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Simple neuromarketing strategies to make your job easier

Milwaukee Athletic Club in Wisconsin saw a 65 percent increase in new members . . .
The Old Club in Michigan saw a 30 percent increase in new enrollments . . .
The Women’s Athletic Club in Chicago was able to focus on and attract best-fit candidates when filling several key positions . . .
. . . 
All by tweaking marketing copy and using neuro triggers.

What is Neuromarketing?

In general, neuromarketing is the science of human decision. It includes behavioral research and behavior-based strategies. With the use of functional MRI brain scans, eye tracking, facial coding and heart rate monitors, this technology is used to gather information in response to words, images and scenarios.

Simply, trained people hook up the brain and the body and watch it light up and track responses. The data presents insights in changes or patterns. Then, marketers like me, strategically apply the findings and understandings to produce preferred outcomes. It’s like a secret sauce.

Why does this matter?

Research shows your members, prospects and staff are bombarded with more than 3,000 commercial messages per day—pulling, teasing, directing. Without a smart approach, it’s hard to be heard because you’re getting lost in the noise. You need to find a better way to influence behavior.

How can you influence behavior?

Knowing how people make decisions will arm you with extra fire power to make your efforts and that of your team worthwhile. It starts with a basic understanding of how the brain works.

We have three brains: neocortex, limbic and reptilian.

Neocortex is the part that thinks. It’s our rational self. It supports active decision making and is slow but smart. It lives in the past, present and future. It’s somewhat controllable.

Limbic is the part that feels. It’s our emotional self. It processes emotions, feelings and intuition.

Reptilian is the part that decides. It’s our instinctual self. It’s always on—ready for danger. It lives in the present. It doesn’t have to think. It’s unconscious, taking care of our organs like breathing. It takes input from the other two parts but controls the final decision making process.

According to neuroscience studies and research, decisions are made with our reptilian brain. Eighty-five percent of decisions are made with our subconscious but the numbers show we market and sell to the other 15 percent.

Here’s the opportunity: Flip the focus, speak to the subconscious (reptilian brain) and watch behavior change.

The power of words and messaging

You can start with simple changes with event flyers. I mostly see the who, what, where and when but neglect the why. Remember, the “why” engages behavior. If it’s movie night add copy like, “Guilt-free night for mom and dad,” or “Give mom the night off when you bring your kids to the club for movie night,” or “It’s easy to do date night when your kids are happy.” Tap into subliminal reasons and benefits to nudge behavior.

Use stories to stimulate the subconscious

Scientists know when we hear a story, our brains are equipped to feel and experience the details of the story. So, when you tell me about how your golf members celebrate the 19th hole with an ice-cold Heineken around an air-conditioned European, handcrafted wood bar swapping bunker stories, my brain actually lights up and my motor and vision neurons activate. I’m able to put myself in the story.

Instead of just telling prospects you have an outdoor pool, mention how kids cool off in the deep end with crazy diving board jumps while moms relax with Bartender Jim’s famous icy pina coladas. Roger Dooley, neuromarketing guru, advises when using stories to “include action, motion, dialogue and other aspects that will activate different parts of the brain.”

Keep it simple

The goal isn’t to be wordy. Don’t give so much information it’s overwhelming. There’s a sweet spot of just the right amount because [drum roll please] our brains want to be lazy!

Herein lies the main ingredient to this secret sauce: Our brains do not want to work hard. There is so much automatic “stuff” happening in our brain just to keep us alive (heart beats, gut digests food, muscles and joints work to keep us upright, and on and on). Therefore, when you’re communicating to your members, prospects and staff, keep it simple. The simpler and more predictable in regard to messaging and imagery, the easier for the brain to digest and make a decision!

Just add faces

Faces are familiar—the brain doesn’t have to work hard to know it’s a person. If you want to grab attention, use faces. Even better, make it a baby face. Data gathered by researcher Morten Kringelbach proved our brains are wired to rapidly light up when we see an infant’s face.

You can even influence where the viewer looks on the page. As Dooley simply guides, “ . . . be sure the face is looking at what you want the view to see—your headline, a product image or whatever is key. Viewers will examine the face, and then subconsciously be drawn to what the eyes appear to be looking at.”

Small changes can produce big changes

Clubs are planning and encouraging members to participate every day. No-shows can be expensive and frustrating. Take advantage of what social scientist Anthony Greenwald discovered: Changing “Please call if you have to cancel” to “Will you please call if you have to cancel?” affected the no-show rate. It dropped by 30 percent to 10 percent.

This works because the research shows there is a correlation between commitment and consistency. This means we are motivated to do what we promised especially if we made a commitment that is “active, requires effort on our part, and is made public to others.”

Buying and spending can hurt

Brain science shows buying lights up the brain’s pain center. Studies show that simple changes like getting rid of the dollar sign can influence behavior. One Cornell study tested restaurant display pricing:

■ Numerical with dollar sign: $13.00
■ Numerical without dollar or decimal: 13
■ Spelled out: thirteen

They discovered patrons spent significantly more than the other two groups with the simple numerical. So, if you’re promoting an event, menu pricing, etc., ditch the dollar sign and reduce the pain. However, keep the dollar sign if you’re showing a savings. If your member is saving $50 by bundling a package, let that dollar sign stand proud next to that 50 number. Since it’s a savings, the brain lights up in a good way.

Social proof is a powerful weapon

So, you’re in a new city and you want to get some food. You drive by one restaurant and it has six cars in the parking lot. The other restaurant has 25. Which one will you go to? We automatically assume the restaurant with 25 cars is better. Why? The answer lies in a fundamental principle behavioral scientists call social proof. Cialdini explains, “People’s behavior is largely shaped by the behavior of others around them, especially those with whom they strongly identify.” When we see others take action, we will too. We don’t have to think about it. There is less risk and more motivation. (Remember, the brain wants to be lazy.)

This is great news for club people! Let prospects know there is a wait list and they’ll want it more. Let members know last year’s outing sold out and they’ll think it’s a must attend. Show pictures of large groups having fun at your events and they’ll want to be there to make memories.

From knowing which ear you should speak into in order to increase sales to the 10 words that generate customer trust, join the others that use brain science tips and tricks to produce better results and make their jobs easier. (See what I did there?)

The neuromarketing techniques have wide spread application.

Laura Leszczynski is the VP of Marketing at Strategic Club Solutions, where her team incorporates a toolbox of mental triggers to engage behavior for clubs in the U.S. She can be reached at [email protected]. Go to to find out which ear and what 10 words.