Seduce Your Customer with Dr. Jonathan T. Mall

Ep #144: Seduce Your Customer with Dr. Jonathan Mall

Jonathan MallHave you ever thought of marketing and meeting a romantic partner as two sides of the same coin? It might sound a bit strange (and maybe even funny), but today’s guest makes a great case for why the same persuasion principles apply whether you’re selling a product or trying to ask someone out.

Dr. Jonathan Mall is a computational neuropsychologist by training, but he now applies his knowledge to entrepreneurship. He founded to combine the power of science and big data with persuasion principles in order to hone effective marketing tools.

Jonathan and I volley back-and-forth in this episode, comparing the surprisingly similar processes of communicating with people and marketing to them. We go step-by-step through the journey of capturing someone’s attention, how to hold it, and how to persuade them to buy in to what you’re offering.

Jonathan turned his neuropsychology skills to business. Seduced by the opportunity to optimize consumer experience using machine learning, he led the Science team in a IBM Big Data Venture. Afterwards, he founded, a market research institute, using online experiments and Big-Data to illuminate the true drivers of desire and purchase behavior.

This episode is a bit different from our normal fare and packed with interesting insights about human behavior. Tune in below! And, for the free whitepaper, The 4 Step Guide for Seducing People and Consumers with Neuropsychology, check the resources section below!

If you enjoy the show, please drop by iTunes and leave a review while you are still feeling the love! Reviews help others discover this podcast and I greatly appreciate them!

Listen in:

On Today’s Episode We’ll Learn:

  • Why humans are hardwired to respond to movement, and how to use this to your advantage when meeting people.
  • Why Jonathan doesn’t like the scarcity persuasion technique, but nevertheless finds it useful.
  • How to persuasively close the deal with a customer or leave a positive impression on someone you’ve just met.
  • What your packaging should look like to have the highest chance of being picked up by your customer.
  • Why it’s important to abide by social norms in networking and dating situations.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to The Brainfluence podcast with Roger Dooley, author, speaker, and educator on neuromarketing and the psychology of persuasion. Every week, we talk with thought leaders that will help you improve your influence with factual evidence and concrete research. Introducing your host, Roger Dooley.

Roger Dooley:    Welcome to the Brainfluence Podcast. I’m Roger Dooley. My guest this week is Dr. Jonathan Mall. He’s both a computational neuropsychologist and an entrepreneur. As a academic, he studied and written about working memory using tools like EEG, FRMI, eye tracking, TMS and after finishing his university work, Jonathan headed up the science team at an IBM big data venture called Gumbolt. Later, he founded, a market research firm that uses online experiments to tap into the unconscious desires of consumers.

We talk about persuasion and influence a lot here on the Brainfluence Podcast and Jonathan has some interesting experience there as well. He learned how to persuade on an academic level with over five years of competitive debating experience in places like Oxford, Paris, Berlin, Moscow and more. And of course that’s mostly rational persuasion. Although I guess that’s something we can talk about in a moment, whether there is some emotional elements there too. But on more of the emotional level, Jonathan was personally trained by one of the world’s best dating coaches, Tim Veninga in Budapest for ten full days and nights. He’s lectured about that topic too and has in the past helped people become better with members of the opposite sex, but he will hasten to tell you that is not a dating coach. Jonathan, welcome to the show.

Jonathan:            Yeah, thank you very much. Nice to be here.

Roger Dooley:    So, well there’s so many things we could talk about. I’m curious, first of all, what do computational neuropsychologist think about most of the time? What do they study and then what do they do in real life afterwards?

Jonathan:            Well, it’s mostly all about you know kind of operationalizing ponzi concepts like you know your memory, what do people think about what is currently in their consciousness, those kind of things and you want to put them into little boxes so that you’re able to test them with for example, ED, some eventualated potential hook people’s brains and scanners and get some information out of that so it’s very much trying to figure out what are the smallest components of completion that you can tease apart and then study.

Roger Dooley:    Were you able to apply that knowledge then when you went to the IBM big data group?

