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Christophe Morin: The Persuasion Code: Persuade Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime

You are in for a treat. We are talking about sales and persuasion. We are talking to a persuasion scientist, the Founder of SalesBrain, the world's first neuromarketing agency and a guy that holds both an MBA and PhD in Media Psychology. His name is Christophe Morin.

We are talking about persuading anyone, anywhere, anytime. I know that immediately got your attention and you're going to want to know a little bit more. We talk about how to create messaging, how to create ads, how to put together words that get people into action, but not just how to do it. We talk about the neuroscience behind it and how you can be more effective in communication with your business and messaging by understanding the primal brain and the six core elements. This was an incredibly fascinating show that you are going to love and appreciate and one that you may want to consider reading twice.

Dustin
Every day, we're bombarded with messages, advertising, commercials, emails, ads, you name it. Most of these messages are simply rejected by us and we do nothing. Some of these messages get through, get us to act and have the ability to persuade anyone anywhere, anytime to do and buy products. Christophe, I'm dying to know how is this so? How can certain messages bounce off of us and yet other messages can get us to do all sorts of things?
Christophe
It's quite amazing that we forget messages effectively have an impact on an organ called the brain. If you begin to follow the path these messages have, you begin to understand that attention is a neurobiological process. We give it or we don't. We are aware or we're not. All these processes happen because of electrochemical signals in our brains. Understanding is also a process, which makes us either smile because we immediately grasp the essence of what the message is all about or we deny the message, any access to our cognitive energy. Memorization is also a process and so is a decision or behavior. For me, my passion and obsession to decode the effect of messages and ads pushed me in the field of neuroscience, pushed me in understanding how those messages affect our brains.
Dustin
Immediately when we start talking about this subject, there's always that dark side of persuasion and there are other choices of words out there. I want to get that question out of the way here because I know that it does come up for people. With what we're about to discuss at depth and at length here, at the end of the day, is it truly possible to get people or to get someone to do something they don't want to do? It may be not that direct, but can we get people to buy our products and services when they don't want it? How do we walk this line?
Christophe
It is a fine line and let's put again the subject in perspective. I would argue that humans have been on a mission to persuade, influence and convince for thousands of years. There are half a million research papers on the subject of persuasion. I teach persuasion theories. For the most part, all of these theoretical models are obsolete because they assume that certain steps were happening in our brains, which we now know are not. We are re-decoding the way messages affect our brain and manipulation is front and center of many of those concerns. Ethics is also front and center of many of those concerns. Can we effectively make people trigger decisions, especially buying decisions, beyond their ability to either know or consciously agree? The short answer is yes, you can, if indeed some of those people are especially vulnerable to the suggestion or the emotional cocktails that some of those messages produce.
When I came into this field, I was passionate to help marketers and advertisers stop the tremendous waste, the noise that to all of us is extremely annoying, as well as provide ways for us to reveal and effectively probably defend ourselves from deceptive messages that are manipulating especially children or people who are vulnerable. Elderly people do not have necessarily cognitive resistance than healthy adults do. Teenagers do not have the maturity in certain areas of the brain, particularly the frontal lobes to say no, and therefore you are right. Anytime you open the conversation around persuasion, you have to do it with responsibility and transparency and recognize that they are abuse as well as fantastic opportunities. That's where I certainly bring my own passion in the book that I published. It’s a way of cutting through the ways, cutting through the noise and bringing experiences of those messages that are more pleasant to our brains.
Dustin
I've been looking forward to our interview because I want to ask this. Being an ad-man myself in previous walks of lives and being in marketing, I'm extremely fascinated at what gets people to get into action. The thing to make this mass applicable to everyone is the burger on TV. Oftentimes, when you see a commercial and ad, you see this beautiful looking piece of food on TV. Yet when you go into the restaurant or you go into the burger joint, it's not as advertised. How do you further walk this line? It's our job as business owners and entrepreneurs to present our product in the best possible light but at the same time, we don't want to deceive. We're not here to hoodwink people because we want to have customers for life. How do you further define that line?
Christophe
It is possible and it's done every single day to deceive and to hook people to doctored images of what it is that they're promising that they will do to your appearance or these magnificent dishes that are supposed to help us immediately salivate. Once you show up to consume these products, they are simply not giving you the level of satisfaction that you desire. There are plenty of ways to manage this process of persuasion by wanting to manipulate and deceive. I know, having consulted and lectured on this subject for many years, that people who engage in that are not going to succeed and/or they will be caught in lies and deceptions, which is not necessarily in the United States.
