For the uninitiated, this title is a play on Kevin Hart’s phrase to describe getting in a scuffle on his show, “The Real Husbands of Hollywood.” If you haven’t seen the show you can just go ahead and rest assured that you have just encountered witty and clever word play. And if you are not watching the show, you really need to reevaluate the quality of life you are offering yourself.
Any who, let’s talk about some digital marketing. Specifically how the content we use to market actually gets noticed and influences behavior.
We – people – navigate through the world in what is called a “perception-action cycle.” This cycle describes how we perceive and respond to the things around us. In the book “The Distracted Mind,” Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen define the perception-action cycle as a the interaction between our brains and our environments. “The perception-action cycle is fed by sensory inputs from the environment – sights, sounds, smells, and tactile sensations.”
All these things in our environment get processed by our brains and compose our perceptions. These perceptions are then evaluated, and those that are deemed essential, determine our actions.
The perception-action cycle is influenced by two forces: top-down influences and bottom-up influences. The actions we consciously take are guided by top-down influences, while our perceptions consistently have to triage those environmental influences coming from the bottom up.
This may all seem a bit old-school research-lab science-of-marketing talk. And that’s good. It’s supposed to. It’s supposed to refocus marketing efforts back on the single person who we are talking to at any given moment. This is not a blog about big data or automation. It’s about focusing on a single moment in time between a single brand and a single individual. It’s an exercise on human engagement.
Understanding the Perception-Action Cycle & It’s Role in Digital Marketing
Marketing, digital marketers especially, operate in the world of bottom-up influencing. That means people don’t plan to think about what it is we are trying to say. That is until we capture their attention away from whatever it was they were previously attending to. That thing they were previously attending to is considered their top-down influence. This creates their moment-by-moment goal setting.
For instance, let’s say that a hungry gentleman wants to order a tasty sandwich from the deli down the street. That’s his goal. His next series of actions are influenced from the top (i.e., his inner desires) to achieve this goal. Therefore the next actions hungry gentleman takes is to go online to get the phone number of said deli, call them up and place his order.
In performing a Google search for the deli, the first search engine result if not for the deli down the street but for the Sandwich Palace. To little surprise, the Sandwich Palace also offers tasty sandwiches, and oh guess what, they have just launched a new gluten free, ethically sourced, organic manwich sandwich. And it’s only for a limited time offer and exclusively for those placing orders online. Our hungry gentleman now thinks carpe diem – #yolo – I need this manwich sandwich in my life. In a matter of seconds, a very interesting and complex shift has taken place in hungry gentleman’s goals.
The paid search ad from the Sandwich Palace is a bottom-up influence. It was successfully perceived, broke into hungry gentleman’s consciousness, and effectively shifted his goals. Now, his top-down influence – much stronger than bottom-up – is working in a different direction. This complex shift doesn’t even register on hungry gentleman’s radar, but oh what a victory it is for the Sandwich Palace.
As you can guess, there were numerous other ads, search results, pop-ups vying for hungry gentleman’s attention during his Google search. Why didn’t they break into his conscious perception? Well because they didn’t match his contextual bias. His original goal of getting a tasty sandwich created internal biases that tuned out recipes for sandwiches, condiments for sandwiches, and even other CTAs for sandwiches that didn’t resonate for one reason or another with our hungry gentleman.
Putting the Pause on ‘Em
Now to harken back to the title of this blog, which we have yet to even acknowledge. There is a critical point in time in the buyer’s decision that makes our breaks our digital marketing efforts. This is the moment that determines if hungry gentleman ultimately bites into a deli-down-the-street sandwich or one from the Sandwich Palace. That moment is “the pause.”
The pause is a break in the perception-action cycle. In this pause, we stop and think for a moment and evaluate our current actions and the potential actions redirected by bottom-up influences. Within the pause, there are three things we as content marketers need to understand.
First we need to know how to precipitate the pause. This is what can be considered a thumb-stopper. This is that thing in the newsfeed where people stop and do a double take. This is also the place where marketers for better or worse spend a lot of their efforts and devise a lot of not-so-best-practice tactics.
For instance, the strive for the pause has given us banner ads, incessant pop-ups and auto-play videos. When we focus more on the tactic, we often achieve a pause, but then people throw up a little in their mouths and get back to whatever it was they were doing.
Second, after we initiate the pause, we need to generate that click. This is the first step in going from perception to action. With the click, a person says, you know what, this looks pretty good, I’m going to take a deeper look. For all intents and purposes, we can see this as extending the pause. Unfortunately, marketers also get stuck on this phase of the potential customer’s journey. We pay too much attention to click-through rates and consider our jobs done when the pause we create result in a click. But this is just a vanity metric that doesn’t keep the lights on.
When we focus too much on the click, we start to create crazy promises, and value proposition in our ads and posts. This is where things get salesy and sleezy. “Life changing,” “best ever,” “never before seen and never to be seen again,” – you get the idea.
The real victory as marketers comes in the last step – the one in which we effectively shift a goal and initiate and new top-down influence in which our thing is now the destination. This creates an attraction that initiates a pause, a promise that generates a click, and finally satisfactory fulfillment that effectively delivers on that promise. Although the buyer’s journey begins with initiation of the pause, we as marketers have to start with the fulfillment of our promise. What is it that people will actually find valuable?
Do you know that your audience want’s to learn how to create better business plans? Don’t just whip up an “easy to do” top 10 list to tap into unearned keyword juice. Instead, actually do some research and devise a new way for small companies to create better business plans. Create something they will want to printout, bring to their next meeting and make a meaningful part of their business planning. One obviously takes more time and effort, but that is the one that will do more than just generate a click. It will actually make someone pause, redirect their goals, and put you and your brand in the crosshairs for future action.
Digital marketing needs to make the most of the pause. And that doesn’t me creating a pause, but delivering on it.