Imagine if you could create advertising messages that were so compelling, so hypnotic that you could motivate consumers to make an immediate change in their behavior by buying your product or service. What would that do for your business? In this book, Dr. Mark Young takes you through the complexities of neuroscience and consumer response to demonstrate how they are applied in common scenarios with real examples from the advertising world.
Mark is a serial entrepreneur and polymath with interests in advertising, media, consumer products, human performance and longevity, geopolitics and real estate development. He levers his education and passion for neuroscience, persuasion, neurolinguistic programming and hypnosis to build Jekyll and Hyde Labs into one of the nation’s most successful advertising agencies for challenger and emerging brand consumer products.
His book, HYPNO-TI$ING, is a blend of hypnosis and advertising that explains how you can improve the outcomes of your advertising campaigns and change the playing field to your advantage.
This is The Author Hour Podcast and I’m your host, Frank Garza. Today, I’m joined by Dr. Mark Young, author of a brand-new book, HYPNO-TI$ING: The Secrets and Science of Ads That Sell More…. Mark, welcome to the show.
Mark Young: Frank, I’m so appreciative of being here and it’s great to meet you.
Frank Garza: It’s great to meet you too. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your book and your journey and I’d love to just start with hearing a little bit about your personal background.
Mark Young: Frank, I’m an entrepreneur and I think the real reason I’m an entrepreneur is because I probably can’t hold a steady job. I think that’s most of us in the world of serial entrepreneurship.
My background is kind of spread all over the place from law enforcement to contracting to engineering and then for the past several decades, I’ve been running an advertising agency and part of my motivation behind the book and behind my own PhD is I wanted to figure out how to create communications in advertising that reached people on a far deeper level.
How could we use psychology, how could we use neurolinguistics programming and neuroscience to create better communication? That’s what drove all of this.
Frank Garza: There’s two other bits about your personal background, I can’t help but ask about that I found interesting in just reading through your introduction. I read that as an 11-year-old, you got what I believe is your first job selling advertising. Would you mind sharing that story?
Mark Young: It’s kind of weird. I was not a very normal child. This is back in the days, kids— when there was no such thing as the Internet and we used to use yellow pages. I was a kid that my parents had a small business and they worked so I would be home after school and I started really liking the ad business.
Actually, where it started to be honest with you, Frank. It started because I was in the Boy Scouts and the Boy Scouts had this thing where they were selling custom-printed Christmas cards and I started selling these cards for the Boy Scouts and I ended up being the number one seller in the state, in the country, for selling them and I’m like, “This is kind of cool, I like this.”
Then I got this idea I wanted to be in advertising. I started calling advertising agencies out of the yellow pages. Needless to say, almost everybody hung up on me but there was this one guy who thought it was interesting and he wanted to come over and meet my parents, my parents were very used to really bizarre things happening around me, and he came over and asked them if he could give me a commission job selling specialty advertising, what’s known as trash and trinkets.
Ink pens, printed ink pens, match covers and business cards and all those things. So, at 11 or 12 years old, I got into the ad business and became a top producer and I think, mostly because of the novelty of, quite honestly, having a 12-year-old with a briefcase and a tie on, show up at the reception desk of your company asking to talk to your president about advertising. People would look down at this little kid and be like, “What is this kid doing?”
It was one of those things where nobody could say no to me so I managed to ridiculously, sounds as crazy as it sounds, I managed to actually make a lot of money doing that.
Advertising To The Unconscious Mind
Frank Garza: That’s a great story. The other thing I found intriguing was that I read that you reserve two hours per day to study various things. Can you talk about why you do that and what those study sessions look like?
Mark Young: It could be anything, Frank. I kind of follow the pattern of what would be considered a polymath. About every two, three years, depending on the topic that I’m taking on, I kind of decide to become an expert in some new field. So, it could be longevity, it could be biology, which are all things that I’ve chased down, neurolinguistics programming, hypnotherapy, neuroscience.