Being born in France and lived in Europe for half of my adult life, the subject of tracking and avoiding the use of deception in messages is handled more aggressively in Europe, generally speaking, than it is in the United States. At the end of the day, I believe that education and the possibility that we now have to recognize and pinpoint abusers are going to be the best way to handle it. I'm especially concerned when I see younger population influenced by messages that can get them into real trouble. For instance, the recruitment of young kids to join terrorist groups. We forget that often these types of recruitments are organized and frankly possible because they do use persuasive messages on social media. There are two sides to this conversation. There is an optimistic view that we can look at messaging and ads as a business process that can be optimized and improved. On the other hand, there is the possibility that many organizations are using these techniques for the purpose of deception and manipulation.
Dustin
I believe it's powerful to understand it. Everyone uses these practices for good, but to even understand it so that you can spot nefarious characters out there is incredibly powerful. People have been talking about persuasion and influence for many moons. What I appreciate about you is the science that you bring to it. Before we get into the science, it's wise to define neuromarketing and neuroscience because this is a relatively new field, especially applied to business and advertising. When we break this down, what exactly is neuromarketing?
Christophe
I have been a consumer marketer my entire life. I've also been CEO of several companies. In my pursuit of how I could be more effective as an entrepreneur, as a chief marketing officer, I had to consult and ask questions from my targets. The questions that marketers ask all the time is what do you want? How do you feel about this particular value proposition or piece of advertising or video? I became less and less convinced over time that people were willing to give me the information that I wanted but more importantly that they were competent and able to give me the information that I wanted. There was some aspect of this process called self-reported conversations where you trust people are going to give you what you need. There's an aspect of it that was not satisfying to me because as I became more interested in neuroscience, it was more and more obvious that so much of our decisions, our wishes, our wants and even our emotions are not conscious. Therefore, we lack the language and we lack the awareness or consciousness to share it using words.
I'll give you an example. Most scientists agree that we have probably a range of about 60,000 emotions, but we only have 6,000 words in English to describe them. This already explains why customers struggle and become very vague when they are asked to share their emotions about a particular journey in a store or navigation on a website. I said at that point that the traditional methods were not doing enough to tap into the subconscious mechanisms that would help me decode persuasion. I decided that it might be now the time to merge neuroscience, the study of the relationship between behavior and the brain with marketing. Many years ago, this was a fairly radical idea. It took a while for marketers to awaken to the opportunity that this new field could provide, to not necessarily rip and replace all traditional methods, but to finally add a layer of insights that are coming from monitoring brain activity.
In other words, we're not just talking to people. When we do research in my company, SalesBrain, we're effectively decoding their facial expressions, taking brainwaves measurements to monitor to which extent they're thinking or engaging cognitively with the content. We can track where they're looking at for how long through eye-tracking techniques. We can monitor their skin sweat in order to measure several times per second of their arousal. We're adding an enormous volume of information, biometrics especially that are already so informative without having to verbalize anything. We know millisecond by millisecond how people feel in front of the message that we're testing.
Dustin
I find this incredibly fascinating. I'm curious about the science that you've come across and I imagine it's a lot of science. In terms of norms that existed before the science came around that were either disproven like you had mentioned earlier about the brain or things that were shocking along the way that you’ve discovered that the science pointed to, is there anything that sticks out or calls to you about the science?
Christophe
Very much so and that’s the fundamental of how we approach persuasion and how we've taught persuasion around the world. Any message, whether it's a billboard, whether it's an ad on a radio or a TV is going through a path in the brain. The path means that there is a trajectory of that message that is consistent with priorities that have been handled by the brains for millions of years. The number one conclusion that I want to convey as clearly as I can is, we are not using rationality first when we confront messages. Yet our experience, our consciousness and our ability to say this is what we do and so on often assumes that we are logical, rational, sequential decision-making machine. We live under the illusion constantly of being guided by rationality.
When we see the path that messages take in the brain, the first area that is responsible for our attention is what's called the primal brain. If you know anything about brain anatomy, there is at least a bottom part which is connected directly to our vertebra. It includes the brain stem, which includes the cerebellum, also known as the little brain. Right above that, you have this area called the limbic system, which is where we manage emotion. Together, all these three structures are considered primal because they are half a billion years in evolutionary date to speak up. They have been ruling our capacity to breathe, to maintain homeostasis, to manage temperature and blood flow. This is the brain that is welcoming and processing and doing so way below our level of awareness and consciousness.
