Show 2 – Psych Insight #1: Buyer’s Brain


Click the player below to control this show’s audio stream…

Psych Insight #1 (Show 2)

Here’s John’s Rant this show is based on:

Civilians have the luxury of adopting any wacky worldview they like, but marketers must face reality.

Your human prospects have one foot still in the jungle; or rather, the ancient part of our brain is still there.

We’re talking dark needs, reptilian instincts and basic greed-fear responses that lie just under the thin veneer of the neo-cortex modern slab.

This is not a cynical nor a negative view.

It’s just fundamental step one knowledge for anyone needing to understand how to communicate at the levels required to influence, persuade and perform complex capitalistic functions; in other words, to exchange moola for goods.


Most humans have zero clue how the brain works at all.

I remember a girl in high school who refused to visualize any of the goo inside of us.  She didn’t like thinking of us as pumping blood or having hearts or brains or that we’re essentially bags of gas and fluid.

They find examples of brain surgery going all the way back to prehistoric times.

The thing that scares a lot of people is that they think that takes away our humanity if we break it down to machinery and complex mechanical functions and chemical dumps and stuff… it takes away somehow our soul or something.

It’s the Castaway effect…  everybody’s lonely and everybody needs a “Wilson” to dress up, put a face on and talk to.

For me, learning how the human brain works, why people buy, why they’re afraid of certain things, why they do things; the reality of the way humans interact in the world, in this modern concrete jungle that we’ve created to mimic the old, natural organic jungle that we came out of; it makes me love humans more, not less.

When you’re trying to sell something to somebody you’re not just dealing with what he needs right now, what she has needed or whatever problem she’s having; there’s a whole bunch of stuff going on there.

A lot of great products are in the marketing graveyard because nobody figured out how to sell them.

The fear isn’t necessarily the Hitchcockian thing of being scared out of your wits.  It’s understanding that people live in a constant sense of losing out, of the anxiety of not being hip, of not being invited to a party somewhere where everybody’s having much more fun than they are now… of the fears that they’re going to die lonely and forgotten and the degree that they want recognition.

There’s the reptile part of the brain that controls the basic things that we’re not conscious of; breathing, eye movement, making sure the body sweats and things like that.

The limbic system then starts making us human in that we have memories.  We start having emotions like we care about something.  We care about someone else.  We start doing things that put ourselves in danger to save the person we love.

Then, the big one is the neocortex…  the big slab over everything else that makes us human. It’s the most recent part of the brain and it’s where higher-level language, consciousness, imagination and abstract thought come from.

That reptilian brain doesn’t say, “If I do this, it will be good. If I do this, it will be bad.”  It’s not doing that.  It’s like, “Me see; me want; me hungry; me eat …” That’s happening all the time.  That’s happening every second of the day that you’re alive.

It’s something that wasn’t there before and the human built… the human made up and for whatever reason we’ve decided that this is how we’re going to live.  We made our own caves rather than search for naturally occurring caves.

Good salesmen know that a good sales process often involves getting interest with logic and rationality, but selling on emotion.

If you want to get into the Hall Of Fame as a salesman or as a copywriter or a marketer, you’ve got to understand this at a slightly deeper level.  You’ve got to swim out of the shallow part of the pond.

I’ve written ads where I know people say, “Wow.  I bought that product.  I was so excited.  It just changed my life.”  I said, “Well, how did you like the product?”  They go “Oh, I never watched it.  I’ve never cracked the cellophane off.” They felt that they did what they needed to do by just buying the ad.

The brain can change, it can do things and there’s no one set way.  We think of the right brain as being creative, the left brain being logical.  Sometimes that’ll change.  Sometimes the left brain is destroyed and then the right brain just picks it up and does stuff.

Start getting into the head of the prospect or the mass of prospects and realizing, “Yeah, there may be 15 different reasons why the mass is buying, but there may be one reason that really stands out and that’s the one that maybe your ad should focus on and then bring the others in.”

14 thoughts on “Show 2 – Psych Insight #1: Buyer’s Brain

  1. Trace Haskins

    Fantastic stuff. Really nice to hear the intricate details broken down into palpable bits. Good reminder that on the front end people’s intellect needs to be engaged but their emotions close the deal. Thanks for putting this out there for us to hear!