I kind of do these deep dives over anywhere, let’s say one to three years. I’ll do this deep dives of becoming somewhat of an expert and what I found is, and I think Tim Ferris covered this a lot, you can learn— as an example, you can learn conversational Spanish in about six months but if you wanted to master the Spanish language like a native speaker, it will take you 10 years.
I kind of come from this position of, in a short period of time— and to me a short period of time is this one or three-year window— I can pretty much become an 80% expert on something and I don’t need the last 20%. I can get to that 80th level and get everything that I need out of it and that at least takes me to the point of knowing what I don’t know because now, I can go look for the who, who knows more than I do if I need it because at least now I know what I’m looking for.
As far as the study, it could be Internet searches, it could be medical books, it could be hardcover books, it’s all kinds of stuff along with, I go through a lot of core study. I mean, I’ll do week-long— there are places where I will actually go, like the University of Toronto or something, and spend a week on a week-long intensive study program. So, different things like that.
Frank Garza: Yeah, your example about the conversational Spanish resonates with me because I’m on that journey myself and it is amazing how quickly you can get up to speed to have a basic conversation but man, it just seems like such a far target out in the future to reach the fluency level that I would love.
Mark Young: Right, but you can become pretty proficient in a short period of time.
Frank Garza: Yeah. I can talk with people, they can understand, it’s amazing. Now, it’s just more of my personal, maybe trying to be a perfectionist, trying to get to that next level.
Mark Young: I completely get that.
Frank Garza: Let’s talk about your book, HYPNO-TI$ING, and the first thing I wanted to ask you was this word “hypnosis” that kind of resonates throughout your entire book. I’d like to ask you just to talk about what you mean by that because I think a lot of people, when they hear that word, they picture somebody sitting on a couch, watching a pendulum swing back and forth. What do you mean by hypnosis in your book?
Mark Young: Here’s what came to my attention, Frank. When I started down this path, what is the goal of good advertising? First up, most advertising that’s out there in the public right now is really bad because it’s more paid entertainment than it is made to sell something. When we think about an advertisement, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to use words and images to create an immediate change in someone’s behavior. That’s the purpose of an ad.
Now, what is the goal of a hypnotherapist? The goal of a hypnotherapist is to sit with a patient, put them into a trance state, use words and images that cause an immediate change in their behavior. They’re going down the same path. The second thing that jumped out at me is that the majority of people are in a hypnotic trance at any given time.
People don’t actually go into trance, they go from trance to trance. As an example, if you drove to your office today— let’s say you drove to work. When you did, when you got in the car, you didn’t all of a sudden take this pointy thing out and think about, “Where does this go? Do I need to push a lever here and what do I do with this wheel that’s in front of me?”
All of that happened through pattern recognition and a built-in trance that you already have. Now you get in that car, you put it in gear and you go drive to work. Well, guess what? You’re driving to work in a hypnotic trance. You are not thinking about driving, you are not even paying attention to the road, your unconscious mind is doing that and your conscious mind is thinking about what you’re going to be doing when you get to work and what meetings do [you] have.
What am I going to do after work and do I have a lunch meeting today? You literally can drive to work on autopilot, is that not true? Does that not –
Frank Garza: Yeah, 100%.
Mark Young: We sit in these trances. The question becomes, how can we create advertising that can have that words and images that cause immediate changes in behavior and how can we set people up so that they will have that momentary trance state where we can communicate directly to them. When I say directly, we have to communicate to the unconscious mind of the consumer, not the conscious mind of the consumer because all the buying decisions are made unconsciously.
Frank Garza: In the book, I want to read you a quote and just ask you to kind of comment on it. I think you started to just now but the quote is, “In our agency, we’ve often seen clients who have a product or service that will benefit people so they believe that just informing the general public will lead to sales.” Why is that not true?
Mark Young: Well, it’s simply— first off, let’s start with this, the average consumer receives between 5,000 and 20,000 advertising messages per day. That includes TV commercials, Internet banner ads, packages that are in front of you, billboards that you drive by, the nameplate on the side of a car. Five to 20,000 ad messages per day, this is called immediate dynamics.