This is the part of the brain that will decide whether or not we apply logic, whether or not we apply cognition in what we call the rational brain. The rational brain is anatomically what we call the cortex, the wrinkly pinky part that folds around the primal brain. I hope you can visually understand that there are two functionally crucial brain areas. The bottom is called the primal, which is largely instinctual and emotional and the top, which is called the rational. We know now that you can't convince anyone unless you speak to the primal brain first.
Dustin
I love how you described that. It makes sense. If I understood it correctly, you've got the primal brain. It controls our breathing, our physiology and has been developing many millions of years. Would you say that the top part of the brain is more relatively new and that's where rational is less developed in a time sense?
Christophe
That's right. I like to often make analogies. The bottom part of the brain is what we could describe as the DOS in a computer. This is the part of the program that nobody knows anything about. Nobody would even consider tinkering with the DOS because it has very basic responsibility and yet crucial responsibility to organize the information on your computer, then you have apps, software, Microsoft, PowerPoint, Word and so on. These are more recent opportunity to enhance some of the processing function.
Apps live in the upper part of the brain. They come and go. You could say language is an app. I speak French and English. You may speak other languages, depending on where you were raised and how you were raised. You may have a different political and religious belief. All of that lives into your rational brain. Underneath all that, the software of how our primal brain operates is very much the same anywhere on this planet. I say that, having done research in over 30 countries and knowing for sure that gender and cultural background has zero effect on how we can monitor primal brain responses.
Dustin
You said earlier that we live under this illusion of rationality. What fired in my head was this notion of every decision that we make. Is it true that every decision that we make is based off on some emotion or can logic dictate certain decisions?
Christophe
Logic is used and recruited to justify and bring a narrative that makes us feel competent. Because we have a very low ability to see the extent to which our emotions affect our decisions, we maintain that illusion in a way to protect ourselves and our ego. Without getting too deep into psychology, I'm a media psychologist, my bent is towards looking at psyche and understanding of how ego and these neurophysiological signals that we collect. It makes some people very uncomfortable. I have a lot of clients, very large companies that are not always very comfortable. They are finally having to recognize that they can't use logic and what people tell them to build an advertising campaign. I know that part of the message that I have here for many of your audience is somewhat unsettling.
At the same time, you can recognize if you're honest that you found yourself almost within seconds absolutely sure you needed a product. It could be an $80,000 SUV and then finding all the evidence and confirmation that you need to justify that gut response. While the gut response is directly controlled by the primal brain, our stomach and more specifically what's called the enteric nervous system, everything that has to do with the way we digest food, is managed by over 200 million neurons that directly connect to the primal brain. We have more neurons in our enteric system than cats and dogs have in their own brain.
There's a lot of intelligence that we recruit on a minute-by-minute basis to guide us towards decisions. I truly believe that decisions are not even possible unless there is the recruitment and guidance of emotions. I also know that emotions are chemicals. I know that because we can now observe them. We can effectively see what emotions do to critical chemicals. I'm sure you've learned or heard of dopamine, serotonin or norepinephrine. We know that these chemical messengers are affected by ads because we can trace them and we can see how they modify people's behaviors and decisions.
Dustin
In the way that we make decisions based off of emotion and then we use logic to tell the story or the narrative, if I'm in a selling situation, the common one is you do your sales messaging, you do your presentation, maybe it's filled with a lot of rationality. At the end of the conversation, the person says, “Let me think about it.” If I understand you correctly, what's taking place in this scenario is we probably haven't communicated to the primal brain. We haven't motivated it. We haven't created those chemicals in the other person's world to get them to move. Logically, they're saying, “I need to think about it or I need to talk to my wife,” or whatever reason. Is that the case here?
