January 4, 2022

Marketing and the Lizard Brain

Erica Mackay

Let me ask you a question. Did you have breakfast this morning? Do you believe that your breakfast choice was logical?

Logic is the science of reasoning, proof, thinking, or inference. Logic lets us examine a piece of reasoning, or thought and determine whether it is correct or not.

There are generally 5 steps to make a logical decision and they are as follows:

1.     Create the right environment – for breakfast you need to be in your kitchen and think about how hungry you are, what size breakfast would you like, are you looking for a quick sugar rush, or do you need long-term fuel, etc.

2.     Then you investigate the situation in detail – here we look in the cupboards and the fridge to determine what ingredients we have available in the house.

3.     Generate good alternatives – if we have eggs we can make scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, fried eggs, poached eggs, or an omelet. And that’s just eggs......

4.     Select the best solution – weigh up all the choices available and combine this with your needs from earlier to get to the best choice.

5.     Take action – cook and eat the breakfast.

Now once again – Who went through all these steps for breakfast? 

To apply all these steps to simply choosing your breakfast would takeover an hour, maybe even two. And most of us don’t have that amount of time to spend on breakfast every day. It's estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day. So our brains have evolved to help us make decisions quicker.

95% of our decisions are made by our subconscious mind. The chances are that your breakfast choices are by habit and you didn’t really put that much thought into it.


Our brain has 3 components

Now be warned. I have not had any medical training and so please do not use my explanations as fact if you ever need to dissect a brain.

The first area is the logical brain

This is where rational thought happens. Sadly for the logical brain, most of its time is spent validating and justifying the decisions that the other 2 brains have made – but we can change that.

The second area is the emotional brain

This is where we make decisions based on love, hate, excitement and fear. Have you ever been so angry that you felt like hitting something?

The third and most used area is the subconscious or for the purposes of this article, I will call it the lizard brain.

The lizard brain drives all our essential bodily functions – like breathing. 

Have you ever been driving in a car and you couldn’t remember how you got there?

The lizard brain loves habit and procedure and is focused on our survival. The lizard brain has 3 primary functions and this is the part of the brain that is first to bat (Ok I'm not sure why I used a sports analogy – I really don’t know anything about sport – but I guess you all understand my meaning.


The first item on the lizard brains agenda is our safety

Now when we were cavemen this was about running away from a lion or not eating red berries but in today's world we like being around familiar things and people. Familiar means safe. 

When I started my business I went networking – the first networking group I tried didn't work for me. When I walked into the room there were about 25 people there – all men and all in suits and ties. Very opposite to me. My lizard brain was screaming to me to get out throughout the entire meeting so much so that I don’t even remember anyone's names or businesses from that 2-hour meeting. It took all my energy not to run outs creaming.


The second item on the agenda for the lizard brain is food and water 

Car dealerships usually have a coffee station and biscuits to just help calm the lizard brain down or houses for sale often smell like baking bread. Network meetings with breakfast or lunch put everyone much more a tease than those without.


And the last focus area for the lizard brain is procreation – or more bluntly – sex.

Our brains are wired to look out for attractive mates. That’s why sex sells – because it appeals to our lizard brains.  We instinctively choose salespeople in a showroom, assistants in a store and gym trainers that are closer to our idea of good looking.

When new opportunities arise, when difficult decisions must be made or when change is needed, it is the lizard brain that holds you back. To engage the other brains, the lizard brain needs to be appeased and made to feel that our survival is not at risk.

The lizard brain is the gatekeeper for the attention of the rest of your brain.  So every time you behave irrationally you can blame your lizard brain. Just kidding. You can either control your lizard brain or allow your lizard brain to control you.

When it comes to marketing

We can use this understanding to help calm the lizard brain of our target customers. Once we have calmed their lizard brains, they can allow the other brains to get involved in the conversation. And this will give us a far better chance at success.

So how do we calm the lizard brain of our target customers? Look out for the next article where I will share some easy to implement ideas.