Episode 196: J. Duncan Berry on Neuro-Semiotics: Emotional Imagery in Marketing

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Want to know how images affect consumers' purchases?

Duncan Berry is the penultimate expert in neuro-semiotics. This is the study of how images, symbols, icons and indexes create emotional triggers.

In this episode you'll learn about biometric latency response, the 10 dimensional measures of a brand's emotional life, the three most important things on a sales or landing website to drive positive action, the Valence response, the hottest brands measured emotionally, and how best to embody emotional triggers in your marketing.

We also talk about the architecture of the 1880's in France, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. the best recipe for lamb chops and why the work of the Stoics, including Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca are as important today as they were when written.

Duncan Berry is a fascinating man, at the intersection of human emotion and consumerism. A 12th generation Cape Cod resident, his family has lived between the same two rivers since 1639 and in the same house since the 1850's.

Duncan answer's listeners questions from Stan Dahl, COO of Marketing Rebel, David Garfinkel, one of the world's foremost copy writing experts and Mark Joyner, Chairman and Founder of Construct Zero on subjects ranging from neuro-biological factors that increase lifetime customer value, the three most important attributes of a working website from a neuro-semiotics perspective and the single most important factor that affects an individual's decision to buy.

You will hear key insights that I guarantee are completely new and cutting edge that you can use today in your marketing.

DishyMix. It just keeps getting better...


Susan Bratton: Welcome to DishyMix. I’m your host, Susan Bratton, and on today’s show you’re going to get to meet J. Duncan Berry. Duncan calls himself a visual equity analyst. He’s an expert in Neuro-Semiotics and he helps people understand the humanity of consumers. What we’re really going to talk about here is neuro marketing and this new science, maybe it’s not as new but it’s new to me, it’s probably new to you, of Neuro-Semiotics. Duncan is involved with his own company called Applied-Iconology, and that’s essentially neuo marketing analysis, a firm that does that. He is also a partner in a company called Buyology, which was a company that was started with Duncan and others, a man named Martin Lindstrom who wrote a book called Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. It was a New York Times bestseller. So I met Duncan at Snotel, that’s the social media event put on by Vale Resorts in Tahoe where people who love social media and love to ski and board get together for a great time and a lot of idea exchange. Duncan was one of the speakers and he was my favorite speaker. Sure MC Hammer was cute, he didn’t have a lot to say. Duncan had a ton to say, and I walked right up to him and I said, “You’re fabulous. I want you to come on DishyMix ‘cause this is exactly the kind of thing we like to learn about.” So he’s here, and lets welcome him on the show. Hi Duncan.

J. Duncan Berry: Hey there Susan. How are you?

Susan Bratton: I am awesome. All right, so I want you to start us with a definition of what is Neuro-Semiotics so we get a level set on that, and then just explain what you do for a living.

J. Duncan Berry: Okay, sure, I’d be happy to. Neuro-Semiotics, it’s kind of a made up name, putting together two worlds that really haven’t been put together before. On the neuro side it’s pretty self-evident that involved understanding the scientific measurement of human response, brain response for the most part. But there’s also kind of a biometric component. So in other words we’re interested in understanding how consumers respond to stimulus, that is a package or an advertisement, and what’s going on in their brain in the about two or three seconds that most people have when they’re buying toothpaste or shampoo. There’s a lot that happens in those two or three seconds. So the neuro side is to try and understand the dimension of what’s going on in the black box. And the semiotic side, semiotics’ is the study of sign systems, and it’s an application of a very simple rigorous form of analysis looking at boxes and packages and ads and print ads and commercials and what have you and understanding the structure of how they’re communicated. So between the structure of what’s, you know, the box and what’s going on in peoples head when they’re looking at that box, we begin to be able to make linkages about cause and effect and begin to understand how people and why people respond the way they do or not. And so that’s pretty much what it’s all about, and it’s kind of the way I like to think about it, it’s a little bit of a paradox. We’re using a lot of high tech very kind of left grain tools to understand the right brain of how people, you know, peoples kind of affective and emotional side and how they really do respond and behave and actually shop, and it ends up in very, very much emotional.

Susan Bratton: A lot of the semiotics are visual images and how people react to them. I’ve noticed, there are a couple things that I think about when I think about Neuro-Semiotics. One is a company called ClickTales. Do you know them?

J. Duncan Berry: I’m familiar with the name.

Susan Bratton: They have a heat map, so you can have your website or a bunch of different landing pages or whatever, and you can put Clicktales on it and then you can see when people come to the website. You can see where they spend time, where they go, you know, how much time they’re spending…

J. Duncan Berry: Exactly.

Susan Bratton: And a lot of people have looked at a lot of split tests on the visual images on landing pages. For example, one of the trends now is to put cartoons or illustrations of people rather than real people because an individual person, fewer people will relate to an individual person than they will to a cartoon that’s more generalized, more, you can associate with it more easily. That’s one thing. Another thing is that – I heard this recently at a conference – that having a picture of your expert, not just a headshot, but your expert in action, whatever your expert does, if you can show them in action it seems like people really spend a lot of time on those images when you’re selling a product based on somebody as a brand. That’s an interesting thing.

J. Duncan Berry: That makes a lot of sense. Absolutely.

Susan Bratton: So knowing those two as examples for us as marketers listening to you, how do we apply some of these findings in Neuro-Semiotics to our own work? Do you have other examples like that that you know and advice that you could give us?