Christophe
Yes, exactly. Typically, we like to organize our arguments, our claims and believe that talking to influence or persuade and showcasing the logic behind the arguments are going to work the best. Sadly, your impact on words alone is very low to the primal brain. The primal brain doesn't even talk. The primal brain doesn't even read. The primal brain is first and foremost affected by the visual presence of your pitch, by the emotional cocktails that you're able to create through not just words, but through a narrative, through a story that can be communicated by a short video, by your face, which should exude passion and enthusiasm. We know now that the early form of your message has to be preverbal, has to be mostly visual, has to use your personal energy, which as humans we tend to forget that we crave to feel and decode others' personal energy. If you start modifying your approach by focusing on these preverbal, visual, intuitive emotional aspects, you will then trigger a more cognitive response. That situation you described where people say, “I need to think about,” it often signals that they've been overwhelmed by rational arguments and have shut down, particularly because the primal brain has not opened the gate for more blood flowing upwards to the cognitive or rational brain.
Dustin
That's a great tip and strategy, something to look for people because we hear this so much. I've always been a big fan of choreography when it comes to marketing and sales. The message is important, don't get me wrong, the words that we say are very powerful. If you invest time there, you can make a message rationally stronger. However, I've always felt like this idea of choreography is not just the message, but what room are you telling it in? What's the temperature? What are the pictures hanging around influencing? What was the message they heard before they even spoke to you? What's the message that they're hearing after you? You've given me now the science to put behind it. It's not just the message. It's the choreography of all of it, the nonverbal that weighs a factor. I wish more people would get that.
Christophe
In the book, in our teaching, we go beyond this path of persuasion, which it looks like you now have clarity in terms of how the primal brain needs to be served by a different message than the rational brain. We have also identified the six qualities of a primal-friendly message. If that's appropriate, I can at least give a great overview of what those six qualities are. This won't surprise you, but the primal brain is extremely selfish. This is an aspect of our personality that we typically either hide or are not always proud of and that is selfishness drives an enormous amount of decisions, particularly our ongoing effort to avoid, threats to our survival. The first quality of a message that is primal brain friendly is in fact a message that will promise someone to be protected or shielded from a very lethal and potentially dangerous situation.
In magnifying a pain or a threat that is relevant to the product you set, you're going to grab more attention from the primal brain than if you immediately jump to a solution. Too many messages as you see it are bypassing the discussion on the threat and the pain and going straight to the solution. While those messages don't affect the primal brain because by design the primal brain is vigilant. The primal brain is effectively going to only notice a message that is proving ideally that the pain that I could have by let's say losing all my investment in real estate is the pain that as a consultant I'm going to eliminate if you choose me.
Dustin
What I'm hearing to recap is a lot of people go right to the solution. They don't discuss the pain. We've heard that in marketing, the pain, but now you've given us the reason why, which is pain is primal.
Christophe
It's a way to grab attention from the primal brain. David Ogilvy is an advertiser. The name probably will mean something to you. He famously said, “Selling is easy. All you need to do is light a fire under people's chair and present the extinguisher.” This is a brilliant statement. It's not a scientific statement, yet it maps to my scientific understanding of persuasion. You can't effectively start a conversation about extinguishers and go right into features and function of how beautiful your extinguishers are if people have not been trying to believe at a very primal survival level that they may die from a fire. You have to reawaken it and you have to magnify that before you launch into your pitch on the extinguishers.
We call that quality making your message intimately personal. Too many companies weigh so much valuable time talking about themselves, about their mission statement, about their history and none of that information is of any interest whatsoever to the primal brain. I tell my client to drop the 50 slides for the corporate overview. The primary brain doesn't care. Go straight to why you can save me and heal me. That's the type of message that will matter to the primal brain. This is the second aspect that is critical for the primal brain. This is not a brain that makes very complicated decisions and hates to analyze option. Therefore, the best way to trigger a decision in a friendly way is to offer only two options. We call that present a contrast into the decisions that are at stake.
In our practice in coaching, we say there are two decisions. Either you do nothing, that's stage one. That's going to be bad because you will miss on the possibility of eliminating a valuable and important urgency. Option two is to choose me. In other words, when you sell to the primal brain, you have to be able, ready and willing to say that you are the only and best option. I know that this recommendation can easily be interpreted as exaggeration if not bragging. The truth is at the level of the primal brain, we want to execute that decision in just a few seconds. We don't have the luxury and we don't have the appetite for making it an entire analysis of options.
Dustin
I've often heard the third option. Is this detrimental? One, you can do nothing and your life will suck essentially. Two is, "Choose me and your life will be great." I've often heard three, “Based on the information I gave you, you can try and figure it out yourself, but here's the pain that awaits you. It's going to take you longer and you're going to spend a lot more money.” Is it a mistake to do that third one or is that third one essentially like number one, which is, “Do nothing?”
