you’re writing copy designed for an audience with an Attentional Bias, your choice of words is of paramount importance.

Do research in forums, books, and through networking to understand the language patterns and specific words that your audience will pay closer attention to than any other words.

If we continue to use the example of the mindfulness audience, we would use evocative words like:

  • Bliss
  • Flow
  • Meditation
  • Ritual
  • …among a few others

Create a list similar to the one above and then start writing your website copy, ad copy, or social media copy. When you’re done, every one of those words should have been used in an obvious way.

  • For Websites: Use these words in headlines
  • For Ads: Use these words in text overlays on images and in headlines
  • For Social Media: Use these words in text overlays on images and in the top line of posts

Using Attentional Imagery and Attentional Copywriting will allow you to reach your audience more quickly and more authentically than if you ignored the mental biases your prospects are demonstrating. This Attentional “approach” communicates your customers’ pain points more effectively and, as a result, they will have a higher likelihood of paying attention to you.

Bedrock Of Brilliance

Since Attentional Bias is, in fact, a “bias” that your customers aren’t necessarily aware of, it’s important to know how to responsibly apply this strategy to your business. That’s why we have the Bedrock of Brilliance’s Neuromarketing Code Of Ethics. In this code, you have a set of guiding principles which tell you when to use certain neuromarketing strategies and when to avoid them.

In this case, it’s critical to pay close attention to the code of ethics’ Bleary Brain principle, which states:

“Under no circumstances can you take advantage of clinical illnesses, psychological disorders, or any mental condition associated with downward spirals or impulsive behavior on the part of your audience. If you use these as the basis of your marketing campaign, you are deceiving your customer.”

If you are using Attentional Bias as a part of your messaging or branding, you should be doing so with either:

  • Non-Clinical Negative Recurring Thoughts: These are patterns that your customer is self-aware of and which they want to change. An example of this would be thoughts of being overweight (in which case Attentional Imagery and Copywriting focused on food and being overweight would be applicable).
  • Positive Recurring Thoughts: These are positive patterns that your customer may or may not be aware of which are positively focused. An example of this would be thoughts of being mindful (in which case Attentional Imagery and Copywriting focused on meditation or yoga retreats would be applicable).

If you decide to use the Attentional Bias in your marketing, be sure to adhere to all of the tenets in the Bedrock of Brilliance. And once you start seeing results, tweet them my way! I love hearing about applications of these principles in different industries.

The post Cut Through The Marketing Noise With Attentional Bias appeared first on Speaking Of Brilliance by Dan Russell.

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Fake news is a thing. In 2017 alone, fake news convinced people around the world of the following:

  1. Category Six hurricanes exist (they don’t)
  2. Comedian Sam Hyde was the mastermind behind the London Bridge attack on June 3 (he wasn’t)
  3. There were double tornados heading for Miami Airport during Hurricane Irma (there weren’t)
  4. A little girl named Frida was trapped in a collapsed building in Mexico and became a national icon in the face of a natural disaster (Frida didn’t exist). The exact same thing happened in Iran in November

The list goes on – trust me.

How do stories like this gain traction? Is it just because of sensationalism and entertainment, or is there something deeper happening here? The question I’m answering in this post is: are people actually believing these stories in real time?

To explore what’s going on psychologically here, I’ll draw a simple example.

If I told you the sky was green, you would immediately disagree and point to the sky and say, “No, Dan, it’s blue.”

I would then be at a loss and forced to admit I was wrong. But if we were inside and I ran up to you saying “the sky is green,” then what would happen?

Most likely, you would use past experience (and possibly scientific basis) to tell me I’m wrong. You’ve seen the sky before – it’s blue. Pure and simple. If it was blue every time before, it’s going to be blue now – not green.

In short, you’re using past experience to logically determine truth. But did you know there are two ways our brains determine truth?

Our brains determine truth by means of “logic” and “fluency.”

In the case of logic, we use empirical evidence and logical deduction to determine truth. Math falls under this category, as do simple mental exercises we learn in our childhood.

Our brains, however, are wired for energy efficiency. They try to reduce the energy being used in any given moment, and as a result, we create subconscious shortcuts known as heuristics. These heuristics cause us to subconsciously ignore certain steps we would have taken during the regular logical “flow” in order to save energy.