Jonathan:            Yeah so to me, whenever anyone who deals with data that is based on you know human behavioral, you know social media data, everything that you’ve written in an email for example, all of that is psychology so if you have a large data set, you become a psychologist. So it’s really about figuring out you know what does the person that the data is presented of, what describes that person? What kind of personality would that person have? How would he react to certain stimuli? You know, what’s the best persuasive technique to reach them? Those kind of questions I think can be very well answered with good data.

Roger Dooley:    Yeah one of the things I certainly see happening and I guess you probably have more experience in that area than I do is a sort of personalization of psychology marketing if you will or psychology driven marketing. Where in the past, companies have used various aspects of either psychology or neuroscience to craft say an overall marketing campaign saying okay we want to appeal these kinds of emotions but now the combination of big data and really fairly immense computing resources, theoretically let’s us start targeting the psychological makeup of individual consumers. I’m curious what your perspective is on that? What you’ve seen done in that area so far and how you see that evolving?

Jonathan:            So you see it a lot online so there you are completely right. There’s the computational power, you have enough data points, you can figure out you know who one person is, follow them through the journey and then maybe change the marketing material to reflect what they have shown to react to in the past. That certainly works however, we work a lot with FMCG’s so that’s fast moving consumer good companies and there it’s a product in a shop. It’s one product that is meant to be sold to millions of consumers but you cannot actually change it’s appearance to each consumer that comes into the door. So there you actually have to figure out what’s the kind of, I wouldn’t say the lowest common denominator but the denominator that is best to which the consumers that would fit with that product.

Roger Dooley:    So Jonathan, I’m going to jump over to your dating experience. That’s not something that we usually talk about here but just last week I was talking a guest about the dreaded conference networking event.

Jonathan:            Yes.

Roger Dooley:    And you’ve been those I’m sure where you’ve got a room full of people, conference attendees, all standing around maybe with a glass of wine in their hand but what you find is that there’s not that much networking going on. That people are either playing with cell phones, if they’re by themselves because they don’t want to look like they don’t have something important to do and they’re just standing around because they have no friends.

Jonathan:            Yeah.

Roger Dooley:    Or they are talking to people that they already know, people from their company or people they’ve met before and there’s very little actual networking going on. So I’m curious, it seems like that scenario is not very much different than a dating scenario where you’re trying to meet new people and you know hopefully come away with some kind of connection. How would you approach or how would you recommend our listeners approach that networking event to be more productive than usual?

Jonathan:            So I think when you look at how I would approach dating and I have been taught to for example do that during the day so that is even worse than a networking event because now people are moving, they have some place to go. Now approaching someone that you think may look interesting is even more different because at least at networking event, people are somewhat expected to show like open you know behavior.

Roger Dooley:    Right, people are relatively reception at those. If somebody comes up to talk to you, you’re probably not going to ignore them or turn away.

Jonathan:            Yeah so I think once we understand what you know what enables you to approach someone anywhere, I think you can also apply that to a networking event because it’s really much, much harder. So let’s talk about that for a second. Like let’s say you anywhere you are, maybe right now, you see someone that you think looks interesting. Can be a girl, can be a guy. Now, if that person is currently moving, you know you need to get their eyes on you and get their body to stop. Likewise in networking event, that person needs their attention to be focused on you. Now what I would do is to make you unmissable, so be right in front of the person. Maybe have light non-sexual touching on the shoulder and introduce yourself. So make a noise. Make it known that you are there.

So, one of the things when you approach someone say from behind because the person is just not looking at you, I would then say, excuse me, touch them on the shoulder lightly with the back of my hand and turn in so that their path of movement would run right into me and then of course, all likelihood, they would stop and again networking event, same kind of deal. You would say excuse me or hello and you would kind of orient yourself so that the person does need to turn their head or whatever, they can just very easily look at you and you’ve made yourself known. It’s not like you’ve just jump in front of them but they were already expecting something like that to happen because you indicated that intent.

Then of course, again, people always need to know what’s currently going on. Right? I mean yes, we pride ourselves as being you know homo-sapiens, very smart but as a matter of fact, very often we kind of take cues from the environment how we should currently behave. So when approaching something that you don’t know, it’s very very critical to be super calm and relaxed and basically take out all the nervous energy that also the other person may be feeling. Because as you just mentioned, somebody may even mascaraed the nervousness by taking out the phone because they want something to do. So if you approach someone, they may also be nervous to meet someone new because everybody has this ego that makes it so difficult to look beyond it. Everybody has something to lose.

