Neuroplasticity and Tech: Why Brands Have to Change

In one of our first sessions of SXSWi 2015, Dan Hachen and Felix Morgan from HeyHuman dropped some truth on us about how the three big trends – the Internet, social media, and mobile – affect the human brain and, more importantly, how marketers need to change their communications with potential consumers. Just a light subject to start things off.

In this recap post, we will hit on the key takeaways from their presentation.

People are communicating differently and as a result our brains are affected. Instant gratification from a quick Google search, email notification, or social media engagement releases dopamine in the brain and we are tricked into thinking we are being rewarded – we are all "digital dopes." We all love to scroll through Instagram while watching "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," maybe while our MacBooks are open researching our next vacay (well, I know I do). We feel like we are getting a bunch of stuff done, but in multitasking, we are actually task-switching and that has horrible consequences on our memory.

Despite neuroplasticity (the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life), task-switching maxes out our conscious memory. Since 1986, the amount of information we ask ourselves to deal with/remember has increased by five times. Basically, the modern brain looks like a messy desktop (which I currently really have), and brands have to make communication easier.

Bill Bernbach said, “it took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.”

Bernbach is right. The unchanging man persists. The context of communication has changed in a revolutionary way and, as a result, brands must respond. Brands need to be the "calm port in the storm" of communication.

So, how can brands effectively communicate with digital dopes? How can you make sure that your ad not only grabs audience attention, but remains in their memories later?

The presenters suggest that brands should consider five points:

1. Think in stereo (make use of sound).

2. Surprise people with simplicity

3. Maximize memory value

4. Compound non-conscious nudges. (Sorry creatives, maybe you need to make the logo bigger.)

5. Conquer context

Now, everyone go back to your regularly programmed, TV-watching/Facebook scrolling/vacay-planning/mind-numbing day. And, stay tuned for regular updates from the #WeAreCJRW team at #SXSW!