That process of “shortcutting” our way to determining what is true or false, or what decision to make in any moment, is known as creating fluency.

While logic plays with rational assumptions and formal deduction, fluency plays with irrational assumptions and familiarity.

The simplest example of fluency is if I spoke a statement to you once, and then repeated it immediately afterward.

The first time you hear the statement, your brain is interpreting it, picking it apart piece by piece, putting it back together, storing it, and formulating a response to it.

The second time you hear the statement, your brain recognizes it, and then relies on all the conclusions it drew the first time in order to form a response.

As a result, we consider the second statement as having more “fluency” than the first.

This is the basis of the Illusory Truth effect.

This psychological effect causes us to mis-attribute truth to statements that have more “fluency” as a result of repetition.

My telling you that the sky is green could be considered a “new statement” in our example above. The first time I tell you, your brain picks that statement apart and regards it as untrue. After all, you’ve seen the sky. It’s blue. It’s always been blue, and it always will be blue.

But as I run into the building and tell you the sky is green, and then tell you again the next day, and the next day, and the next, and so on… Eventually your brain will experience more and more fluency in the idea that the sky is green.

As a result, your brain will start to formulate possibilities that allow for the sky to be green: maybe you’re color blind, or maybe I’m color blind, or maybe, maybe, maybe.

The Ethics Of The Illusory Truth Effect

I’m going to be upfront and bold about the use of this effect: it is unethical.

The very application of this effect on our brains is deceptive. It’s a user manual on how to make someone believe something that is not true and, possible something they don’t want to believe.

This strategy is off limits to authentic businesses!

Those two facts alone come in direct conflict with the first two tenets of the Bedrock of Brilliance’s Neuromarketing Code Of Ethics: Bona Fide and Bullseye.

Under no circumstances should you use this effect in your marketing, and those who use it as the basis of politics, news, or any form of media or advertising are in breach of the Bedrock of Brilliance.

So why am I telling you about this effect? Why even bring this effect up when it’s such a harmful tool to implement? I’m writing about this for two reasons:

First, I want you to know if you’re mistakenly using the Illusory Truth Effect in your own marketing.

Second, I want you to know when you’re falling victim to it.

Knowing both of these things will allow you to protect yourself from its effects while enforcing the Neuromarketing Code of Ethics in your branding and messaging.

How To Know If You’re Using The Illusory Truth Effect

There’s a simple test to know if you’re using this effect to your customers’ detriment.

Ask the question: Are the claims I’m making true in every way possible?

If you take a full minute to think about that question and you can’t honestly say “yes,” then you need to change your messaging. If you feel that your advertising is mis-quoting information or smearing your competitors or making statements that you know are untrue, or even questionable, then you’re causing your customers to hold beliefs based on a lie.

And that’s wrong.

Do a deep dive into your advertising, your headlines, your email subject lines, and everything else you publish and ask that question. You might be surprised at the effect your words are having on your customers!

Don’t Fall Victim To The Illusory Truth Effect In The Real World

Out “there,” the illusory truth effect is running rampant. If you’ve ever heard the term “fake news” then you know what I’m talking about. Fake news is the most blatant example of the Illusory Truth Effect at work in the real world.

As Wired Magazine put it, “Repetition is what makes fake news work…”

When articles and posts are published with false or misleading information, even if you don’t believe them the first time, the second, third, and fourth times you see them will start to become a little more convincing. Your brain will start mistaking the fluency of those headlines as truth – even in small little ways. That brings us to the main question: how can you protect yourself against these headlines and other claims that could be using the Illusory Truth Effect against you?

Although it’s difficult to avoid this effect from permeating every part of my life, I use a simple rule.

If a statement will affect my well-being in any way, or will affect any decision that I’ll be making, I fact check. It’s as simple as that, but it’s a critical question to ask.

There are way too many articles in the world to care about. Too much information. But the articles which CATCH my attention GET my attention. All of it.

I don’t read many articles on scandals or conspiracies, but if there IS one that I’m interested in, I’m reading every possible article I can find, published by the left, right, and center, and checking their sources. Sensationalist news and sensationalist culture are both fueled by sensationalist headlines, most of which aren’t based on truth – they just hold a grain of truth amidst a beach of exaggeration.