Like if you get approached, you think like hm, what will this other person think of me? So the more you can take out that nervous energy and make it a really calm kind of organized interaction, the better. Right? So very very slow movements and preferably moving to a hand shake because a hand shake is like the accepted cultural norm of a normal introduction n a firm slow hand shake, looking in to the other person’s eyes and smiling, that is like eighty percent of the way I think.

Roger Dooley:    What about just getting over that barrier? I’m sure that a lot of people, even at a networking event where it’s kind of expected or still uncomfortable walking up to a stranger, it’s got to be a lot worse in a potential dating situation. You know if you’re in a café or something like that. I suppose it’s just practice. What do the experts tell people who say gee, I don’t think I could do that, just walk up to somebody and start talking to them?

Jonathan:            So the person who thinks right now that they would be very nervous doing it are one hundred percent right. It is extremely nerve wrecking to do because you know everybody feels this potential of being rejected socially. And to be honest, that will happen. It always happens. It also happens at networking events because maybe when you talk to a start up person and then an investor comes by, that investor has way higher value than you may have because you know I don’t know about you but I’m going to invest myself yet so you get that rejection and even though you can understand it, it still feels bad. You know that is kind of always stands in the way.

Roger Dooley:    So that is the equivalent walking up to the girl looks like a model, only in business terms.

Jonathan:            Exactly. So there’s a couple of things. Interestingly, they have done one study where just taking Percetimal so a simple over the counter pain killer was able to reduce social pain so the pain of rejection was reduced by taking the pain killer. Apparently, the way that we perceive social rejection is similar to how we perceive physical pain. So I don’t advocate to take drugs to become better at dating or you know take beta blockers to slow down your heart rate anything but that is something that has been found. However, you again just slowing down yourself and controlling the anxiety that you may feel by slowing down your movement by walking slowly, by trying to talk very slowly, that not only calms you but it calms the other person who will the project that calmness onto you, you know back on to you and that usually means so much smoother by that action.

Roger Dooley:    Interesting and I guess I could try out some research about alcohol. I probably would not do that at the same time as drugs but one drunk study shows that make you more attractive. Not necessarily two, but one apparently produces just enough perhaps either relaxation or facial flushing or something to make you appear a little bit more attractive and then another experiment with two drinks where multiple people were consuming these exact two drinks. Again, it’s not more or getting people totally inebriated greatly increased social interaction. The golden moment where three people in a group are all smiling together and so on. I guess there may be some chemical means might help the process but the key thing that you’re saying, you know first of all, be calm yourself. Introduce yourself in a way where you clearly have the other person’s attention and perhaps use a handshake or start with a light touch and maybe move it to a hand shake to keep things in a very sort of normal that way that the other person isn’t suddenly going into some kind of a flight or fright mode.

Jonathan:            That is exactly right. I mean, in the end you meet the eyes on the target and that is your own eyes and very often you then you also want the body. To me it’s very interesting how you know now talking about how we are perceived by other people and how we can maybe make them like us more because we present ourselves in a calmer and more impressive way so to say. It’s impersonating hold that translates into grants and products as well because there of course, you cannot, a brand usually doesn’t speak to you but you need to use indirect means of grabbing someone’s attention. Right, so just based on some of our research in which consumer literature it’s almost like wearing a funny hat at a party where nobody wears a hat. So if a product is you know it has a stark contrast to everything around it, so you know you look at shampoo, everything is white but you are blue, your bottle is blue then that immediately attracts the eye. Then obviously what you hope is that the person also orients their body towards that interesting stimulus and grabs it and sees whether it’s a good fit for them.

Roger Dooley:    Right so in that case, you’re using the packaging to create contrast with the other products.

