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Entice the reptilian brain to get [and keep] the customer.

In a world filled with so much noise, business owners know that capturing the attention and resonating with your audience is the ultimate, and most difficult, goal. But what if there was a way to tap into the primal instincts of your audience's brain to create a deep, lasting connection?


Welcome to the fascinating world of the reptilian brain: the oldest part of our brain that controls our basic survival instincts. Let's explore how we can leverage the brain's natural makeup to encourage specific actions from our customers. By understanding the dominance of the old brain in decision-making, you'll be able to make strategic decisions to grab–and keep–your audience's attention.

Here's A Quick Overview Of The Reptilian Brain

The Old Brain, in general, is wired for survival and activates fight or flight responses. While our New Brain is concerned with abstract thoughts and rational thinking, the Old, or reptilian, Brain's primary concern is to keep us alive. This primal instinct drives decision-making processes, oftentimes way before our logical brain even knows what's up.

Here's a quick look at the three brains and how they each play together to help us be the people we are who make the decisions we make:

By understanding and appealing to the reptilian brain, we can prioritize paying attention to the interactions that would likely grab your audience's attention, then use that insight to maintain relationships by integrating it into our customer experience.

Start With The Beginning And End

Although the entire customer journey is really important, it would be worthy to pay special attention to the start and end of as experience since this is when our brains are naturally most alert. The Old Brain is especially active during periods of change, since this is when it perceives we'd be most likely to be "in danger." Think change like what's usually triggered at the beginning or end of an exchange. This is why investing in both your onboarding and offboarding experience of all your stakeholder's experience is so important. These moments present prime opportunities to capture attention and influence critical decision-making.

When welcoming customers into your sphere, seize the opportunity to make a powerful first impression. Be especially intentional to craft an onboarding experience that provides a seamless, engaging, and trust-building experience right from the start.

And the same goes for a project wrap-up, be equally deliberate to leave a lasting positive impression. When someone exits your universe after an exceptional offboarding experience, that can determine the longterm perception of your brand and whether they'll choose your company again or share positive testimonials with friends. By creating an exit with delight, you'll leave the door open for potential future engagements or recommendations.

The Importance Of Switching It Up!

Consistency is a very important factor to building expectations with our audience. However, because our brains are always looking to preserve energy, they will actually take respite when it feels like things are predictable. It's important to switch things up and to be strategic about the areas to change– especially for activities that are frequently repeated. Here are a couple of ways you can spice up the mundane.

  • For commodity products or services that customers will need to buy multiple times over their lives, think of changing the packaging bonus gift a couple of times to make the unboxing experience equally rewarding throughout the entire customer lifecycle.


  • Who says transactional emails have to boring? Feel free to swap out the language or visuals in your confirmation or launch emails to spare them from becoming inbox noise.


  • Personalize and randomize the moments of delight throughout the experience to create a more resonating event and keep audiences engaged and on their toes.


  • If you have a weekly meeting or post-service survey, play with the format and order of the information or freshen up the visuals to keep it from becoming noise.

Appeal To The Need For Survival

When considering where to invest or what is a good opportunity to go above and beyond, keep in mind the decision-making brain's priorities. For humans, it can vary and look abstract, but at the end of the day, the survival part of our brain is always motivated by these six traits:

1. It is self-centered. General considerations about others outside of the context of survival is not at the forefront. This is part of the reason why it's so important to personalize some moments of delight and cater to the individual in order to appeal to the "me"-centric part of the brain.

2. It appreciates contrast. Contrast allows our old brains to make quick and safe decisions. Without an explicit visual contrast, the brain gets confused and delays decision-making. In the frequent scenario of the gray areas, communicate and make it clear what is at stake. Become the advisors that simplifies the situation and helps them make a decision.

3. It craves the tangible. Despite our attentiveness during change, our old brain is always scanning for things that are predictable and safe. Deliver on expectations consistently to cater to our need for easy-to-scan, familiar, and tangible reliability.

4. It values the beginning and end, and basically forgets most everything in the middle. It's been said once before, I'll say it again: Invest in your onboarding and offboarding experience. And if you shared something really important at the start of the experience, be sure to re-iterate it again at the end of the experience, meeting, journey, etc. to make sure it sticks.

5. It's highly visual. Our reptilian brain can see and make decisions about a dangerous situation before our logical brains even have the time to process. A visually pleasant experience isn't everything, but creating a visual that eases your audience helps. A lot.

6. It's surprisingly emotional, despite the fact that most of our emotional functions happen in the middle brain. The emotional triggers for the Old Brain, however, are far less complex and way more primitive. The emotional processing in this part of the brain goes beyond fear and aggression, which feel obvious for survival. It also plays a role in other emotions, such as pleasure, reward, and motivation.

This is where it always come back to the importance for every business to be a Feel Good Business. Ultimately, the reptilian brain's emotional processing influences our decision-making processes faster than any other part of the brain. The emotions we emote can strongly influence our perceptions, judgments, and choices, bypassing our attempts at rational thought and can shape our preferences, memories, and overall subjective experiences.

Understanding this emotional component of the reptilian brain is essential when orchestrating a customer experience for our audiences. By appealing to the emotions that drive the reptilian brain, businesses can create customer experiences that deeply resonate with their audience, fostering stronger emotional connections with users, and driving action that increases revenue and impact.

Pay close attention to your user experience– it’ll be your best tool to drive the decisions a customer can make about you: are you worthy of my attention?

Make sure the answer is “yes” before, during, and after.


Ready to revisit your own customer experience?

Use my free customer experience map template to a competitor-slaying customer experience.


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