We also know that, let’s just use the number 5,000, let’s go to the low side. We have 5,000 ad impressions but out of that, the average person will only receive 362 of them. Out of the 362, 153 will actually be noted. Out of the 153, only 86 will have any level of awareness and that means that the person consuming it recognizes it, identifies it.
“Yeah, that’s a Coke bottle, I know what Coke is” okay? Now, out of the 86, only 12 of those impressions will actually be what we call an ad impression. When you’re out there trying to communicate to consumers, it’s not enough that you tell people, “I have a wonderful product” because guess what? Everybody claims they have a wonderful product.
By the way, why do I care that you have a wonderful product? Because I don’t care about you, I care about me, so what are you doing to solve my issues? What are you going to do to take care of my problems, what is it you’re going to do that’s for me? How are you going to get your head above those five to 20,000 other competitors today that are trying to get my attention? Does that kind of answer that question?
Frank Garza: Yes, it does. In the ‘World Models’ chapter of the book, you talk about how everybody has filters that they use to interpret the world around them and you talk about the processes people use to develop these: deletion, distortion, and generalization. How does that knowledge relate to advertising?
Mark Young: There’s a couple of things here. First off, as I was just saying earlier, we have to communicate to the unconscious mind. This is work that was done by George Miller and what we learned here was that the conscious brain, the part of the brain that you and I are talking with right now, can manage about seven bits of information per second, plus or minus two.
This is the reason telephone numbers are seven digits. Even in the 80s, the French actually tried to go to an eight-digit phone number and they practically had riots in the streets because it became too hard for people to remember.
We know that we have the seven bits of information, I want you to think of the conscious part of your brain as the size of a grape. That grape is sitting on a dime, that dime represents critical faculty. The grape and the dime are sitting on a beach ball, the beach ball represents your unconscious mind.
While your conscious mind can process seven bits of information, plus or minus two, your unconscious mind can process thousands of bits of information per second. I’m going to take you back to that drive to work today. You drove to work today, you didn’t have to think about how to get there. If you were driving down the freeway today and all of a sudden a car came flying in from on a ramp and jumped into your lane, you would immediately take reaction to avoid the accident.
You would look in your mirror, you’d make sure nobody’s there, you’d swerve the car into the next lane, you would dodge getting hit if possible, you would then get the car back under control, get back in your lane. After all of that happened, your conscious mind would then kick in and say, “Geez, what was that guy doing? He drives like a maniac” but your unconscious mind had all those reactions and saved you and made all of those decisions in fractions of seconds because it has way more capacity to do that.
This is the reason why we have to communicate to the unconscious mind when we’re trying to sell people something. And if it wasn’t the unconscious mind making the decisions— let me give an example, a Chevy Spark. So the really low price Chevy Spark— and they’re like $15,000 brand new— a Chevy Spark will take you from home to work every day and it will do it as efficiently, in fact, probably more efficiently than most any other car you could buy.
If our conscious brain is making all the decisions for us then everybody in America would be driving a Chevy Spark or maybe some kind of a little electric car because all they need is transportation to go from point A to point B but in fact, we have hundreds of different cars and we have cars all the way from that Chevy Spark all the way up to $2 million Bugatti’s. What would somebody buy a McLaren for $400,000 or a Bugatti for $200,000 when they can get to work in that $15,000 car the same way?
All happening at the unconscious level, it is not happening in the conscious brain. So, if we know that the unconscious mind is who’s buying, then why do people keep advertising to the conscious mind which isn’t buying? But that’s what most advertising does. It focuses on the wrong part of the brain.
Feel, Felt, Found: Targeting Your Audience’s Motivators
Frank Garza: Yeah, that makes sense. In the book, you go over all of these concepts, all of this information and then at the end, you have a chapter called ‘Pulling It All Together’ and you give some examples of how the concepts have been used in real-world advertising situations. Could you share one of these examples just so people can hear how you might apply some of these concepts to the real world?