J. Duncan Berry: Oh sure, sure. Well very simply, the most, as a semiotician there are three basic kinds of signs; symbols, icons and indexes. And symbols are things like words and letters and numbers and characters, and it’s kind of the rational side of communication that has to do with substitution, right. So just reading the, you know, your initials SB, I mean people will get it that that’s you and they’ll make a connection that that’s your identity, but they have to know a lot of information to make that substitution already. So it’s kind of the most complicated form. My belief is that communicating with consumers that requires symbolic exchanges like that. A lot of copy and a lot of text are the most challenging and the most fatiguing. So if you have to actually tell somebody then you’re not really getting the message across. The next kind of communication sign are called icons, and icons are signs that resemble the thing that they stand for. So we are talking about pictures of people. Pictures are classic icons because you can make a connection of resemblance because you know people that say may look like that or dress like that. You begin to invest associative energy and literally kind of glucose in your brain, we’re activating connections with something that you identify with because of resemblance. In other words, it’s connected to you from some kind of remote access in the past. So icons are more powerful, but the most powerful are indexes. And indexes are things where the most primal index is a sign that shows a connection, physical connection to the thing that caused it. So like a footprint, right. A footprint, you can pretty much recognize in a footprint, just like Sherlock Holmes used to do, the size, the weight, the pace, the gait, the intention, the speed of the individual who left that print. And there are, for marketers, indexical signs all over the place. An indexical sign for instance, you can make an icon an index by making it kind of more photographically clear and unique symbols, you know, characters more indexical by rendering them on your website as script so that people feel as though they’re looking at a trace of the presence of somebody’s body, and then people have a different feeling about those kinds of indexical signs. So one of the things that I work with marketers and with designers and innovators is trying to figure out how to identify and maintain the most powerful kind of indexical way of expressing identity or the platform that they can’t and make sure that, you know, we have processes of maintaining integrity of that indexical sign all the way through the launch phase, from conception to launch.

Susan Bratton: One of the things that I notice people doing right now, especially on Facebook advertising, is they’ll take 100 or 500 different pictures and they’ll even modify those pictures. Like they’ll take a picture of a guy and they’ll make the background a horrible bright green or something that really catches your attention. Almost like the more off an image is the more it gets noticed, and even if it doesn’t really have anything to do symbolically with the product itself, those ads are getting higher clicks. So the concept now is you run as many different images as you possibly can across Facebook and you do your testing to see which ones get the most clicks. Now I don’t know how they’re tracking the images through to conversions, but at least they’re optimizing for clicks. What do you think about that, the kind of shock value of images as it could relate to helping you drive people to your web page?

J. Duncan Berry: Well it reminds me of a kind of a systems situation where systems develop into scenarios where competition for attention or competition for food or competition for RBI’s. Whatever the system is the actors in the system will go to greater lengths to achieve and have to work harder at achieving kind of breakthrough identity. So in this case the unfortunate thing is the marketers that are going for this kind of splash effect are intentionally trying to induce surprise or maybe even shock or a startle so that people have the involuntary reflex. And ultimately over time my belief is that that kind of behavior is regarded as kind of anti social and that people, you’re just dialing up the noise level in the system and that people have to work that much harder so it just becomes kind of a layer that you have to work beyond, right. And it’s just something that we learn over time. It’s like we don’t particularly pay attention to the bombastic noise in, lets say in the brick and mortar environment, which lets say circa 2010, right. If our grandparents who shopped lets say in the 1930’s, you know, they would come to a retail environment and say, “How can you take this? There’s so much going.” There’s noise, the lights, all the different colors” that would be like a riot. Well that’s kind of the same kind of tendency, the drift is to become louder and louder and louder just like at a party. The volume goes up the more people that are in the room.

Susan Bratton: So how do you compete with that as a marketer when everyone has, you know, these crazy clever images that are attention grabbing and you want to be more integral in the imaging that you use to find your customers? What would you do? Would you find the images that are associated with your brand, with the promise of what you deliver in your brand and still try to go for that or something else?

J. Duncan Berry: Well there are a couple of different ways of going about this. The first way and the easiest way is to go to zag, in the words of Marty Neumeier, is to go the complete opposite direction, and a perfect example of kind of a zag strategy is do you remember the [inaudible] VW ad from about, I don’t know, 18-24 months ago?

Susan Bratton: Describe it to us.

J. Duncan Berry: It was a couple guys in a car talking and they said, “Holy…” and boom, it was a car crash and it was silence. And so instead of just kind of continuing with the kind of, some ambulance soundtrack of what’s going on in television at the same decibel level, they gave you a high impact crash sound and then like 8 seconds of silence. So like a vacuum it sucks you into this unexpected shift in your kind of stimulus environment. So instead of dialing it up they dial it down. So that’s one way of doing it. The other way of doing it and what I believe what works best is instead of flashing a bright color at somebody I believe the best thing that a brand can do is hold up a mirror to the people that they think might be interested in looking at what they’ve got to offer. So what that means is understanding the emotional triggers, the emotional route that activates people persistent interest in a category or in a topic, a theme, whatever, and to identify it into a body, that emotional element with very clear signaling. And primarily, you know, I always go for the indexical, then the iconic, then the symbolic, but identifying and strategizing against the emotions that people are seeking to experience. All you have to do is show them, “Hey, I’ve got what you’re looking for.” Instead of saying, “Look at me,” say, “I’m looking at you.” So to me that’s a different strategy, and it’s not the kind of stream roller approach, but what we found both in terms of, you know, two dimensional, three dimensional and four dimensional that is like, you know, TV commercials over time that a more dedicated emotional strategy is definitely the way to go to achieve a clear articulation of kind of a sculpting of the brand identity, as well as much better scores in terms of, well at least what we’ve seen through sales figures and very simple metrics about how people respond in the real world and [inaudible], to indexical signs is very powerful.