Christophe
Dan Ariely is a psychologist I've followed. He has a brilliant book called Predictably Irrational that does make the case for studies and experiments that he has performed with two or three options. He has not done the kind of research that I have where we can identify an image straight inside the brain the level of cognitive resistance, if not cognitive friction that people have beyond two. In that primal brain, we are not looking at a complicated decision. It’s go or no go, bad or good, expensive or cheap. These are the situations that are going to trigger the speed that the primal brain is seeking to make decisions that can save our life.
Another example of that is if you're walking around and you see a stick that looks like a snake, you're not going to approach it and start doing a big analysis on whether or not the stick is a poisonous snake that could kill you. You're going to trigger a response of avoidance typically if not a sheer resistance to approach closer because that's the best decision. It's a contrast moment, go or no go, it's done. In our approach, we encourage people to have the boldness and the capacity to affirm what we call your claims, to pick a limited number of arguments, a maximum of three as a matter of fact, that can help you contrast life before you do business with us. It should suck. Life after, it should be beautiful.
The format that has executed the best this template and is often depicted as the worst kind of advertising ever is infomercials. You and I have experienced these moments where we don't necessarily say, “I enjoy this message,” but it affected us. Why? Because it presented a situation where the pain is obvious. You see it and you recognize it, but the contrast is that these people have found a solution and it is easy. You can have four payments and be done with it. None of that process is ascetically necessarily award-winning commercial, but the template has proven to work extremely well. In our book, we reveal something that very few people know and that is the most financially successful form of advertising ever is in fact infomercial, 20 to 25 times the typical ROI of any kind of branding ad you've ever seen.
Dustin
It's so funny you mentioned that because at some point in our conversation, that popped in my head especially when you talk about pain and then the solution. My mind immediately went to some people say the cheesiest form of advertising, yet it's the most effective as you discussed.
Christophe
The third criteria is to reduce what we call cognitive friction or cognitive effort. We have this beautiful most recent part of our brain called the cortex, which does form 80% of the mass of the brain. We resist using it because it's very wasteful of energy. The energy in the brain is brought to our neurons, to our nerve cells in the form of glucose and oxygen. Blood flow is the food that we need, without which we can't think, move and make decisions. It turns out that the guardian of that blood flow is the primal brain. The primal brain is always on a mission to prefer messages that have low consumption of cognition over high consumption of cognition. What we say is to engage the primal brain means that you have done all you do and sometimes were very hard to be simple.
You will find all kinds of messages where people have made zero effort in lowering the level of cognitive effort that is required. I spent a lot of time with people who sell very complicated stuff, telling them to continue to do what you're doing because it's easy to be complicated, but it's hard to be simple. Simplicity and making the message tangible is bringing the essence of what you're trying to do as if you're effectively convincing a four-year-old. That doesn't mean you're dumbing the message. It means you're making it cognitively fluent. Cognitive fluency is a scientific term that suggests we enjoy it. I'm sure you've never found yourself into a learning experience where you were wishing it was harder on your brain. We expect that and we expect that from ads. The most effective ads have made this reduction of cognitive effort. That's the third criteria.
The fourth criteria is memorization. Often people recognize our ads cannot be effective on this. They memorized, but they don't understand that memorization happens in the brain in multiple areas. This mostly controls below our level of consciousness. We do not control much of what we remember. That is probably your shocking surprise, but it's important to understand because there are aspects of your message that will make it automatically more memorable. For instance, the beginning and the end part of your message will receive more attention and more memorization. You cannot waste any time with a corporate overview. You have to hijack the attention initially by lighting the fire. You have to close strong by repeating the competing reasons why people should choose you and nobody else. There are moments in your interaction with people, whether it's face-to-face or a new message where you have to recognize prime time is beginning and end. We do not have, and this is an important consideration, a lot of patience or time to remember a lot. Our brain is largely designed to forget, not to remember.
The fifth one that will probably make a great deal of sense to you is the extent to which we favor visual delivery of information. Very few people understand why. I spend a lot of time in my dissertation. I looked at the most important criteria that participate in a persuasive moment. I discovered that while we have multiple senses through which we collect information, our ability to hear, smell, taste and see, all those senses participate in representing reality into what we call perception. No sense is more dominant than the visual sense. Our eyes, we forget, are part of our brain. They're not a separate organ and the existence of our eyes predates the existence of the cortex. We've had eyes for millions of years and an enormous amount of neurons.
