Pleasure and Pain: Connecting at the Deepest Level

In recent years we have come to understand the functioning of the human brain with much greater precision. Like so much complexity, when you start to probe the core functioning you find that it is remarkably simple: we like things that feel good, we want to avoid things that hurt.

The element that is constantly running in the background, guiding and defining how we act in the world is the desire to survive. Why do we eat? Why do we seek shelter? Because we are programmed to live. Running in close second place to personal survival is our desire to ensure the survival of our species. These are the rudimentary elements of functioning that define not only our existence as humans but the existence of nearly every other living thing on this planet.

The hormonal cues that cause us to act based on our desire to survive come from the deepest and oldest part of our thinking brain, the amygdala.  In the world we live in, we are rarely confronted with a threat to our existence in the way our earliest human ancestors were. But, when we encounter anything new, unfamiliar, or emotionally triggering the amygdala goes on high alert. Then, and only after that has occurred, through a series of complex processes that happen very fast other areas of the brain start to fire and we feel like we are having a reasoned response to whatever we are engaged with. It is this unconscious process of reaction and justification that happens with the vast majority of the “decisions” we think that we are making.

So why does any of this matter? Because whether we are working at our desk, walking down the street, or relaxing on a beach our brain is guiding how we feel and how we react to the world around us.  The “thinking” that we do occurs after our body already knows how it feels.

B2C communications figured this out a long time ago in a fairly basic way: sex sells. It’s much harder to sell sex in B2B communication (and probably less appropriate), but it is not hard to sell an avoidance of pain. And remember avoiding pain, avoiding those things that cause discomfort, fear and insecurity is an even earlier, deeper reaction than the desire to multiply.

This does not mean that the marketing experience should be lead by threats of bodily harm and protection from harm. That is racketeering, and while highly effective in some industries not one we recommend. What we do recommend is understanding at a very deep level what motivates people to act and then taking the time to explore those motivations so you meet your potential customer in a place that focuses on what they need to survive in their job, in their industry and reinforce the understanding that you can provide something that helps them survive and thrive!

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