Susan Bratton: I have three questions from listeners. The first one really follows in this vein. It’s from David Garfinkel. David is probably one of the most preeminent copywriters in the world, and he wants to know, he heard that I was interviewing you and he sent me a question. He said, “What are neuro biological factors, as in emotions, neural pathways, etcetera, and the marketer activities that prompt these factors to occur that either increase or decrease lifetime customer value?” Do you need me to read that again or do you feel like you got a sense of the question?

J. Duncan Berry: Believe me, I was taking notes here.

Susan Bratton: Okay. So what are the neural biological factors and the marketers activities that prompt these factors to occur to increase or decrease lifetime customer value?

J. Duncan Berry: So I think what we’re looking at here, this is like an onion situation because these lifetime customer relationships occur not in just a single event. It’s not holding up. It’s not having that bring orange background to the photograph and attracting your eye. It’s actually much closer to kind of a dance. There’s an attraction or a flirtation and an approach and a trial and, you know, an engagement and then a repeat, right. I mean that’s kind of like how people go about, it’s like dating or something. People approach brand, in particular these lifetime engagement, as a kind of relationship with an entity. Not maybe with a person but with an entity. And this is something that we’re doing it Buyology that’s something is that we look at the involuntary responses that people have from the point of view of what we call these grand relationship drivers that are things that we can’t voluntarily control. So from a biometric point of view this would not be kind of a neuro but more of a biometric. We look at what’s called latency response, which is the amount of time it takes for people to respond to a question, and the question is about the nature of their engagement lets say with the category, with the brand or with a particular product. And if you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blank you might recall early on in the book one chapter discusses how in the 1980’s a couple of professors developed this implicit association test at Harvard, were able to track that some people who would say they weren’t racist actually kind of had these traces of reluctance to actually make the [inaudible] close and actually say, hey, they didn’t have the problem with seeing a picture of an African American woman and the word ‘architect’, right, it was like it took time. So it’s the delay that people have that helps us to understand and measure their confidence in various dimensions of a relationship. Now at Buyology we look at a ten dimensional model for relationships and we understand how, for instance lets say a sense of grandeur or the idea of rituals or the effectiveness of storytelling or the obviousness of the vision of the company. If these elements can be grasped in this physiological way that provides, you know, gives us a baseline and an index for the power of that relationship then we can begin to pry apart and understand where the strengths and weaknesses in a brand’s communications are. So that’s, you know, a really solid way, and we’ve got some fabulous numbers. I don’t know if you saw the piece that was in Forbes last week, but we were, you know, the big stories in Forbes about our hottest brands, our top ten hot brands that had to do with relationships between men and women for certain brands. And some of them were kind of counterintuitive, some of them weren’t. But this we think is a really simple straightforward and natural way to help bring to the surface these issues of the perception of value over time and to track them, because it doesn’t require the kind of unusual circumstance of lets say putting somebody in that, you know, huge magnet of an FMRI or putting on an EEG cap. As accurate as those machines can be there are, you know, methodological and, you know, conceptual difficulties with making very firm connections between cause and effect. But with this kind of more straightforward approach here we’re finding that this idea of latency is a really solid way of understanding this larger, like I said, onion of relationships. I hope that kind of gets at what we’re looking at there, that question.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, so what you’re saying is that any particular brand has a multi dimensional relationship with a consumer or a consumer has a multi dimensional relationship with a brand, and you can measure in response time how close that brand is to hitting on all ten cylinders with a particular individual and then you can get a sense over a large number of people where the gaps are for that brand but they need to shore up to communicate effectively their benefit.

J. Duncan Berry: That’s right. And over time we can see how brands for instance lose in relationship to other brands…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

J. Duncan Berry: and say, “Hey, you know what, you really need to be taking a different look at what you’re doing in terms of lets say your loyalist perception of the sensory rewards of your brand.” So you need to dial that up. You need to become kind of a much more body brand. And, you know, what we’ll do is we’ll help those companies in workshops, you know, clarify what are the variables and what are the invariable components in the manifestation and the expression of the brand and then focus again, and this is a perfect case, the sensory issue is about bringing these indexical signs out, teasing them out. I’m shaping them, crafting them and delivering what we call a visual creative brief to the marketing team or the innovation team and/or the creative agency that they can all, you know, converge with the same language, commonly shared imagery and then, you know, it’s not like handing off, what we often say is handing off lets say an order that looks like it should be bound for, you know, a chemical factory, to order a certain kind of, you know, exotic brew of, you know, chemicals, you know. And creating something that’s unique and sensory and has to live in a relationship with people, you can’t treat it in such a kind of draw away. You need to have measurement, you need use high powered analytics, but you have to do something that, you know, with a handoff can be meaningful to the creative and that it isn’t lost in that pipeline out to the consumer.