Social media sites don’t exactly help, either. Facebook and Google have come under fire recently from places ranging from Vox.com to The Atlantic for not suppressing questionable (or even blatantly untrue) sensationalist stories.

Back To The Real World

Next time you’re scanning headlines, watching ads, or reading your promotional emails, stay aware of the sensationalism that’s feeding your reactions. Pay attention to how certain articles make you feel, how many times you’ve seen that statement before, or whether you’ve seen data or sources to back up seemingly grandiose claims.

When you do that, you’ll start to become much more aware of how you might be manipulated by sources you trusted.

This is kind of an “escaping the matrix” moment of sorts, but I don’t want it to lead to all sorts of conspiracy theories. While this effect is used in the political and media worlds, most of the time it’s being used unconsciously by businesses just like yours.

The first and most important thing you can do it audit your own messaging to ensure it’s “clean” from the Illusory Truth Effect.

After that, stay accountable to yourself to differentiate “fluent” truth from “logical” truth. You’ll be better informed and – most likely – a less stressed human being!

Stay Brilliant,


The post The Illusory Truth Effect: How Fake News Becomes Real appeared first on Speaking Of Brilliance by Dan Russell.

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Product placement is everywhere you look these days. It’s in your favorite Instagram channels, it’s in our movies, it’s in our TV shows, and it’s even in some of our Snapchat stories.

It’s hard to avoid encountering a subtly-placed product in the background of a movie scene, or overlook a strategically placed zinger about a cool new gadget. 

But why does product placement even exist? What exactly is going on? What’s the point of product placement when there’s no call to action to buy?

And does it even WORK?

The answers may surprise you. To find out, we’ll first explore why brands even pursue product placement – and why it’s been around for so long.

Brand Recall & The Availability Heuristic

The strategy of product placement comes down to a tried-and-true marketing performance indicator known as brand recall. David Ogilvy was one of the marketing innovators to establish this KPI as a method of measuring an ad’s efficacy.

In essence, the more easily a consumer can bring to mind (“recall”) your brand, the easier it will be for them to buy.

David Ogilvy, the OG of Madison Avenue.

Martin Lindstrom explains this concept beautifully in his book Buyology:

“Over the years, neuromarketing research has found that consumers’ memory of a product, whether it’s deodorant, perfume, or a brand of tequila, is the most relevant, reliable measure of an ad’s effectiveness. It’s also linked with subjects’ future buying behavior.”

(Side note: if you’re interested in the exact psychological effects happening here, check out my post on the Availability Heuristic and how you can put it to use in your marketing)

So basically, what we’re being told here by Lindstrom is that if you can get your audience to remember you, the next time they have the chance to buy from you, they’ll have a higher propensity to choose you over other brands.

How COOL is that?!

So basically, all you have to do is place your product in front of as many people in your target audience as possible, right?

mmmm.. Not so fast.

Before you go buying up huge swaths of TV and radio spots, we need to ask a very important question: Does it actually WORK?

This is a more complex question, and the answer is (as you’d expect) a big hard “…maybe.”

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The Key To Profitable Product Placement

It’s been found that the effectiveness of product placement is wholly contingent on how “well-integrated” the product is with the overlying content it’s being placed in.

In Buyology, Lindstrom gives the example of ET coming out of hiding by following the trail of Reese’s Pieces left by the little boy in the movie. The Reese’s Pieces were an integral part of the story. Without them, ET would never come out of hiding and there wouldn’t have been a movie (well actually not true, it would have been more like “hey, there’s an alien in the bush. Call the government.”)

Reese’s Pieces were an integral part of the movie E.T., and the profits showed.

As Lindstrom mentions in his book, if the little boy were just mindlessly eating the Reese’s Pieces while riding his bike, they wouldn’t have been an integral part of the story, and thus the product placement wouldn’t have worked.

Since they WERE integrated properly, however, sales of Reese’s Pieces tripled in the week following the release of ET.

This isn’t a fluke, either.

The same effect was found when Ray Bans placed their signature shades on Tom Cruise in Top Gun (and then again in Risky Business) as well as more recently by Coca Cola.

Coca-Cola vs. …Ford?

You may be familiar with a show called American Idol (four hundred thousand seasons, international blockbuster TV show, etc.)