A huge part of the back of our head, which is called the occipital lobe, is only committed to the processing of visual information. The first visual station, which is something that very few people know, is in our primal brain. The first area where we effectively process what it is that we're about to encounter, be it a face or an animal that could kill us, is processed within about thirteen milliseconds in the primal brain. The visual experience of your message without words, without anything else that would require cognition, is the superhighway to being persuasive. In my company, we create a lot of visual stories based on two images, based on contrasting the pain and contrasting the solution. I encourage all my customers whether they sell multimillion-dollar software solution or a $5 nutritional bar, I encourage them to have messages that are processed 100% visually without the contribution of any other sensory experience.
Dustin
I've always heard that you don't want to load up your slides with a bunch of words when you can use pictures.
Christophe
The last one is the emotional component of your message. For a long time in advertising, people were under the illusion that making people respond emotionally whether through fear, excitement or joy was somewhat the cherry on the cake. We now know that it is essential and necessary for an ad to be persuasive. What shocks me, particularly when I look at websites or some of the PowerPoint slides that people use is how neutral these messages are and how flat I know they will remain when people deliver them to the brain. The brain has no desire and no patience for messages that have no emotional cocktails. It takes more boldness and more fearlessness to create those messages as it does to encourage people as presenters to smile, to encourage people as presenters to surprise by telling stories and using props. Yet all these moves are known to trigger more emotions in the brain. Emotions are the glue of our message. They improve our memory and they also trigger decisions such as buying decisions.
Dustin
If I want to make any message or my message more impactful, simplify. Make it more emotional perhaps with storytelling to communicate that. Make it more visual, ditch the text if you can or paint that story in a visual. Make the options two contrastable, A or B, one or two. Then open strong and finish strong because the attention in the memorization, the brain's not going to be able to retain it all. You want to start strong and finish strong. Are there any other ways to make the message more effective or any ones that I have left out?
Christophe
No, I think you did an excellent summary. We call that a language to the primal brain. The reason we use this metaphor is to maximize your chance of engaging with the primal brain, you have to use all six. In other words, if I tell you, “Try to learn French,” I'm not going to tell you, “Go with learning verbs and that should be enough.” It's a comprehensive system of grammar, words, verbs, adjectives and so on. Our system has six properties. We call them six stimuli. It is a language. It's also a checklist. I encourage everybody to check your homepage, some of your ads and verify to which extent it's personal, verify to which extent it's contrastable.
Are you applying all you can to reduce cognitive effort? We call that making it tangible. Do you have ways to make it more memorable, to have your claims simplify into words that are easy to remember? Maybe because they start with the same letter or they rhyme. This may appear cheesy to some of you, but it works better in our brain. We talk about that in our book as well. Make it visual because it is the primal channel through which the brain will decide. Make it emotional because it will be the glue and the juice of how decisions are triggered.
Dustin
Immediately, we are on this discussion. This makes sense to me. When you're a business owner or a corporation, you're going to consumers. I'm sure you get this objection or you get this comment a lot. What if I'm sitting here reading this interview and I sell sophisticated things to a company? There's a director and a VP that I have to sell. How am I communicating and taking this information that you share and applying this in a B2B sense?
Christophe
I'll give you probably a surprising statistics of our own business. 90% of our clients do sell to companies. This description of whether you're in business-to-business or business-to-consumer is misleading. We are all selling to a bunch of brands. The transaction is still happening between humans unless you're facing organization and there are a few that have automated. We’re controlling for the possibility that humans would be involved by using algorithms and decision models that are informed by code and not humans. For the most part, 99.9% of people selling something are going to have to face a bunch of brains. The difference between consumer research, which is something I'm very familiar with because I was Chief Marketing Officer of a grocery chain. I know what it takes to effectively persuade people at the shelf level. It's somewhat different than what it takes to pursue a group of people, maybe a Chief Financial Officer, etc.
What I do know also is while all these people may have in appearance different competence, those competencies are a function of the way their rational brain will respond, but not their primal brain. I know because I've been able to help companies like G Healthcare or insurance and many others in selling a fairly complicated value proposition. I know that at the primal level, we tend to be much more alike than we are different. The exercise of convincing a group of people may not be that complicated if you have found the common denominator between all those people. The common denominator is the way the primal brain will react.