Jonathan:            Exactly and if we talk about movement right, so I mentioned that you can catch someone’s attention by moving yourself. So if you extend your arm, that is movement and it’s actually, you know extending arm goes towards your gut which is a very vital area and you don’t want that to be penetrated. So if you kind of stab with your hand, people you know will almost pull back because it’s like you’re stabbing them with your hand but if you slowly extend it, you show your palm like there’s no weapons in it and you have the hand shake, that works very well. It makes a very stern to the other person what you intend, right? You’re introducing yourself et cetera and that movement also works obviously in a shop where you sell your product where you know you can movement with blinking, so very often you see LED’s flickering for like a new offer or there may be a screen that shows a new video and we honestly almost can’t help ourselves but to orient our gaze to something that is moving. You know, maybe because back in the days you didn’t want to miss the moving snake in the grass but if anything is in your environment that is moving, that attracts attention and that obviously can help and direct the gaze to what you want the consumer to direct their gaze to.

Roger Dooley:    Interesting. I suppose you could even use a display that had some very softly moving elements that just the breeze of people walking by could create some motion without having to do electronics and such. I know that at my local Sam’s Club, a big sort of warehouse retailer here that’s part of Walmart, there is a display that offers a free sample and it’s motion activated as you walk by this machine says, hi would you like a free sample? So it definitely it’s doing that cold introduction very aggressively.

Jonathan:            It’s funny isn’t that it almost like they’re simulating the human experience right? Normally a person would say that and maybe in ten years we’re going to see robots handing out free stuff but it’s really using human elements that are very easy for us to process. You know you also see obviously on marketing material that you see faces smiling and holding a product and that is obviously because we know it naturally how to read a face. If the face is smiling, apparently something nice is happening. If a man in front of a big sports car looks very serious and proud, well apparently he’s proud. It’s very easy for us to get that emotion and then attach it to whatever other stimulus is around like for example, the sports car or some shampoo.

I think you’ve written about this as well where you know you take those social cues like where the gaze is going. If you see for example, I think I saw one of those ads where there was a face on it, like a display with a face on it and the eyes would follow you and that is like you know that really gets your attention and then of course it continues to flip and you know tell you something that you want to see not only just you know freaky eyes following you but that is definitely grabbing your attention because it is something that we’re used to. It’s a human being, or it seems like a human being.

Roger Dooley:    Right, okay so once you’ve got attention, where do you move on from there?

Jonathan:            Well let’s start with the dating scenario first. Most, well I guess I would say most people will not be at that moment in the state where they were just waiting for someone to come along and say hi and be this new interesting guy or girl. So I have told people is to make sure that there’s a product market fit so to say. I want to note here though that when we talk about dating and human interactions in like this commodified way, the display most definitely that if you know if you study psychology, that is what you do naturally to study it and that is not meant to take away from the magic so to say that happens in those moments.

Okay, going back to what’s happening so what I would ask, is do you have a boyfriend? At a certain point, right? First talk a little bit and then you want to know whether that person has a boyfriend. It also makes it very clear what’s going on because maybe for the other person thought, I don’t know exactly what’s happening but then that other person definitely knows. It has other things like do you live here or do you have time now, things that just make sure that whatever you have on offer so to say matches you know their availability.

Roger Dooley:    Right, so how does that then relate to a product?

Jonathan:            So, this is fascinating while I think most people especially nowadays with Tinder and all these awful things that are supposedly making it easier to date and I think or not, when it comes to a product, if you really think about what’s currently going on in their head, right? So most people don’t think I’m looking for a mate right now. Mostly they’re going to think I’m going shopping for, I don’t know deodorant or rice or something. So imagine when your consumer comes into the market and he may have a list of items that he’s looking for but there’s going to be something that he’s currently looking for.

So I go in the shop and I look for bananas. What am I looking for? I’m looking for something yellow and elongated. Or maybe you know read about and see if I can spot the word banana. But I think it’s mostly going to go with the visual color cues so that’s what I’m looking for. Meaning that if your product is a banana, make sure the people see that. Pretty simple. But if you are packaged, so if you are toothpaste or rice, does the package show what the consumer is looking for at that moment? If the consumer is thinking rice, he better see rice on the package so it’s an instant, okay that’s my rice.

For example, when looking for wine, you know what kind of wine you get. The bottles are all pretty … You know if you compare red and white wine, they are very similar shapes in terms of bottles. But what happens is that people inhibit the things that they don’t want to see. So if I’m looking for red wine, all the white wine will not register. I’m just going to see the red wine and then maybe make another selection and I may go for the one, which actually I usually do that has some kind of animal printed on the label. Because I’m like oh it’s a zebra, it must be good wine.