Well, it just so happens that two of their biggest sponsors are Coca-Cola and Ford. Both of these companies spend tens of millions of dollars for prime-time brand exposure during American Idol. They’re both on the same playing field. They’re both dealing with the same content, the same 30-second ad restrictions, and the same costs.

But one of these sponsors made it rain with their American Idol involvement while the other sponsor busted the bank.

Two different approaches were used: Ford decided to place 30-second ad spots in the commercial breaks while Coke decided to use product placement as its main strategy. The results speak for themselves.

Coca Cola made itself an integral part of the show, permeating almost every second of screen time. As a result, they experienced major brand exposure and a boost in sales.

Over the course of watching an episode of American Idol, the viewing audience was exposed to Coca Cola’s brand a staggering 60% of viewing time. Six out of every ten seconds viewed of American Idol involved some level of exposure to Coke’s brand.

There were Coke cups on the judge’s table. There were signature Coke-red doors that contestants walk through after their audition. Even the judges’ chairs were designed to mimic the signature shape of a Coke bottle.

Coke decided their product was going to become an integral part of what Martin Lindstrom calls the “narrative” of the show. Without those elements, there would have been catastrophic problems with the show.

Now let’s compare Coke’s product placement strategy to the traditional advertising strategy of Ford.

While their 30-second ad spot appeared during every commercial break, their performance was atrocious. Brand recall actually went negative for Ford. (We’ll get to why in a moment.) Those traditional advertising spots completely failed, even though Ford was placed in front of the same audience (which was in its demographic) and had several aggregated minutes of advertising exposure.

So why did they all flop?

The problem lies with the fact that the ads had nothing to do with American Idol. Viewers were there to watch the show, not get a sales pitch from a car company. Ford was perceived as completely independent of American Idol, and thus not an integral part of the show. If they had decided to have contestants driven out onto the stage, or filmed arriving in Fords from the airport to audition, maybe it would have been a bit different.

But Ford went with the traditional advertising strategy and, as you can expect, they didn’t fare so well.

The $26 million they invested in those advertising spots may as well have been lit on fire. In fact, in a stunning recent finding through neuroscience research, Ford likely lost even more than their $26 million investment.

Why It Pays To Be Remembered

It’s been found that if you compare recall of brands which are simultaneously being promoted to an audience, the brands which are more integrated into the story’s narrative not only benefit from greater consumer recall, but they crowd out the memory of other brands with less integrated product placements.

Let me repeat that in a simpler way:

Coca-Cola did SUCH a good job of making themselves known and recognizable that viewers’ brains focused so much on the idea of “Coke” that Ford was not only ignored, but crowded out and recalled even less after the show than it was at the beginning.

As Lindstrom puts it:

“Products that play an integral part in the narrative of a program… are not only more memorable, they even appear to have a double-barreled effect… they not only increase our memory of the product, but they actually weaken our ability to remember the other brands.”

This integration of the product and the media is a deal-breaker. If you don’t have it, the placement won’t work. If you do have a well-integrated product, you’re set up for success.


If you’re currently considering investing in exposure of your brand through another experience/medium that you know your target audience enjoys, ask yourself one very powerful question:

How can I integrate my product so it’s irreplaceable in the context of the greater narrative?

To answer that, you need to first understand the story. Then you need to understand the context of your product within that story (rule of thumb: if your product is removed from the story, the writing team should need to re-write the script). Finally, you need to ensure that your product is represented accurately and that the functionality/purpose of your product in the story is the same as in real life (see Neuromarketing Code Of Ethics: Bona Fide)

If you do all of the above, then a product placement might be the right move for your brand!

Stay Brilliant,


The post The Modern Marketer’s Guide To Product Placement appeared first on Speaking Of Brilliance by Dan Russell.

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Answer one question for me: are there more words in the English language that:

1. Begin with the letter K?.. OR…
2. …Have K as the THIRD letter in the word?

Take a second. Think about it.

Come on. Take 3 seconds to think about it.

If your mind automatically floated to answer #1, then you’ve just experienced a mental “shortcut” called the Availability Heuristic.

In reality, however, there are WAY more words in the English language that have “K” as the third letter.

(acknowledge, viking, ask…)

But those words are harder to remember.