Susan Bratton: Is there any place that you published the 10 Dimensional Measures, the list of the ten?

J. Duncan Berry: Yeah, you can go to buyologyinc.com and we have examples of one of our most recent in-house tests, and I believe it demonstrates or more I should say illustrates, I think one that we’re showing now is kind of a six tech brands, and see…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

J. Duncan Berry: what we do is map the conscious measure that is peoples verbal response and then the non-conscious response. So there’s a separation, and it’s the separation that we see in the category and inside individual brands that really tells the story about where people really do think, you know, there’s a problem or there’s a superior performance.

Susan Bratton: Duncan can you go back to indexes and give me some more examples of images that are indexes?

J. Duncan Berry: Indexes, you know, again, indexes signs for which there is a physical connection to the thing that is signified. So it’s very seldom that we’re surrounded by indexes. I mean think of a wind vane. You can look at a wind vane and you don’t need to interpret. You don’t even need north, east, south, west; all you need to do is see the arrow. Other great examples of indexes are any objects that help us physically navigate our world, whether they’re doorknobs or arrows or any kind of lets say the indication of a direction or flow through space – lighting for instance. Those are all indexical signs. In the world of products where your hand actually meets an object, often times you’ll find lets say the classic or the simplest example is lets say in a Windex bottle where you’ve got that little trigger, right. The trigger and the little finger wells beneath it are indexical signs that indicate to you and tell you where your hand goes. And the reason why they’re so strong is we involuntarily think, “Gosh, I wonder what the spring loaded tension is on that trigger. I wonder if those finger wells are soft or sticky or slick or, you know, squishy,” and we begin to kind of activate our muscle memory banks, these mirror neurons that we have that allow us to kind of begin to have a empathetic relationship with an object or with a thing or with a person. So indexical signs provide this sub straight of empathy, and to be able to make that connection, you know, telegraphically within 50 milliseconds, man that is real power. That is the power of attraction is that those two, the power of lets say, you know, flash, you know, like an accidental persuasion, this is a genuine bulls eye because people get it. There’s no interpretation needed for indexes.

Susan Bratton: What other indexes have you seen brands use effectively?

J. Duncan Berry: Great brands, I mean one of the most powerful indexical brands that launched was Axe Shower Gels. I don’t know, you’re probably familiar with the…

Susan Bratton: We all know about them.

J. Duncan Berry: Yeah, I mean and the funny thing is it’s a really, you know, we probably don’t think about it all that much, but I did a big study for Unilever a number of years ago that catalogued the semiotic properties – what are the elements, the equities that they owned. And it’s a really deep product because it functions as kind of a pastiche of all these different iconographic components, like a joystick with all those indexical finger wells and there’s a certain array of textures of these kind of dimpled pattern zones and certain padded surfaces that look like driving shoes or athletic shoes and the back of the kind of the palm area where you pick the bottle up is shaped exactly like the palm swell of a gun, like a handgun. And it’s just, you know, this collection of indexical signs that kind of merge into this one product that’s all kind of a body discovery product, and it’s all, you know, emotionally speaking, this is all about these essentially adolescent boys trying to overcome shame and embarrassment and that kind of thing and improving their body and becoming familiar with themselves and comfortable with themselves as who they are. And it’s this long trudge that everybody goes through in adolescence, but in a way we celebrated in a unique way and a powerfully indexical way and it stood the test of time. So I mean that’s a very simple, simple example.

Susan Bratton: It’s good. We needed some more examples to really drive that one home. The other, symbols and icons are easier for us to understand.

J. Duncan Berry: Yup.

Susan Bratton: I have another question for you, this from Stan Doll. He’s the COO and managing partner of a company called Marketing Rebel, also interestingly enough in the world of teaching copywriting. And he wants to know where you start with your website. Not with ads or commercials or anything like that, but specifically with your website when you’re trying to get someone to take action. So lets talk about it being, think about it being more like a landing page or, you know, like a sales page where you’re trying to get them to take some action; what are the three things that you would look at or look to consider first or potentially change first? Common mistakes you see on landing pages and sales pages or things that you think need to be there that aren’t; what were the three things you’d focus on be?

J. Duncan Berry: Well I would say the things that, you know, that first come to mind have to do with the overall compositional arrangement of the page, and within the composition I would say what the most kind of elemental thing has to do with color. Believe it or not, people have, on web pages – and McGill did a great study on this a couple of years ago – that people have a valance response, that is they have a positive or negative emotional response to websites within 50 milliseconds. I mean think about that, 50 milliseconds, 50 one thousandth of a second some people will like have a negative response to what you’re doing. The easiest thing that you can do to drive a positive response within that timeframe is to use a color that’s buoyant and fresh and positive, to use a color that offers resistance where it makes it difficult lets say to navigate or train the eye for the information or the action required. That’s like rule number one. So color in the composition. The second one I would have to do is say word count. Is the action obvious? Does the action require description? Does it require explanation? Does it require elucidation or further instructions? Because my belief is that the success of this kind of communication exercise is directly related to the lowest word count possible. Think, you know, Apple un-boxing, you know. When you have that un-worded unlettered instruction manual, and in like three panels you can be up and running. That is the kind of communication that most people, and I should say most brains, are looking for the path of lease resistance. And then finally I would say that the third component would be the capacity to bring the benefit alive in a simple and relatively direct and unmediated way. So in other words, the benefit for taking the action should be simply visualized. It shouldn’t be explained, which is kind of going through the, you know, the process of you don’t want to have a talky website in the process and you don’t want to have a talky benefit at the outside. So that’s my whole thing. I mean, you know, again, people are capable of putting things together much faster, and you compliment people by allowing them to work at their own optimal speed.