Roger Dooley:    Interesting criteria although actually I think we could probably spend a whole podcast talking about wine marketing and the potential confusion when people walk into the wine shop or the large supermarket wine display and see hundreds of fairly similar bottles lined up there and then have to make a choice between them. It’s really ripe I think for some effective marketing and surprisingly you don’t see it all that often. Occasionally you do see some displays that are meant to call attention to a brand. It’s perhaps the fact that it was rated well or some other characteristic or that it’s on sale but by and large wine marketing is really pretty terrible.

Jonathan:            Yeah. Well, I don’t drink that much wine anymore so I haven’t been in those shelves. And honestly there, I again go for the story. Like I love to be told by the guy selling the wine, what’s this story right? I think I even read that that makes the wine so much better if you know even like the name of the vineyard or what kind of stone it was the grapes were growing on, those things just also then add to the experience. And it’s really funny that you mention that because there’s story and association adding to the experience which is totally true for wine because there’s not much else right because you can’t taste it. You’re just going to go with what you see.

They’ve done this study where a poor student, oh well poor. He had to ask six hundred girls for their phone number and it was in a mall and he would either do it in front of a flower shop or if he would do it just at a random shop. And they found that in front of the flower shop where there were you know nice bouquets of flowers outside, he actually doubled the success rate of getting the girls’ phone number. Truly fascinating because the association there appears to be relationship. You do get flowers when you are in a relationship so just having that association apparently just got the people in the right state.

It could go both ways, right? So maybe it also had an influence on the quotation marks poor student to then maybe more be more relationship focused in the conversation, we don’t know that but those kind of effects obviously play a role when it’s about a product that people have difficulty to really understand the value of. So if you look at shampoo for example, which is bottled soap but you see a very nice flower on top of it, like just printed you know big and yellow and kind of shiny, you’re going to smell that smell of that imaginary flower but obviously that flower has no or very little relationship to what’s actually in the bottle. Yet it will so clearly influence how you’re going to perceive that smell and if you put something on the bottle that is very strong in color, people actually perceive that the smell to be stronger also.

Like if you buy roses, the white roses appear to smell less than the pure dark red roses. And the same then of course goes for putting a flower on a shampoo bottle.

Roger Dooley:    Interesting. So you’re telling people what is in the product or what the characteristics of the product are particularly so they can at least find it and then learn something about it. So where do you go from there?

Jonathan:            So I think it’s then we come to this you know …

Roger Dooley:    Is there a dating parallel there too?

Jonathan:            Absolutely. It’s very interesting because the way that humans are usually conveying their own value, their social status, it’s very risky to do it directly. Like it’s very weird if you just say like oh hey, I’m the CEO of this company or I make this amount of money or that’s just like off putting for some reason. But what clearly works is if you get indirect value. So that’s basically you know people look at behavior or things that are said and they look at the subtext. So if somebody tells you that you know let’s say you meet someone of the street or then they tell you about how they were just shopping for a present for their mom. You know that tells you so many things. Obviously, what the person is currently doing but also that they have a mom that they may have a good relationship with even though right now Christmas season so maybe it’s just a curtesy gift, who knows. But then you can say like I’m going to meet friends. Which means that you have friends. That can’t be a bad thing. You already know people.

Also then obviously at a networking event, just to take that parallel, if you know someone else at the venue and you can just kind of drop that line or maybe greet that person while they are walking by, that just indirectly conveys that you are already well connected.

Roger Dooley:    Right, there’s a form of social proof there.

Jonathan:            Yes, big time. But you can not say like oh hey I know everybody here. I mean you can but I personally wouldn’t consider that to be very nuanced but if you make sure that people when they walk by great you, you great back, maybe you shake their hands real quick and then you turn back to the person that you’re currently talking to because that is important to you, those things can just indirectly really tell people about your social status.

Roger Dooley:    Right and there’s well you’ve probably seen that research on the probably comes up in the dating scenario too where if you are with an attractive person of the opposite sex it makes you more appealing to somebody else. In other words, your own image is enhanced by the presence of this other person.