Because of that increased difficulty, our brains focus their energy on finding more “first letter words.”

So we end up with a longer mental list of words that BEGIN with “K” rather than those which have “K” as the third letter.

This is the Availability Heuristic in action.

This heuristic states that people tend to base their beliefs more on information that is readily “available” (i.e. easily remembered) than information that is difficult to remember.

The consequences of this pattern on marketing are remarkable.

Applied correctly, this heuristic opens a pathway for us to prime our customers’ minds for beliefs that we’d like to have associated with our brands.

Beliefs like unquestionable trust, a sense of personal relationship, approval of your environmental practices… The list goes on.

If you think about any marketing challenge you’re facing, it can likely be distilled down to a misaligned belief your customer holds in your brand.

  • They may believe you don’t produce quality products…
  • They may believe you don’t truly care about their problems…
  • They may believe you’re not an authentic or responsible company…

Whatever it is, the Availability Heuristic offers the key to re-align your brand with the “ideal” belief in your customer’s mind.

What’s an ideal belief? Well, the ideal belief compared to the ones above would look like:

  • They believe you produce high-quality products…
  • They believe you deeply care about their problems…
  • They believe you’re an authentic, responsible company…

In the steps that follow, we’re going to explore how to put this heuristic to work in your marketing plan.

How To Use The Availability Heuristic In Your Marketing Message

The Availability Heuristic deals with the establishment of beliefs which your prospects have put to use in comparative, judgmental, or risk/reward scenarios.

  • Comparative Scenario: Does Brand X have better customer service than Brand Y?
  • Judgmental Scenario (past-facing): How valuable was this webinar?
  • Risk-Reward Scenario (future-facing): Is this free consultation worth my time?

All of these scenarios are prime territory for the Availability Heuristic. Let’s look at them in a bit more detail.

Comparative Scenarios

In comparative scenarios, if your brand has more easily “accessible” examples of good customer service, the person will have a higher likelihood of believing your brand has better customer service.

It is literally as simple as that.

Here are a few examples that you could use:

  • “My Brand is more trustworthy than Brand Y”
  • “My Brand will get the job done better than Brand B”
  • “My Brand is more ethically committed to the environment than Brand M”

It’s also appropriate to turn the 1-on-1 comparative beliefs into superlative beliefs, such as:

  • “My Brand is the most trustworthy out there”
  • “My Brand will get the job done best”
  • “My Brand is the most environmentally friendly”
Judgmental Scenarios

In judgmental scenarios, if the webinar attendee can easily remember highlights and snippets of valuable content in the webinar, they will have a higher likelihood of judging the webinar as valuable (this is why summaries are so important at the end of webinar broadcasts).

Risk-Reward Scenarios

A free consultation is a good example of a risk-reward scenario; the prospect is exchanging their time for your value. If the consultation prospect can easily remember you consistently providing them with value in exchange for their time, they will have a higher likelihood of booking that call.

(This is why you should never publish a bland blog post. You never know who’s taking the time to read)

You now have a general idea of the types of beliefs you can choose to target. Next, we’ll go through the steps to establish your “target belief” as a strong belief in the minds of your customers. And we’ll be using the Availability Heuristic to do it.

Bedrock Of Brilliance (Ethics Check)

Before I go any further, there are two points from the Bedrock of Brilliance (AKA Neuromarketing Code Of Ethics) that we need to address.

First, it’s important that you choose a belief that is true to your company (see Neuromarketing Code Of Ethics: Bona Fide). If you’re trying to instill a belief that isn’t true, well, number one, it won’t work. Customers can sniff out bullshit in a nanosecond. You’d also be deceiving your customers. Which is the equivalent of a cardinal sin in the marketing world.

Second, it’s important that the customer already has a high likelihood of having the target belief independently of your marketing efforts (see Neuromarketing Code Of Ethics: Bullseye).

If you’re trying to convince a vegan that buying your company’s beef is the “right thing to do,” you’re just going to piss people off and lose market share. Plus, you’d be deceiving your customers (cue cardinal sin lecture). So before you continue, be very honest with yourself about how you’re applying the Availability Heuristic to your marketing.

Be realistic about the Code Of Ethics mentioned above and only move forward when you’re confident that you’re bringing an authentic application of this method to the market.

Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Choose A Belief

To begin, choose a belief about your brand that is currently holding a large portion of your audience back from taking the next step in your buying journey.

That could be a phone call, it could be completing a checkout, or it could be watching a video.

If you’re finding that your conversion rate for that part of your “sales funnel” is not actually… well, converting… then you should find out what’s holding people back. (For an in-depth guide on how to survey your audience on their biggest pain points and roadblocks, check out Ryan Levesque’s ASK Method.)

Here’s where most people naturally get tripped up: it’s easy to get confused at this point between “beliefs” and “actions.” A belief is NOT: “I believe I want to buy from Company X”

… that’s an action.

Here’s a belief:

“I believe Company X bakes the most delicious muffins in town”

The target belief here is centered around taste – specifically “deliciousness.” We’re dealing with subtle patterns of thought; these patterns need to be applied to subtle beliefs too. Otherwise, your messaging will seem strange and obnoxious. Imagine seeing the following sign as you drive out of a car wash:

“Thanks For Visiting! Don’t Forget How Awesome Our Service Was!”

When your conscious mind sees that, it throws red flags all over the place, right? But your subconscious sees messages like that all the time. That’s because beliefs like this are subtle enough to make their way to our subconscious without being detected by our loud-mouthed conscious mind that will be the first to scream, “Well, THAT WAS AWKWARD…”

Step 2: Pick A Visual

Now that you’ve chosen the target belief, we need to make it memorable.

Our brains are coded to remember sensory experiences very vividly. We can recall sights, sounds, and smells in a split second, instantly associating them with a childhood memory, a past home, or a belief. In this step, we’re going to pick a simple visual cue that we’ll associate with your target belief.

To do that, you’ll need to pick a visual scene which has an associated belief that would come to mind immediately for a person in your target market. Here are some examples:

  • Visuals For Trustworthiness: Shaking hands, smiling faces, hugging, signing checks…
  • Visuals For Quality Of Work: Tightening screws, polishing shiny surfaces, checking off boxes…
  • Visuals For Environmental Friendliness: Green grass, trees, wind farms, solar panels…

Whatever visuals you DO choose, make sure they satisfy the conditions of “Ease Of Retrieval.”

Ease Of Retrieval

Ease Of Retrieval is a qualitative measure of how easy (or difficult) it is to access a memory.

If I were to tell you to picture an elephant, you’re probably already picturing an elephant in your mind as you read this. That’s because the image of an elephant has been repeatedly engrained in our brains over the course of our lives.

But if I were to tell you to imagine the concept of cognitive bias, you’d have to think a little about it, right? It wouldn’t be visual. It’s a mental “concept” that has no shape or form. Thus, the concept of “cognitive bias” fails the Ease Of Retrieval test.

To perform the Ease Of Retrieval test on your visuals, which involves asking the following three simple questions:

Is The Idea Simple?

You need one-step understanding when it comes to your visuals. There can be no metaphors, symbolism, or dependencies on the visuals. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Is The Idea Memorable?

You need an idea that will be engrained in the person’s mind and easily recalled.

Seth Godin’s example of a purple cow is a perfect example of this, as is the example of media hype (the more a sensational event is hyped on the media, the more the public associates a high likelihood of that event happening again1)

Is The Idea Certain?

Keep It Certain means you can’t have the person going back and forth around what the initial belief was. The visual needs to be clear and its underlying meaning un-questionable; otherwise uncertainty will cloud the person’s ability to recall2.

Step 3: Create The Memory

Once you have the visual in mind, you need to place it in front of your target audience. To do that, you need to advertise and share high-quality content that captures the attention of your prospect.

Ideal channels of communication for this would be paid advertisements, web pages, print materials, and blog posts. Use whatever means you can in order to get that belief-based imagery in front of your audience. The goal with this kind of campaign is simply exposure. You’re not trying to get them to take any sort of action just yet.

Let me repeat that: You’re not trying to get them to take action.

The goal of this step is to create a mental association between your brand and your target belief. If you chose the belief of “trustworthiness,” then your marketing imagery might include visuals such as shaking hands, smiling faces, and signing checks.

But there’s no call to action to buy. You are establishing an association with the target belief.

