Advertising scripts that sell to the lazy brain

by Nigel Hollis | June 28, 2017

Our end-goal as marketers should be to influence purchase decisions. One way is to hector people at the point of purchase, another is to shortcut the decision process and get people to pick your brand without conscious deliberation. But how best to do that? We need to provide people’s lazy brains with a script; one that guides their purchase decision.


Our brains are lazy. We put as little effort into making decisions as possible because otherwise we would never get anything done. This means that habit and emotion have a huge influence on our decision-making until our frame of reference fails. Faced with a new decision and no experience on which to make an intuitive decision, we will try to make the best decision we can. However, just because we consciously deliberate about a decision does not mean that we can be completely dispassionate or logical. Instead we take the easiest path to make a decision.

One of the most powerful ways in which advertising works is when it helps people rehearse what it is like to recognize and use a brand. Our lazy brains then adopt the script as their own, making it that much easier to make a purchase decision that favors the advertised brand. To do this, some of the most successful advertising works by creating scenarios with which people aspire or with which they identify at an intuitive level.

Take the example of Lurpak’s “Weave Your Magic”. Rather than explain why Lurpak makes meals better the video shows us a cook transforming raw ingredients into magnificent meals. If you are a cook like me, you can identify with what is shown even if the end result remains aspirational (in my case at least).

Nor does the “Concierge” ad for Commonwealth Bank try to persuade you that CommBank has the best interest rates or charge less for its services. Instead it shows us a guy harassed by annoying automated voices hugging the concierge when asked “Good morning sir, how can I help you?” Again, many of us can empathize with how the man feels.

Last but not least I am going to offer the example of Amazon’s “The Priest and the Imam” as a video that provides a script for using the brand. Tested as part of the research that fuels our “Make a Lasting Impression” report this video evoked strong, positive emotions and built positive associations for the brand. But perhaps most important the ad demonstrates how easy it is to use the Amazon app to buy something for someone you care about.

In today’s cluttered advertising world it is really important for advertising to engage people’s attention and leave a lasting impression. I would argue that one of the most motivational impressions a brand can leave is the script that rehearses how the brand is used. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts. 


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  1. Vladimir den Baars, June 29, 2017
    Hi Nigel. I fully agree. The neuro 'valuation system' is situated in the deeper parts of the brain and with fMRI scans we are able to detect activations in these deeper parts of the brain (EEG is not). Neurensics, the company that I work for at the moment, has made over 40.000 commercial fMRI scans (brain activations while consumers watch ads) and we see straight correlations between activation of the valuation system and effectiveness (sales). Best regards, Vladimir den Baars 
  2. Ed C, June 28, 2017
    Sounds good to me! It seems like a good combination of the old-school RTB but positioned in a way that we know is more powerful, whether by story or something we can just understand inherently easily, like the "I can see myself in that role" plot.

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