Susan Bratton: That makes sense. So as many visual queues, a simple theme, not a lot of words, a color that’s attractive to your target and connotes the kind of thing that you are offering, and then index imagery, like physical outcome oriented imagery. Like I’m working on a relationship product right now that we’re going to launch, and it’s about how you can, it’s called Revive Her Drive…

J. Duncan Berry: Uh huh.

Susan Bratton: And it’s about how, you know, the natural love chemicals in a relationship wane and guys often, they’re very discouraged about the fact that they’re not having the level of intimacy that they used to in their relationship and they can use some really good new positive psychology techniques to warm their woman back up in the way that she wants to be warmed instead of doing the things that he thinks he should be doing, like from his guy brain…

J. Duncan Berry: Right.

Susan Bratton: We tell him what to do with the girl brain, you know.

J. Duncan Berry: Right.

Susan Bratton: And the net outcome is, you know, they’d be connected, touching again, right.

J. Duncan Berry: Right.

Susan Bratton: So a picture of a couple together in an embrace or in a kiss or holding hands or whatever it is. Men crave as much intimacy as women. It’s not just about the sex for them, you know.

J. Duncan Berry: That’s right.

Susan Bratton: And so it would be using images like that that convey the solution; is that what we’re getting to here?

J. Duncan Berry: Yes, but I would also say that you can also communicate these things telegraphically as subtly as showing a dilated pupil. That is somebody’s eye, the dilation of an eye indicates arousal and interest and, you know, latent excitement. So even if you can do it in flash, just showing the slow dilation of a pupil and somebody smiling, you know, just a face, a face can communicate so much. So I’m a big advocate of those kinds of queues that people would never come back and say, “You know, I could swear the pupils on that model’s face were dilating as I was, you know, getting over to push the accept button.” It’s like no, people will not consciously connect those dots. But in a non-conscious way they will be warmed by that because it’s something that we all like to see. We all like to feel as though our presence activates the interest and potential arousal of somebody else. It’s that simple.

Susan Bratton: That’s very interesting. Our babies, puppies and boobs the three things people love the most?

J. Duncan Berry: You know, I think that there are probably iconographers that would say that, you know. And to go back to Biology, the book by Martin Lindstrom, one of the studies that was done early on had to do with, you know, just the sellability, does sex sell? And the answer is of course it does. But it’s also a double edged blade…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

J. Duncan Berry: a double edged sword, because there are just as many people who, not in a sense of kind of a puritanical response to it, but people sometimes just don’t pick up on it. They don’t connect or they think that the connection is somehow off key. So, yeah, I mean I think the key thing to understand is that beauty sells. So, you know, to the extent that something is, you can talk about things as beautiful or the idea of Eros, the idea of kind of discovery of an adventure in time to greater understanding or greater awareness or greater engagement. Those kinds of, yeah, that just kind of pornography, eh, I don’t think so.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, that totally makes sense. I have another question for you, this one from Mark Joiner. He is the founder and chairman of a company called Construct Zero. He’s written countless books. He has many different companies and here’s his question: “From your experience and research what is the single most important factor that affects the decision to buy? I understand that there’s no single factor that will work on its own. I understand that humans are complex and that sales is a gestalt. But what if you had to pick just one, what would it be?”

J. Duncan Berry: Well that’s a great question, and I’m familiar with Mark’s work, and this really kind of goes to the heart of developing robust strategies for marketers and for sales people. And I always draw the conversation to a brilliant mans work. His name is Loewenstein, and he is a professor, George Loewenstein’s a professor at Carnegie Mellon. My guess is that he’s going to be awarded a Nobel for economics. And he wrote a paper, published in I want to say 2007 called Neuro Predictors of Purchase. And it’s not so much what happens or what has to happen in advance of a sale; it’s what has to stop happening. And what I mean by that is what Loewenstein shows, and I think in a very compelling way, is that people have to deactivate a part of their brain that deals with negative emotion before they feel comfortable about buying something. Now think about that. What that means is that we buy because we perceive an imbalance in our world, whether it’s the kind of fleeting passage of having to get a stick of gum in the impulse section at the grocery store, or whether we’re, you know, troubling ourselves over the purchase of a bottle of wine and angsting for five or six minutes, five or six minutes, which is the average time it takes to select a wine bottle, what has to happen for us to actually feel good and move ahead is for all of the negative issues that we’re dealing with to be resolved. So I would say as kind of a generic answer to Mark is that what you’re looking to do is show that you understand or you signal or you embody some kind of message that you grasp the negative dimension that your consumer or your client is trying to overcome.

Susan Bratton: You’re getting into their world.  You’re showing that you are in their world.

J. Duncan Berry: Right.

Susan Bratton: You feel their pain and you have the solution.