Jonathan:            Yeah that’s a really funny story about so basically this called or some people call this pre-selection. And they’ve tried this with birds also right when there’s … What was it? I think it was like a grey goose something but I could be wrong where basically the girl would fly around, the girl bird, and go to the guy and then kind of see his dance and then decide whether or not to mate with him. But if you put a stuffed female bird in the same territory as the male, his chance of getting another actually a live female bird greatly enhanced because basically another female apparently stuck around. They already checked out the dance, liked it enough to sort of stick around and that tells the new alive arrival that you know that you know they don’t need to do the work anymore. Somebody else tested this bird and the dance and hence they are more likely to mate with them.

And for products, this works wonders. Whenever your product is already successful and you can say something like hey like a million units sold. Like a million Big Macs sold or the number one best seller book. That just you know oozes the pre-selection. Many people are already doing it. Many people have already done the work of finding out whether this is a good product or not and if you just follow that, you don’t need to worry most of the time. Just do it so that really works.

Roger Dooley:    So, now you’ve and I know you’ve got other influence techniques too but moving on to the sort of closing the deal phase, why don’t you take us through that.

Jonathan:            Sure, let me just kind of bridge that a little bit with the scarcity. So yes, there’s a couple of persuasion techniques and one that I personally find a little bit annoying because it stresses me out is when online you see okay you want this ticket or you want to book this room but there’s only two left. To me that just really increases the anxiety. But it works. I believe that it works best on some people and not on others but generally it’s a technique that is worth trying.

And for the dating context it’s similar where you know you can introduce let’s say a false time constraint where you say sorry, I only got you know a minute or I only got a second. I really got to go meet my friends. That just puts more pressure on the situation and may elevate the importance of closing the deal soon. But to me when you are in this in a situation where you want the other person to stay in contact with you for example by getting their phone number. I personally believe that once the time is right, it only takes you know you asking the question. It’s funny too because we haven’t really talked about it much so far. Obviously it’s we are bound to the social conventions of our cultural heritage. So you know western developed democracies, very often it’s the male part that is kind of taking the lead.

I’m not saying that it’s right. I’m just saying that it’s generally what people expect. I believe that it’s the male’s role to ask for the phone number by saying something like hey, what’s the best way to stay in touch because we should really have coffee sometime. And you know if you want to do it really smooth, I think introducing it early on, introducing this idea of hey I think we could have a great conversation if we had more time and then it’s kind of persuasion right? You already kind of open that idea. Yes, I listened to your book, very cool book also. Robert Ciadini, persuasion. So if you open that idea up, it becomes more natural to then say hey as I already mentioned basically we wanted to have coffee, now I need your number so let’s exchange numbers.

Roger Dooley:    Right and I guess one other element that Cialdini might bring is that there’s an element of consistency there too because if they didn’t deny when you first mentioned it in passing then it would be a little bit inconsistent to then say no I don’t want to do that. In other words, they’ve already been sort of tacitly agreed to the concept and makes closing the deal that much more easy.

Jonathan:            Yeah. And one other thing that I noticed when you are, sometimes people want you to take surveys on the street, right? So they’re similar to getting a phone number in some respects and what they use is this technique where they ask you like would you consider yourself a helpful person? And like eighty percent of people I think would because that’s a positive trait. Why would you say no? But if you say yes, then obviously you would also take that survey because you would help out that person that just asked you. So it’s really setting you up to you know stand in the cold sometimes for fifteen minutes and answer some survey just because you admitted to being a helpful person.

Roger Dooley:    Right. So how, so now translate this into a product, either on the shelf or online?

Jonathan:            Yeah so obviously it would be easier if somebody would kind of directly sell you that product. Right? Just put it in your hand and let you use it. I mean, some guy once sold like a Vietnamese four like just bare metal knife to me on a flea market and I really didn’t want it. In the end, I think I bought three. And he just made me hold it, he made me use it, he made me touch it. He made feel like I already owned that product so then obviously I didn’t want to give it away because it was already mine. That doesn’t always work obviously because in the retail shop you don’t have someone that’s kind of putting it into my hand but once people take it out from the shelf, the chance of people buying that product obviously increases because putting it back, you know more effort and you know you already have it in your hand, you may already feel that it is yours.

