What Makes People Buy: What Car Is Right For Me?

What Did the Reptilian Brain Say to Neocortex? Let’s Meet Somewhere in the Middle Brain.

Which car do you want to buy? This one:

Reward yourself with the perfect balance of luxury and intelligence.

Enjoy indulgence without extravagance, performance without pretense and safety without peer.

This well-crafted expression of automotive excellence reflects the quiet confidence of those who can share their achievements without reservation.

Or do you want to buy this one?

300hp T6, sequential twin-turbo technology. The Black Stone exterior is with optional Fortuna 18″ Diamond cut/Light Grey aluminum wheels.

7×17″ Cassini Alloy Wheels. 4×40 watts, 8 speakers In-dash 6-CD with MP3 capability and complimentary factory scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles.

My guess is that the first pitch has hit all the right emotional buttons. And the second is hitting your Neocortex.

Neocortex literally translates (from Latin) to New Brain

Let’s examine the phrases that are playing your Reptilian Brain.

Reptilian Brain is the one that controls automatic functions like breathing, heart rate, internal temperature, hard-wired survival instincts, sexual drive, etc.

Reptilian Brain likes words like “safety” and “performance”. It also likes phrases like “share their achievements”. These words speak to our base nature

Our Rational Brain (Neocortex) likes logical, benefit and status driven phrases like:

  • Logical (4×40 watts, 8 speakers In-dash 6-CD with MP3)
  • Benefit (scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles )
  • Status (The Black Stone exterior is with optional Fortuna 18″ Diamond cut/Light Grey aluminum wheels)

To effectively sell your product –car or otherwise- consider your customers first. Which brain are they using the most?

The Rational Brain (Neocortex) doesn’t get fully developed until the age 11 (approx). So selling based on logic, benefit or status to a kid will be ineffective. Furthermore, the chemical produced by our brain that facilitates long-term thinking doesn’t exist in brains younger than 25 yrs of age (give or take).

Also, consider this.

Appealing to the Rational Brain is only for the sake of appeasement. We are NOT rational animals. Our Rational Brain takes its marching orders from the Reptilian and Emotional (Middle) Brain.

Middle Brain is also known as Emotional or Limbic Brain

When someone asks us “why did you buy x”, the Rational Brain will be able to offer an excuse. But the true reason we bought something was because it appealed to our Emotional (Middle) and/or Reptilian Brain.

I say this with no reservation and no exception. There are examples of people who have suffered damage to their Middle Brain. Their base functions (breathing, heart rate, etc) were unaffected. Their logical functions (math, problem solving, etc) remained normal. However, they couldn’t get themselves to put their pants on in the morning much less go to the store to pick up groceries.

The word “Emotion” and the word “Motion” come from the same Latin root. If we are to be moved into buying anything, it has to appeal to our Emotional Brain. I will list few books bellow which discuss this in greater detail below.

My point?

In any Marketing 101 textbook, you will be instructed to define your ideal customer. They call this “creating an Avatar”. This even goes as far as giving a name to your ideal customer. As you can see however, your ideal customer has 3 potential selling targets on his/her back. The Rational, Emotional and Reptilian Brain.

Creating a sales spiel that appeals to all 3 Brains and then varying the degrees to which you dial-in different factors will make for both an effective AND flexible pitch.

Finally, this doesn’t apply only to selling products and services. It applies to EVERYTHING.

I used to teach Network Engineering. Every time I stepped into the classroom I would start by selling the technology first and only THEN teaching a given technology. In other words, I needed to prime the student’s brain to be excited about the technology and had to dial-up their buying temperature in order for them to be interested in what I have to teach

It also applies to closing the deal in a romantic sense.


When you first meet  a potential romantic partner it’s the Reptilian Brain that controls the way we “feel” about the prospect. It’s often said that girls know within few seconds if they will sleep with the guy. This is the function of the Reptilian Brain. It’s designed to act quickly and from the “gut”. Eventually the Emotional (Middle) Brain takes over (when love happens) and only after that does the Rational Brain get engaged.

I hope I  dont need to point out that dudes are entirely Reptilian driven at the first stage of romantic encounter.

When you reverse this order (Rational Brain used first) you get those relationships that are very stable, ordinary and lack fire.

One last example.

When communicating with dogs and children, you can’t use logic (Rational Brain) to explain this or that. You have to appeal to their Reptilian and/or Emotional Brain because that’s all they have.

Give me your example? Or give me a situation where you found this to be the case? Or give me an example where this wasn’t the case?

Recommended Reading:

(Amazon Affiliate Links)

Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman is quick, easy, jam packed with great info.

The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille is in depth, well researched, head and shoulders above the other books in the similar vain.

Buyology by Martin Lindstrom Like the story of Goldilocks, this one is neither too quick nor too in depth but it’s just right for anyone who wants to have a really practical understanding of what motivates buyers. It rounds out the set nicely.

Stumbling on Happiness covers some fascinating aspects of human psyche and discusses the case of the dude with damaged Middle Brain.

Predictably Irrational and Sway are both amazing reads and discuss hidden factors that drive our behavior. Must read for everyone.

Dino Dogan

Global Force for Badassery | Founder of Triberr | Refugee from Bosnia | Writer for Technorati | Speaker | Lousy Martial Artist | Pretty good singer/songwriter | Hi :-)

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  • Paul Richards

    Provocative post, also very interesting. You clearly did a lot of research with this. I thin I will check out few other posts. Thank you.

    • http://diyblogger.com/ Dino Dogan

      thnx Paul. Glad you enjoyed it :-)

  • http://twitter.com/WilsonPetDesign Nia

    Interesting as always, the brain function makes a wonderful topic. Why we do what we do. Love it!

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I figured you’d appreciate the geeky brain-function slant on this ye’ ol’ topic :-)

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  • Anonymous

    I’m currently reading “The Generous Man” – says the same thing.

    There is no “Homo Economicus” (the rational man)! People are emotional and are context driven – especially by social context.

    Awesome read!

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Who is spending time on my bog today, huh? Mt Highball himself, thats who :-) Im glad youre finding the info valuable. And yes…humans are not even capable of doing anything unless there is an emotion involved. Ample research shows this to be the case…

      So, is the Generous Man a good read? Should I get it?

  • Betsy Cross

    Hey Dino,
    Thanks for posting these “older” posts. Just last night I was talking to my husband about how I need to figure out either how to figure out the mindset of the 20-30 something person OR realize they aren’t part of my audience when it comes to family history.
    Gives me a lot to study!
    Betsy

  • neonlotus1

    This is ON TARGET!
    Finally someone’s validating my ‘rule of thumb’.
    Thanks, Dino!