J. Duncan Berry: You exhibit empathy. You show that you understand. Because that makes people, that’s the shortcut for people to, for them to at least begin to construct a profile of trust for you and then to take action.  But Lowenstein’s article, Neuro Predictors of Purchase in 2007, you know, that’s one of these articles in a neuroscience journal, Neuron, that anybody can read. You can go to the Executive Summary, I mean it’s like, “Wow, that makes sense.” You shouldn’t be intimated. And this is brilliant stuff ‘cause this is the kind of thing that again goes back to, to me, the humanity. It’s like going back and treating people like human beings; we’re using science to reveal this kind of mushy part of us that is elusive to some signs. And we have to rely on, you know, marketers rely on the science, but we should also rely on, you know, common sense, a little bit of introspection and knowing what it’s like, whether it’s from looking at art or reading, you know, literature. We know what the human experience is all about, and it’s time to leverage that. That’s one of the central components of, I would say that this is, you know, part of where we want to like bring our conversations.

Susan Bratton: You know, it’s so funny, I have this piece of paper sitting on my desk for a product that’s called – ‘cause I’m writing the copy now for Revive Her Drive. And one of the top selling products in ClickBank is called The Magic of Making Up, and the headline is from the man that has helped 50,119 people in 77 countries, “New now, you can stop your breakup or divorce or lovers rejection even if your situation seems hopeless,” and the beginning paragraph is, “Zzz, crash, and then the shattering sound of glass as Deirdre hurls Al’s Play Station 3 from the second story apartment window, followed by a shrill and sobbing, “Get out! Get out! Get out!””

J. Duncan Berry: There you go.

Susan Bratton: And it goes on to talk about how this is possible to save this relationship, you know.

J. Duncan Berry: Right.

Susan Bratton: It’s absolutely, it was literally, Duncan it was sitting on the left and the stuff we’re talking about was sitting on the right ‘cause I just thought they did such a good job with it.

J. Duncan Berry: And you know what, that’s exactly the kind of thing…

Susan Bratton: It is.

J. Duncan Berry: There are all sorts of different ways of doing that. But, you know, I think that explains some of the success of, you know, wildly desired brands from Tiffany to Apple, you know, because they show that, you know, people want slices of perfection, right, and brands that deliver that and eliminate, you know, completely erode… I watch my brother who is, you know, a middle aged guy, he’s always been working on the PC and he made a conversion to a Mac recently, and I mean recently like the last ten days or so. And, you know, to listen to this guy talk about it is like this conversion is more than just a brand switch, right. He didn’t realize that he’d been living in a universe of  kind of difficulty and that, you know, Apple and Steve Jobs essentially anticipated all the things that he’d been living with. He just didn’t know that he didn’t have to live with those things. It’s an interesting story, you know. I mean it gets repeated all over the place.

Susan Bratton: If we only knew what we didn’t know.

J. Duncan Berry: Right. Exactly.

Susan Bratton: Yeah. So what I want to do too is first of all I want to let everyone know that I have a copy of Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. I have a copy of that for one lucky DishyMix person, and if you’re just tuning in for the first time here’s how we do it. If you want a copy of the book, go to the DishyMix page on Facebook, just search on DishyMix, all one word, you’ll find it. Like me, post that you’d like to have a copy, post a good reason why this copy should be yours and I will choose my favorite and mail it to you courtesy of Duncan Berry and his kindness in giving out a copy of Buyology. Duncan I want to move to a couple of things that are of a more personal nature because I think you are a fascinating man on so many levels.

J. Duncan Berry: Well thank you.

Susan Bratton: One thing that, actually I’m going to ask you a couple of different questions of some things that you’ve kind of intimated to me over us getting to know each other, which I’m enjoying. I asked you something about whose been your greatest teacher. One of the things that you said that you like are the classical stoics…

J. Duncan Berry: Right.

Susan Bratton: Tell me who they are and why you like them. What is it about them?

J. Duncan Berry: Okay, I’d be happy to. And this actually is kind of connected into, believe it or not, this whole kind of neuro world in a, you know, subterranean passage possibly. But, you know, what I find so inspiring, there was a time, you know, years ago when I was in grad school that I for some reason, I can’t recall where I heard it, but a friend of mine I guess I had told me that every Christmas around the holidays when it’s so depressing she picked up Marcus Zurillius. And I thought, “Yeah, what the heck. That sounds like an interesting thing to do, you know.” I never read Marcus Zurillius, Emperor of the Roman Empire around 180AD. And if you’ve ever seen Gladiator, you know, with Russell Crowe, that was his kind of mentor, right. But he was essentially the most powerful man in the world, and he was beset with all sorts of constraints on his life and his time and his affections for his wife and his family and his problem kids. And so it doesn’t make a difference if you’re the most richest guy or the most powerful guy in the universe 2,000 years ago, you know, life is still comprised of dealing first and foremost with your capacity to respond to it and, you know, the stoic approach is that, you know, there are only two things in the world: the things that you can change and the things you can’t change. And to understand and to move things from categories where you thought you couldn’t change them into a category where you think you might be able to change, that’s how you kind of evolve your personality and evolve your capacity as a human being. So I just kind of started this quest, and it’s so fine because I had to read a much later stoic author of the name Seneca when I was, you know, in my 20’s, and I came back and was like, “Oh my gosh!” And then I read this fellow named Epictetus who wrote a book called The Handbook and I’ve given that to my daughter and she, you know, she’s a teenager and she’s going through the emotional ups and downs and I thought, you know, it’s just one of the those things where it’s an endless well of kind of refreshing simple spiritual exercises that connect you to the reality of and the limitations of and the elusions of some of your own illusions. So I just found it very healthy and enjoyable and it puts you in contact with a whole different universe.  