Increasing the time of interaction with that product, for example, people put stickers on it that make you smell what’s inside without needing to open it. And that has two benefits. One is you get smell which is another modality for you to remember it and actually smelling something makes people remember whatever happens in that moment better. But it also increases the time of you holding it in your own hand. So naturally the chance goes up to bite. There’s many other things like I think it all boils down to the ease of processing. So if it’s easy to grab, if it is you know if you just have to you know just lift your, bend your arm a little bit at your elbow and you can already grab it, that’s you know super easy.

Always make things as easy to grab as possible and don’t forget most people are right handed. So if you put like the coffee mug in a way where it would be off for me to kind of under arm and take it in my hand, that would probably be you know more energy than is necessary. Just make it super easy to grab because the less energy I need to expend to get something, the more likely I am to want to get it.

Roger Dooley:    Very good. Although it seems like there is a limited amount of prime space in most retail environments and often the way products are placed is entirely outside the control of the product manufacturers. I like the idea of the say like a scratch and sniff thing. Or you know a scent thing because that’s simply attached to the product and it’s going to go with it where ever it’s placed and it does increase the probability that somebody is going to actually pick it up off the shelf. Are there any other techniques that you can think of to exploit that effect?

Jonathan:            So I would go with positive associations. You can actually kind of see it in our language when someone rolls to the top. That’s obviously a very positive thing and hence if you see a product that is all the way on top, still reachable. Like you don’t need to be you know Michael Jordan to reach it but it’s still high up. So you need to lift your head and see it and kind of admire it from below, like the common peasant looking at the king. That is a you know the association that you get is that you are premium. So being on top is usually associated with being premium. And if somebody is looking for that, then that can increase your chance of … Maybe not even selling more but being able to ask for a higher price for example because people will already think that was is up there must be better because you know I need to look up.

And at least in Europe you find that the budget stuff is you know one you need to bend down because it’s at the bottom but also you need to look down on it. So obviously there again those are the bigger packages that are budget that are cheaper. And you know obviously it’s also good that you can expect to find those there because that’s then where you look but you overall, you wouldn’t but that and then put it out at a fancy dinner party because you know it was, it came from the bottom so to say.

Roger Dooley:    Right. That’s definitely how wine is sold in most shops in the US where you’ve got the stuff that people are most likely to buy and it’s sort of mid priced wine right at eye level. You’ve got the premium expensive wines that most people probably won’t but except for a special occasion on the top shelf, hence the name top shelf that applies to various spirits too. And then the really inexpensive is always pretty close to the floor on the bottom and I think that people are just accustomed to sort of scanning that way.

Jonathan:            Yeah and it’s funny what you just mentioned because you said spirit. Because just going back for a second to you know the rationale approach of convincing someone like for example, in competitive debating, you know because it is more rational. You have a judge that is kind of trained in seeing the right kind of argument but you can always decide what kind of words you want to use. So describe a high alcoholic drink. You could say booze or you could say spirit. It’s more or less the same thing but spirit just has all these associations with it that are way more positive. Like you are in good spirit, you are in high spirit, it’s and spirit itself, spirituality et cetera, it just has this wealth of you know attached associations that are mostly positive whereas booze, makes you think of someone who is too attached to alcohol.

Roger Dooley:    Right. Makes a lot of sense. We’re just about out of time here Jonathan. Let me remind our listeners that we are speaking with Jonathan Mall, computational neuropsychologist and founder of Neuro-flash, a market research and branding firm. Jonathan, how can our listeners find you and your stuff online?

Jonathan:            So the easiest way would be to go to our website, that’s

Roger Dooley:    Right that is a neuro, like it sounds, hyphen and then flash. F L A S H and of course, we will link there and to any other resources we spoke about today on the show notes page at and we’ll have a handy text version of our chat there in PDF format too. Jonathan, thanks so much for being on the show.

Jonathan:            Thank you very much. It was a pleasure.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Brainfluence podcast. To continue the discussion and to find your own path to brainy success, please visit us at


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