Step 4: Retrieve The Memory

After repeated exposure to the imagery you published in Step 3, you can return to your audience with an advertisement designed to retrieve the memory of the belief and take an action.

There are two primary methods of “retrieving” the memory: retargeting and scheduled print advertising.


Retargeting allows you to return to the same exact people who saw your advertisement, web page, blog post, or other digital media, with the call to action.

Print Ads

Print advertising will do the same thing, albeit with lower traceability.

As long as you allow sufficient time for print ads to run in Step 3, then you can safely run an updated ad in the same publication (to roughly the same people) with your call to action.

It’s recommended that you run the same Step 3 print ad several months in a row, or better yet run several Step 3 print ads in the same publication in the same month, before you run the Step 4 print ads.

What Options Do You Have For Step 4 Ads?

There are two main options you have at your disposal when running retargeting or print ads for Step 4.

First, you can have them make a conscious comparison between you and your competition according to the chosen belief. Second, you can take the next step in the buying journey that was holding them from moving forward.

In either case, the “limiting belief” that was previously holding them back has been replaced by your target belief. They can now move forward in your customer journey uninhibited by the mis-aligned “limiting” belief in your brand. Thus, you’ll likely find that more people take that “next step” in your buying journey, your conversion rates go up, and sales increase.


You’ve just put the Availability Heuristic to work in your marketing. After going through the first two steps above, run a pilot campaign for Step 3 and Step 4 to test things out. Post your questions and results below!

Stay Brilliant,


  1. Read, Dr. J Don. “The Availability Heuristic in Person Identification: The Sometimes Misleading Consequences of Enhanced Contextual Information.” Applied Cognitive Psychology, Apr. 1995, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/acp.2350090202/abstract;jsessionid=32B5BE1E9DCCD418A2B6C5A8FE2DD92C.f04t01.
  2. Vaugh, Leigh Ann. “Effects of uncertainty on use of the availability of heuristic for self-efficacy judgments”. European Journal of Social Psychology. 29 (2/3): 407–410. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(199903/05)29:2/3%3C407::AID-EJSP943%3E3.0.CO;2-3/abstract

The post Re-Coding How Customers Feel About Your Business appeared first on Speaking Of Brilliance by Dan Russell.

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What Are Double Blind Studies? Why Are They Important?

Not too long ago, when I heard the term double blind study, I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes.

I could hear Seinfeld’s voice in my head:

“Double blind?! What, being blind ONCE wasn’t good enough??”

In reality, though, the world of research wouldn’t be what it is today without double blind studies. Without them, the scientific rigor of hundreds of thousands of research experiments would come under scrutiny. The simple reason for this is a phenomenon called:

The Experimenter-Expectancy Effect

This effect (also known as the observer expectancy effect) is a psychological effect which causes an experimenter to subconsciously affect the results of an experiment.How could that happen, you ask?

Well, let’s say I was to run an experiment in which I’m trying to find out whether people with black hair prefer lobster mac and cheese over a plate of steamed broccoli. Now let’s say you and I look a lot alike.

NOW let’s say I’m a BIG fan of lobster mac and cheese. (Trust me, this is important)

Under those circumstances, the experimenter-expectancy effect would dictate that I have a subconscious belief that you’re going to love the lobster mac. As soon as I walk into the room to ask you which dish you prefer, I subconsciously decide that I want YOU to eat the lobster mac and cheese. Notice that I say “subconsciously.”

As the experimenter, I have every incentive to achieve scientific rigor in my experiment. My preference for one dish over another should have no effect on the results of my experiment. What’s more, my conscious mind believes that.

My subconscious mind, on the other hand, sees your face and is already making thousands of tiny connections between your face and that delicious lobster cheesiness. So when I walk into the room, every element of my body language, speech, eye movement, and other factors under my non-conscious control are pushing a preference for the lobster mac and cheese.

So when I ask you the question:

“Which dish would you prefer…”

This is what I hear:

“Steamed broccoli or lobster mac and cheese?”

But this is what actually comes out of my mouth:

“Steamed broccoli.. ORRR… Delicious, cheesy, warm, gooey lobster mac and cheese???” *wink* *wink* *wink*

All the while, my conscious mind as the “very professional experimenter” is thinking nothing but “I wonder what they’ll choose…” Obviously I’m exaggerating a bit, but the effect does come across, and unless you’re lactose intolerant or hate shellfish, you’re probably going to have a preference for the warm cheesy gooeyness.