Susan Bratton: Yeah, I know that one of the things that strikes me and it comes out in a lot of different ways when I experience you is that you care very much about meaning making.

J. Duncan Berry: That’s exactly right.

Susan Bratton: And you’re in a visual world. You like to measure the impact of visuals on people for many different reasons. I’m sure, you know, it pays the rent I’m sure to do it for marketers, but I bet you’d love to spend your time merging meaning making and philosophy around visual imagery and humanity.

J. Duncan Berry: Absolutely. I think that my academic specialty was architecture.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, that was my next question so thanks for the good segue. Go ahead.

J. Duncan Berry: So yeah, so the thing is that we construct meaning even when we don’t think we are.  So, you know, buildings impose on us if you will an ethos, a mood, and you know, we’re responsible for that. It’s our bolt environment, and I think this is part of the kind of, my belief that, you know, we tolerate stuff that we shouldn’t tolerate. We should be more demanding of ourselves for rich and rewarding and meaningful and pleasurable and abundant and healthy lives in ways that aren’t just strictly connected to, you know, what’s at our fingertips, but what are our appetites. What are our kind of moral appetites for ornament and for refinement and finesse, and these are all things that I think that came to me, very clear to me in the pursuit of knowledge about, you know, architecture in the built environment, then I just think that it’s one of these things that as Americans we have kind of an impoverished sensibility and we just don’t know it. But when we encounter something of quality we know it. I just think that we should insist on it more, and I think it’s, you know, part of that thing of, you know, improving your life. It’s a nice thing, you know. You can see that we’ve only come a long way. Just looking at the number of like cooking channels right. The people are improving the sense of abundance in health and pleasure in their lives through the rituals of kneading and chopping and cooking, you know, being together and all that and, you know, that’s one dimension, and I think that we’re seeing that, you know, this is one area that adds a lot to our lives, so…

Susan Bratton: I’m going to send you – you’re giving me such great segues. I’m going to send you a copy of product we have called Meaning Solution. It’s about how you can craft your life purpose by understanding and rank ordering your own values. It’s a value system based approach to what you want to do with your life, how you want to live your life. And in that product…

J. Duncan Berry: Sounds great.

Susan Bratton: You’re going to love it. In that product we have like 80 different values and you can go in there and like rank order them, and from that rank ordering then you can begin to see how your purpose can take shape based on what it is that’s most meaningful to you. What creates the most meaning in your life is actually a derivative or it’s a result of your value system.

J. Duncan Berry: That’s right.

Susan Bratton: And so I’m going to send that to you, and then I also have something else for you.

J. Duncan Berry: Well thank you.

Susan Bratton: This is your lucky day Duncan. So you told me that your most sinful decadent guilty pleasure is lamb chops.

J. Duncan Berry: Oh yeah.

Susan Bratton: And I make the best lamb chops in the world and I’m going to tell you my recipe right now.

J. Duncan Berry: Oh good. Tell me.

Susan Bratton: So it’s coming to barbeque season on Cape Cod, which is where I know you live.

J. Duncan Berry: Yup.

Susan Bratton: It’s Julia Child’s recipe. I will email it to you and I will post it for DishyMix listeners as well. But it’s essentially, you know those little baby racks of lambs, those little lamb chops, you…

J. Duncan Berry: Mm hmm.

Susan Bratton: All the vegetarians and vegans, please close your ears in this moment. You French them so that they’re like little lollipops so the bone is clean and the meat that’s left is the loin, and then you marinate them in a Ziploc back with what is essentially a Dijon vinaigrette with either tarragon or margarine over night.

J. Duncan Berry: Yum.

Susan Bratton: It takes the gaminess of the lamb out, so for people who don’t like lamb it’s a really good recipe. It’s just oil and vinegar and Dijon mustard and some tarragon of your choice and maybe some soy sauce – I don’t remember everything – some salt and pepper. But then you marinade it and then you barbeque them. And what will happen, make twice as many as you think you need because what’s going to happen is that every single person when you’re finished with the meal is going to lean back in their chair with their belly distended with this huge pile of little lamb bones on their plate, and there will not be a chop left.

J. Duncan Berry: That sounds awesome.

Susan Bratton: I’m sending you that too.

J. Duncan Berry: I can’t wait.

Susan Bratton: You get Julia Child’s lamb chop recipe and The Meaning Solution.

J. Duncan Berry: That’s great.

Susan Bratton: The architecture that you are a specialist in, is it Art Nuevo because you  said, you know, 1880’s European architecture but I didn’t know if it was Art Nuevo or what it was that you love?