Dustin
The timing of this interview is perfect. I was recommended with this movie called The Great Hack on Netflix. It's a documentary about Cambridge Analytica and how they have collected data on so many people through various platforms, Facebook notably, with the intention to persuade people to buy things, elections and whatnot. Is this conversation germane to that? The more data that you have, the more persuasive that you can be because now you can speak to the primal brain. How does this conversation of data privacy play into your research and to what you found?
Christophe
It is very relevant and this show is on my viewing list as well. The notion of ethics is central to my own work. I wrote the code of ethics for the neuromarketing industry. I knew that many years ago, a lot of people would be somewhat uncomfortable if not very disturbed by this notion that we would now find ways to reveal aspects of how people make decisions that are not entirely conscious. However, in the research that I do and the research that a lot of neuromarketers do around the world, there's always the responsibility of never connecting the data to the subjects. Providing anonymity and protecting that information is central to making sure you're not reusing that information to effectively persuade or manipulate your subjects. That's unfortunately what Cambridge Analytica brings up.
What Cambridge Analytica was on a mission to do is extremely unethical and most likely legal. That is to collect information beyond what people would understand this information would be used for. You may have already learned that they were using a personality test, which is very well-known for anyone such as myself interested in personality theories, call the Big Five. The Big Five is one of the most powerful ways to assess specific personality traits that are known to be rather permanent. The Big Five, out of all the models that you may have heard of is by far the most scientific of all personality testing because it is now possible out of the five traits that are measured by Big Five to link three of those traits to neurobiological areas and activity in the brain.
I was especially shocked and worried when I learned about Cambridge Analytica using these tests because using that information in order to create a message that would then be targeting the same people is extremely dangerous and lethal, to the extent that this is an attempt effectively to reuse information you collected that is private and intimate for the purpose of targeting and influencing people.
Dustin
I've been having a lot of fun with this interview. I'm going to take you out in left fields. What's been in my head is this Elon Musk talking about singularity. With all this data that's out there, with algorithms and you mapping and putting together this system, the thought that occurs to me is, could one day computers understand humans and be able to manipulate us? We're going from humans manipulating humans as a potential topic, which you've covered well. It's our intent and desire. Does that worry or concern you that at some point, computers get this data to understand how humans work and are now able to control us in a way? I'm very curious as to what your opinion is on this.
Christophe
I have to say that I do monitor and look for trends that would signal the possibility that we completely automate messages that can persuade an influence. The good news in our research and in what we show in the book is no format is more effective in selling than face-to-face. That is because we crave in a way to verify authenticity and integrity from decoding people's faces. The absence of that interaction, it is true that we're more vulnerable. It is true that the possibility of now people can do deep fake, which is another way of saying that they can manipulate a video of someone and completely manufacture a message coming from that person that is completely fake. There are ways now to manipulate information that worries me because it can deceive and it can ultimately create false claims that could harm.
Going back to the comment on how countries have behaved differently facing this problem. For the most part, the US is behind as not putting in place mechanisms to control and create any kind of monitoring or policing of abusers. I wish that there would be more ways to do that. In Europe, there are more legal and ethical tools to at least make sure that the abusers are shut down and especially are not targeting vulnerable population. Below the age of twenty, people's brains are very malleable. After the age of 70, you are dealing with people with sometimes a compromised cognition and therefore, they can be more influenced and the target of deceptive techniques.
Dustin
Christophe, I truly appreciate what you're doing in the world. I want to recommend people to check out The Persuasion Code and follow your work and research. If people want to do that, where's the best way for people to continue the conversation with you?
Christophe
Thank you for your interest in the conversation, I enjoyed it. The website on which you can find information on what we do is SalesBrain.com. The Persuasion Code is available as a hardback, Audible and even CD, which is quite amazing. It will be in ten languages. It is somewhat a scientific book for half of it, but it's a very practical book in which we describe over 30 business cases. We showcase to entrepreneurs, people who have small, medium, large-sized business what simple techniques or tactics you can immediately apply to improve your ability to persuade. Do so ethically and by cutting the noise and waste that are typically involved in crafting campaigns.
Dustin
Christophe, I appreciate you doing what you do in the world and most certainly for being on the show and sharing your wisdom, insights and research with us. Thanks so much.
Christophe
Thank you very much for inviting me.

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