Adding In The Double Blind

A double blind study changes all of this.

In a double blind, the identify of the participant (meaning whether you are in the control group or test group) is hidden to not only the participant, but also the researcher. That means that you don’t know whether we’re testing against hair color, weight, gender, or anything else. And even though I might still have a preference for the lobster mac, under double blind conditions, I wouldn’t see your face.

Since physical appearance is a variable in the experiment, knowing your physical appearance would open up the possibility of me presenting the two food options differently as a result of your hair color. Under this double blind, I wouldn’t know who I was talking to, much less what you looked like, so my subconscious mind would draw no conclusions to whether you should or shouldn’t choose the lobster mac.

(If we took this one step further and applied normal scientific rigor to the experiment, I would be fired and replaced with a simple piece of paper with two big check boxes. Just saying.)


Double blinds introduce a uniformity to research results which would otherwise have been exposed to non-conscious, subjective, and unrecognized biases on the part of the researchers. If a study has not been conducted in a double blind (or triple blind – those exist too) fashion, there had better be a good reason for it. Otherwise the results of that experiment could be invalidated due to the experimenter-expectancy effect.

Double-blind it, baby!

Stay Brilliant,


The post What Are Double Blind Studies? Why Are They Important? appeared first on Speaking Of Brilliance by Dan Russell.

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A lot of people are afraid of marketing.

They believe it’s a form of business that’s designed to manipulate them. They believe it’s a force of evil which they have no control over. They believe its sole purpose is to get them to do things they don’t want to do.

But… I have a different viewpoint.

As someone who both “markets” and is “marketed to,” I believe marketing is an art form which nurtures deep emotions that we neglect in everyday life. I believe it’s also a complex psychological science which helps us communicate a complex idea quickly and clearly to a large group of people.

That viewpoint, for me, paints a beautiful picture of the marketing world.

But when you start to let ideas like corporate greed, corruption, and ulterior motives come to mind, this world quickly moves from a state of beauty to one that is threatening and opaque. It makes us feel like we’re not in control, and that forces beyond our comprehension are out there to lie and steal from us. This is not an unfounded fear, either.  When the “unwritten rules” of the marketing world are bent and broken, companies try to manipulate others. But in the end, they inevitably lose the trust of their followers.

Armed with the right tools, however, businesses and consumers can coexist beautifully.

Much in the same way a musician and his audience can coexist and benefit from one another, authentic companies like Dove, and Budweiser know this. They don’t try to sell you a product; they try to share a moment with you: a deep, meaningful moment that you might not have even experienced before. These moments are centered around emotions such as deep love, the desire to explore, or the pain of heartbreak.

Dove Real Beauty Sketches | You’re more beautiful than you think (3mins) - YouTube

The companies that you see absolutely crushing it with emotionally-driven advertisements are the same companies which know exactly how you want to feel deep, deep down.

How can that be manipulation?

How can that be manipulating or greedy? Don’t we pay good money at movie theaters to feel the exact same ways?

Sure, the businesses making us feel those emotions have an agenda, as do the movie producers. Like every business, they need to generate a profit. And those advertisements you love are generated to help them do exactly that. But these companies know that you don’t want to feel “sold to.” They know that in order to win your trust, and  eventually your purchase, they need to be part of your life.

They need to play an integral role in your emotional journey.

At the end of the day, the brands we trust are the brands we buy from.

The next time you see a really amazing ad from North Face or Turkish Airlines, step back and realize what you’re feeling.

You’re feeling warm and fuzzy. Or reminiscent of your childhood. Or in the mood to venture into the unknown.

The North Face: The Explorer - YouTube

It is rare to find these small moments anywhere else in our daily lives.

Marketing is the catalyst of those feelings, which is why it should be valued less as a method to manipulate and more as a vehicle for emotional awakening in the same way a musical album both affects our mental state and provides profit for those who created that moment for us.

So what’s your next moment, dear reader?

Stay Brilliant,


The post Entry #1: Marketing Might Not Be Evil appeared first on Speaking Of Brilliance by Dan Russell.

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