Mark Young: Absolutely. I’ll give you a couple of examples, I’m going to give you some real-world examples from stuff we’ve done. This book is about using neuroscience, neurolinguistic programming, and hypnotic language and we use a lot of different techniques. Some of these techniques, as an example one of the techniques we use is the technique called Feel, Felt, Found and it’s a popular sales technique.
Feel, Felt, Found is simply this: Do you feel a certain way? Now, I’m asking you and I’m getting you to agree with me, “Yes, I do feel that way” and then I say to you, “Well, I felt that way too.” When I say that, your unconscious mind now says, “Oh, I like this guy, he’s like me. He has the same problem I have.” That builds rapport and rapport is critical if we’re going to sell people anything. They have to trust us, they have to like us.
Feel, felt, now found, the next part of that is, “But then I found a solution.” So now my audience is saying, “Do you have this problem?” “Yes, I do” and “I had it also but I found an answer.” Now, that consumer, that listener can say, “Okay, so this guy has a problem like me, he’s like me, we agree. He found an answer to it. I would really like to know what his answer is.” In this real-world example, I’ll give an example for a product that we handled called Wax-RX.
Wax-RX is an ear cleaning product, so earwax removal kit. It sells for $40. Now, it sells for $40 in a category where the highest priced product in the category is $8.99, so it is about almost five times the price of the entire category. That’s when you get any more than 10, 15% outside of the category that can be kind of a challenge. The goal of the commercial is to demonstrate it, so the commercial starts off with, “Do you feel like the way you clean your ears at home doesn’t work well enough?”
Okay, now the consumer has the option to say, “Yes, I do” or “No, I don’t.” If they say, “No, I don’t” that’s okay because we’re not going to sell an earwax cleaner to someone who doesn’t need it. We can only address people who have the need but by asking them if they have the need, we mentally let them raise their hand. We let their unconscious brain raise their hand and say, “Yeah, I have a problem with earwax.”
What’s the next thing our talent says? “So did I.” “Huh, that kind of makes sense” so the talent says, “I felt the same way” then says, “But then I tried the Wax-Rx ear wash system.” Feel, felt found, now the next step is, what do we have to do? Demonstrate the problem, demonstrate the solution. When we look at people making purchases or any decision, every decision made in any human’s life is made from one of two reasons.
It’s made for the avoidance of pain or the seeking of pleasure and I defy you to think of any decision you’ve ever made in your life that doesn’t fit one of those two classes. Avoidance of pain is a bigger motivator than seeking pleasure. As an example, someone might try using some kind of illegal drugs and maybe they smoke crack or they use heroin and they do that because, at the moment, they’re probably seeking pleasure but guess what keeps them addicted?
What keeps them addicted is avoidance of pain because once I become addicted, I don’t want to become dope sick. I don’t want to go through withdrawal, I don’t want to feel that way. I’m no longer chasing the high, I’m avoiding the low. I’m avoiding the pain, so when we’re creating our communications, we need to know that we have to talk to one of these two motivators. Am I talking to your pain or am I talking to your desire for pleasure?
Think about it, Frank. How many ads have you seen, TV commercials or whatever it is? Let’s say it’s a TV commercial. This 30-second TV commercial, how many ads have you seen for the first 25 seconds, you don’t even have any idea what’s being sold to you?
Frank Garza: Yeah, lots of them.
Mark Young: That could be, you know, Chanel No. 5 and they’ll have a commercial of this couple and they’re running on a beach and it’s in black and white and it looks very artistic and all types of things are having the last five seconds they go, “Chanel No. 5.” Okay, it might tell you that Chanel No. 5 exists. Have you ever felt highly motivated to run out and buy Chanel No. 5 when you see that?
Not really, right? It’s like, “Okay, well, that was interesting.” So if your goal in advertising is you just want people to know who you are then great, you can create all kinds of artistic stuff and spend enormous amounts of money making sure people recognize it. If your goal is to create a communication that will sell something right now then you have to deal with avoidance of pain and seeking pleasure.