J. Duncan Berry: Well, you know, it’s not, you know, I enjoy it and I like that architecture, but you know, life goes on, you move on. I’ve evolved to appreciate different things now and right now. You know, it’s like my tastes have probably moved down the cursor line a little bit from then. But back, you know, 25 years ago my passion was this period, the 1880’s, that was largely neglected and seen as kind of parvenu, you know, kind of like Nuevo Riche garbage. And my belief was, you know, I thought I kind of lived in this world trying to explore, and what these guys were trying to create was essentially they foresaw in their minds the imagery that we think of as being modern, like in the 1920’s. They have the technology and they have the theory and they have the capacity to build these things, but they did not, for the same reasons that I was talking about before, that they thought that there ought to be more to life than just kind of cleaner surfaces, flat, unadorned, uninterrupted wall spaces without any moldings or connections, and they wanted to keep all of these human references and their whole project of archaeology changed in the 1880’s. They saw kind of these symbols of the building trades as being rooted in and the ritual connections that, you know, were directly connected to the creation and building of these, lets say the Greco Roman forms of antiquity, how the original wood buildings were cut and [inaudible]. And so this very, there’s a kind of meticulousness there that I just thought was really missing and that we tend to downplay a lot about and that was really the ideas to me that the 1880’s were brilliantly brought forth in France and in Austria, Switzerland, Germany and was called this, it was called Architectural Realism and it’s an area that is not really all that well known, but the stuff that came out of it, everybody knows Art Nuevo and [inaudible] and high modernism. It’s like all of those ideas were created in the 1880’s, so…

Susan Bratton: Beautiful! Well I’m going to be the first customer of that book you’re going to write.

J. Duncan Berry: You got it.

Susan Bratton: The axiom by which you live your life, Cicero, say it in what would it be? Latin?

J. Duncan Berry: In Latin, Tu Ne Cede Malis, which is “Never give in to evil.” Always, which is the, you know, the lesson is always strive to live according to your highest self.

Susan Bratton: Absolutely, bring your self and others to completion in all you do.

J. Duncan Berry: You got it.

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

J. Duncan Berry: That’s it.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, there you go. I would switch that. I’d encourage you to actually consider another axiom…

J. Duncan Berry: Okay?

Susan Bratton: that is more the positive than the negative.

J. Duncan Berry: Well that’s fair enough. If I can find one in a stoic teacher then I’ll do it.

Susan Bratton: Oh, you want it to be in the stoic thing.

J. Duncan Berry: Well I mean that was an easy one. I mean that was why I chose it, but I agree.

Susan Bratton: Exactly. Yeah.

J. Duncan Berry: Negative is, you’re right, you know, now that I think about it.

Susan Bratton: I just recently have planned to change my personal favorite axiom or tagline because I had it for a really long time. Since I was about 12 I’ve had a quote from Janis Joplin, and it’s unusual for me to pick this because the grammar is poor, but it was so powerful to me that I really had this as my axiom for my life until just recently. And Janis said, “Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.” And as poorly constructed as that sentence is it just meant so much to me in my lifetime to not compromise who I was. And it’s funny, now that I’m on the eve of my 50th birthday I don’t need it anymore, you know. I don’t compromise myself. And although sometimes I, you know, hit people like, whatever, a ton of crushing grating bricks, I guess I’m going to live with that.

J. Duncan Berry: You know, but that’s the kind of, what you just explained is the fulfillment of one of my favorite little taglines or axioms for Aristotle and that is that “Excellence is a habit,” you know. If you don’t give in to weakness, you strive for your higher self, or as you would say, don’t compromise…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

J. Duncan Berry: then what you’re doing is you’re setting up a habit for excellence.

Susan Bratton: Absolutely. So now I’m looking for a new tagline and I’m not sure what it is. I’m trying a few out, and I’m even incorporating some sounds in a few of mine. Like one of the ones – now this is a negative one so I decided not to go for it – but one of the taglines was, “Maybe you should just dial yourself back two notches.” And then I thought, “Oh screw that, I’m not dialing myself back no clicky clicky over here.”

J. Duncan Berry: That’s too funny.

Susan Bratton: I’m a woman in search of an axiom myself. It’s a transformational time for Susan Bratton.

J. Duncan Berry: Good for you.

Susan Bratton: I know. So Duncan I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. We’ve gone twice as long as I normally do, and I did that because I was enjoying the heck out of this conversation. I wish I could empty your head into mine. Damn, you’re so smart and fun and interesting. I told you guys he would be.

J. Duncan Berry: Well I know I’ll see you at the next Snotel, but we’ll just have to figure out a time for all of us to get together before then.

Susan Bratton: That’d be great. You know I’ve never been to Cape Cod.

J. Duncan Berry: Well only you can fix that.

Susan Bratton: That is very true. All right, well everybody, you have gotten to know Duncan Berry. I’m going to find and link to all of the things that we’ve talked about on the show so that if you come to, if you just find the DishyMix website, it’s at personallifemedia.com. You just find DishyMix, and Duncan’s episode will be there, and then I’ll have all the links to everything that he talked about on his bio page so you can get to them that way. And then, is there anything else? Oh yeah, don’t forget if you want the copy of Buyology just go to the DishyMix fan page on Facebook and tell me why you should be the lucky winner of this fabulous book. I am your host, Susan Bratton. You have gotten to know Duncan Berry. Thank you for giving us so much time today. I hope it was as pleasurable for you as it was for us.

J. Duncan Berry: It was.

Susan Bratton: It was, huh? You had a good time?

J. Duncan Berry: Thank you so much.

Susan Bratton: Oh me too. All right, have a great day and I hope to connect with you next week. Take care.