How to Market Your DJ Business to the Reptilian Brain

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By B.C. Carney

New York City—At the recent National Retail Federation convention at New York’s Javits Center, there was a bevy of seminars designed for small and medium-sized business owners, we recently and dropped in on Amy Africa’s “Neuromarketing and the Influence on Buying Behavior” program. She related an interesting anecdote.
A middle-aged man, walking into a San Francisco restaurant, passed a deteriorating, disheveled woman on the sidewalk; she was holding a brown cardboard sign marked with black lettering, “Homeless…Please Help.” Seeing an opportunity, he stopped and asked her permission to alter the language on the sign. She handed it to him, and the man scribbled a sentence on the other side of the cardboard. Returning it to her, he said, with a whiff of confidence, “I’m going inside for an hour, and when I return I want you to give me $5.”
A curious request—considering the average homeless person in San Francisco earns a mere $6 per hour. The woman, nonplussed, shrugged and took her new sign to the curb and parked herself.
An hour later, as the man exited the restaurant, the woman, looking revived, approached him and tried to press into his hand $20.
She told him the new sign had generated $60 in handouts and donations. The man, of more than modest means, refused her offer, and told her to keep her money, and the new message.
What did the homeless woman’s original sign lack? What was wrong with its messaging?
“Homeless…Please Help” lacked a motivating factor to prompt a passerby to “buy.” There is no intrinsic value that resonates with a user, or reader, or buyer, since the “buying” brain is the reptilian brain, and it always asks the question, “What’s in it for me?”
And that was the appeal of the new message the man designated on the sign, which generated 10 times the customary income: “What would YOU do if you were homeless?”
The emphasis in language shifted, and the same should be true for your content, be it on your website or in a brochure you’re displaying at a bridal show.

Ask yourself: When users see your website, newsletter, or flyer, do they see themselves? Are there pictures of people? If there are pictures of people, do they all look like Hollywood models? Or are there (wisely) some shots of people who look like the rest of us?

It all comes down to the reptilian brain, and the more you understand it, the better you’ll be able to customize your messaging to accommodate it.

So what is the reptilian brain?

The brain stem is the oldest and smallest region in the evolving human brain, dating back hundreds of millions of years and is more like the entire brain of present-day reptiles. Various clumps of cells in the brain stem determine our level of alertness and regulate the vegetative processes, such as breathing and heartbeat.

It’s similar to the brain possessed by the hardy reptiles that preceded mammals, roughly 200 million years ago. It’s “preverbal,” but controls life functions—the all-important fight-or-flight mechanism. Lacking language, its impulses are instinctual and ritualistic, concerned with fundamental needs such as physical maintenance, hoarding, dominance, preening and mating.

The basic ruling emotions of love, hate, fear, lust, and contentment emanate from this first stage of the brain. Over millions of years of evolution, layers of more sophisticated reasoning have been added, of course, but you’d hardly know it, despite the growth of our intellectual capacity for complex rational thought, which has made us theoretically smarter than the rest of the animal kingdom.

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