  2. Dave Bross

    Thank you! Amazing material. Love the free form rants…some real gems are slipping out the sides of the “regularly scheduled programming.”

    A few things that may add:

    American Demographics is now part of Advertising Age and accessible on line here:

    A lot of stuff has come over the transom lately on the brain in the belly. Seems we have a whole other thought process in our guts…the old gut feeling is for real. definitely a lot of what you’re discussing here. Here’s a link to a piece of an article. It gives enough to look further elsewhere before it cuts you off:

    And a funny bit out of a book by Robert Williams, a very favorite artist:

    “We are vertebrates on a great stage for only a short time. We are exactly what our ancestors were two billion years ago – segmented worms. The creatures that ceaselessly search for lesser organic material to stretch one end of our tube over. To simply drain this matter of its usable energy and expel it out the other end of the tube. Simply put, we are our digestive systems. Only two other actions take place. One the resistance to being eaten by predators and two, the procreation of the species. That’s us. I know you have heard this analogy time after time. subdue the food – avoid being the food and copulate”

    That’s from page 8 of his book “Views from a Tortured Libido” and it’s just a short bit of all he had to say on this…the rest of it goes into where the “self” ties in to the worm and why that gut reaction and the complications with the self are what he’s after in his art. He gets does hit that reaction pretty reliably.

    Here’s a link to a quick bio of Robert:

    And there’s lots more drifting around on the web. Look on Youtube (another worm?) in particular.


    1. John Carlton

      I’ll be damned. Very glad to see that American Demo survived… I’ll go check it out (and hope for the best).

      As for the worm stuff, I dunno. Another book out recently tracks the entire system from mouth to anus, by a non-biologist… but it’s a serious look at the same idea: We are our bodily functions. It’s certainly grist for late night arguments…

      Thanks for the note, Dave.

  3. Carl Picot

    Tell you what ….

    Considering that these are podcasts are free, they are totally full of content and are very entertaining at the same time. The more I learn about mans primitive part controlling him, the more I would like to to be at the control buttons, after a lifetime at being at the other end – sat beneath the anus!

    Loving learning all this stuff – many thanks John and Kevin.

    Nice to hear you again John 🙂



  4. Kevin Rogers

    Carl, thanks for the words. Thrilled that these are resonating with you.

    The private joy of recording these is the virtual back-of-the-bar dialogue that follows. Great to have you at the table.


  5. Dan

    Great stuff on here Kevin and John! Entertaining and packed full of value not to mention i naturally enjoy learning about the art and psychology behind sales. Will be back without a doubt guys!



  6. Deb

    Empathy based on the buyer’s emotions, showing that you actually care will make them more comfortable buying from you. Important to deal with each individual accordingly, don’t just memorize three different scripts.
    Thanks for the insights!

    1. John Carlton

      Scripts have their place in any good marketers arsenal, but when you want to move up a few levels, you’ve got to grok what’s behind the stuff that works. Testing can accidentally show you something powerful, but without insider knowledge of “why”, it’s only worthwhile power until you need to replace it. Much better to figure out how stuff like empathy and bonding actually work, so you can create new scripts (or just communicate on the fly) whenever needed.

      Thanks for the note, Deb.

  7. Andrew

    Excellent, wish I would have heard about this podcast a few months ago.

    I loved the survivalist examples. My dad was a civil engineer in the 80’s when I grew up, we always used to talk about what we would do if the shit hit the fan with Russia at the end of the cold war.

    After doomsday “preppers” and “doomsday bunkers ” came on TV, it got me wondering about all of the zombie movies in the last 10 years. I’ve always thought that the whole genre was interesting, but a bit paranoid. Maybe not even paranoid, but these people were looking to whatever (nuclear war, zombie, plague, global warming, mad max) for their chance for them to survive and become more powerful than everyone else and not have to take shit from their boss anymore. Their chance to say “I told you so, I’m smarter and cooler than you because you bullied me in the third grade”, or “You are so stupid and can’t run the company the way it should be run, now you can’t tell me what to do!” All the wrongs will be righted (see all the “Rapture” movies out there with Kirk Cameron).

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that another good resource on the brain functions can be found at they have some good courses on roots of human behavior and parts of the brain.

    Thanks, on to the next podcast! Love it!

    – Andrew


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *