Brain-Science and Reaching Audiences

Nov 02

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate part-one of a two-part training focusing on identifying and leveraging the ways people think and behave, all according to scientific studies of the brain.  The training made me think a lot about how we are reach our audiences.  We often segment our audiences based on sex, age, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or culture in order to maximize effectiveness…but we are not able to look at the brain chemistry of the people we target.  It would be amazing if we could. 

Every person’s brain operates and takes action a little differently.  After all, we’re unique beings.  No two people share same set of genes.  (Even identical twins have “epigenetic” differences).  On top of this, no two people on this planet share all the same experiences growing up.  The way I see it, “nature” set out genetic blueprints for each of us when we were born, and “nurture” has helped to fill in these complex blueprints in years since. 


There are four different modes of thinking and everyone has thinking preferences that are wired in based on nature and nurture.  Analytical thinkers (left brain) are technical and investigative, constantly examining data and drawing critical, objective conclusions.  Structural thinkers (also left brain), are practical, extremely detail-oriented, and very organized.  Conceptual thinkers (right brain) are “big picture” people who come up with big ideas, are imaginative, and are very capable of understanding abstract approaches.  Social thinkers (also right brain) are very in-tune to the human condition, form personalized and empathic connections with others, and often incorporate teamwork into their daily lives. 

In the training yesterday, I learned that I am primarily a social and analytical thinker.  Therefore, if someone approaches me with messaging, I am most likely to take it to heart if it appeals to my emotions or makes logical sense.  Now, if someone approached another person who is mainly a structural thinker, the messaging would have to be practical and step-oriented in order to most effectively reach that person.  If someone approached another person who is mainly a conceptual thinker, the messaging would be most effective if it was presented in a way that took the individual’s whole life into account.  You get the idea. 

We’re all such different thinkers and because of this, we each take in information differently.  While we can segment our audiences based on demographics, we will never be able to truly segment our audiences based on brain thinking preferences.  Because we can’t, we must always make sure that our messages in materials, media, and grassroots programming are capable of appealing to all four types of thinkers. 

Let’s say we were encouraging people with high blood pressure to lower their blood pressure.  For analytical thinkers, we could discuss credible proof of how high blood pressure can lead to major health conditions down the road.  For structural thinkers, we could make a list of steps to lower blood pressure.  For conceptual thinkers, we could show how lowering blood pressure can lead to a longer, healthier life.  For social thinkers, we could encourage them to take action not just for themselves, but for their families.   To reach every type of thinker, our messaging would have to include all of these elements in one way or another. 

Interesting, right? I love this stuff.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 at 5:56 pm and is filed under Behavior Change, Best Practices, Public Health, Research + Insights, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “Brain-Science and Reaching Audiences”

  1. kristine says:

    This is so interesting. As a teacher I am always focused on my students’ learning styles. In fact, just today, I attended a professional developoment training where a good part of the morning was dedicated to auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners. It would be interesting to know my students’ thinking preferences too. I would imagine that it is also important to social marketers to reach consumers through all three learning styles. Funny, it never occured to me how much social marketers and teachers have in common. 🙂