By the way, this product that we talked about Wax-Rx, a $40 product in an $8.99 category, guess what? It’s the biggest selling product in that entire category right now at nearly six times the price of anything else, it’s the category killer of the business.
Frank Garza: Great example, thank you for sharing that. Well, Mark, congratulations on the book. You know, writing a book is such a feat. Is there anything else about you or the book that you want to make sure our listeners know before we wrap up?
Mark Young: I would probably say that something else you can get out of the book is we cover something which are called heuristics and biases and if you can master these heuristics and master these biases, you can make better communications. Biases are simply this: We all come to the table with a set of preconceived notions and as copywriters, as advertisers, if we work within people’s biases, they will trust us and we can communicate to them.
If you try to work outside of them, they don’t trust us. If I am a Republican and you’re a Democrat and I come at you with republican language, your democratic biases is going to shut down. “Oh, here it comes, this is another one of those people. I don’t want to listen to it” and vice-versa the other way, so we need to learn to communicate with people inside their framework. Think of a painting on the wall with a frame around it, how do you stay inside the painting?
The second thing is to understand people’s heuristics and heuristics are shortcuts and all of us make these mental shortcuts. It’s the quick way that we get to answers and Daniel Carnahan described it as System One and System Two thinking. In System One, thinking is very quick and intuitive, so if I were to say to you Frank, two and two equals what?
Frank Garza: Four.
Mark Young: See? Quick, intuitive responsive. Now, if I say, Frank, 25 divided by 17 multiplied by 3 is what?
Frank Garza: I’m not even going to try that one.
Mark Young: See the problem?
Frank Garza: Yeah.
Mark Young: Now, you leave System One and you have to move to system two. System Two is the part of your brain that’s methodical and focused, can reason and make decisions. System Two, you go, “Okay, well I know how to add so I know how to add 17 and 15 and subtract and I can do this but I have to work it out.” When we’re trying to sell things, too many companies are trying to sell people through system two except that’s not how people buy.
People buy on system one; they want it quick, intuitive, fast. So, how do I reach people at that kind of level? How do I give people the information they need to make a decision right now and not give them more than that but give them everything they need? The last thing that I will say is simply this, there’s a belief by people not in the ad business that great advertising can sell anything. I am here to tell you that the greatest advertiser in the world cannot sell anything and cannot keep a bad product alive.
Advertising in its real sense is us using communications and using psychology and neuroscience so that we can help people overcome their own fears, overcome their own fear of change, overcome their concerns so that they can try a new product or service that will actually improve their life. That’s what we should be doing.
There is a group of people out there, let’s say we’re selling an arthritis medication. We need to talk to people who have arthritis and they’re going to be fearful of this product because they’ve never tried it and they don’t want to be taking and they don’t want to try something that doesn’t work. We need to help them overcome those fears, overcome those biases so that they can make their life better. Then as a brand, the advertising doesn’t build a brand. The advertising— think of advertising as a dating service.
If you go to Match.com, Match.com’s job is to get you a whole bunch of first dates as many as you want but how do you get the second date? We get the second date because the first date went well and how do you go steady and how do you become exclusive and how do you get engaged and how do you get married? It’s by building that relationship. Well, the same thing happens with brands.
Great advertising does not build a brand, great advertising gets you lots of first dates. Great products, great service, that’s what makes brands. It’s the experience that the consumer has with you after you got the first date. That’s what advertising is really all about and what we’re about is trying to, to put it plain, how do we get a client or the reader of the book, how do we get them as many first dates as possible every day so that they can go get engaged and get married with their consumer.
Frank Garza: I like that, well put. Mark, this has been such a pleasure. I’m really excited about what you’re doing and the book that you’re putting out into the world. The book is called, HYPNO-TI$ING. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you?
Mark Young: Very easy, you can go to jekyllhydelabs.com. It is also easy to find me on Twitter @MarkYoungTruth.
Frank Garza: Thank you, Mark.