The world has changed dramatically over the last decade. Right now, businesses that aren’t able to reach consumers on mobile devices are largely obscure, and irrelevant.

The results that come up in searches, and the products we find through ads aren’t necessarily the best products – but they have the best marketing. Further, the brands that are becoming very particular, and data-driven are getting inside our minds – and in our pockets.

Here’s how,

  1. They Understand Thinking Fast & Slow
  2. They Overload Us With Information
  3. They Use Mirror Neurons
  4. They Don’t Complicate Things

The Understand Thinking Fast and Slow

In 2002, Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist, and economist became the second psychologist in history to win a Nobel Prize (the other was Ivan Pavlov, nearly 100 years prior in 1904). In 2011, Kanheman wrote the best-selling book, Thinking Fast and Slow.

In the book, he discusses the two systems operating in the human mind. One is the fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, animalistic mind (also known as the unconscious or subconscious mind). While the other is the slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating mind (also known as the conscious mind).

Kanheman’s Conclusion? Humans are extremely irrational creatures.

The conscious mind will always justify the inherent preferences, biases, and reactions of the subconscious mind. In other words, we’ll use logic and reason to justify completely irrational beliefs, perceptions, and biases.

Here’s a breakdown of how this process might work

  • A user visits a website and the subconscious mind of that user has decided to buy, unbeknownst to that user.
  • Now, the conscious mind is tasked with coming up with a reason to justify the purchase.
  • The reason the conscious mind decides they want to make the purchase is that the business has been around for a long time, has great reviews, and a solid return policy.
  • BUT in reality, the subconscious mind liked the colors of the website because they were reminiscent of the user’s favorite blanket as a child.

They Use Information Overload

The human brain contains more than 100 billion neurons and is 30x more powerful than the most powerful supercomputer.

Neurons are specialized cells transmitting nerve impulses.

Neuromarketing deals with using triggers that stimulate an associative response in online or digital marketing. It addresses the brain/body connection studied in behavioral economics. Consequently, this is how marketers can subliminally influence your purchase decisions.


  • Newspaper advertising revenue has dropped more than 75% since the year 2000.
  • Today, the average response rate for direct mail is only 2.9%.
  • On the digital side, ad-blocking has increased from 15-30% since 2014.
  • 82% of consumers have exited a webpage because of an auto-playing online video ad.
  • 78% of emails are never opened and users don’t click the links in 96% of emails.
  • In 2000, the average attention span was 12 seconds.
  • In 2018, it was 8 seconds.
  • In the next 50 years, our attention span could be so short it’s virtually non-existent.

Additionally, consumers feel overloaded with information.

Modern consumers have grown less trusting of advertisers. However, they feel more confident & informed when it comes to making buying decisions.

This is a double-edged sword because market leaders have figured out how to build extreme brand loyalty without superior products or services, largely due to the use of subliminal marketing tactics that build conviction within users.

They Use Mirroring

Mirror neurons represent a distinctive class of neurons that discharge when an individual executes an act. Additionally, this happens when we observe another individual performing the same act.

This mirroring effect is an involuntary response.

Have you ever been to a movie, and found yourself becoming emotionally involved with the characters or the plot line?

Maybe it was a thriller, and you found yourself relaxing into your seat after a tense scene? Not realizing the adrenaline and anxiety you were feeling until you begin to relax…

Advertisers of the past used text and stock photos to evoke an emotional response in users. Modern advertisers have taken things a step further.

For example, a dentist may use a real patient’s “before” photo, wincing in pain before surgery. Then, they’ll use an “after” photo of the same patient taken several weeks later.

This is direct communication with the subconscious mind of prospective patients who are experiencing the same kind of pain.

It’s an extremely effective technique used on landing pages today.

Botox for Depression

In another example, Professor Tillmann Kruger announced an innovative Botox study at the American Psychiatric Association’s 2014 Annual Meeting.

He discussed how a single Botox injection had been used as a treatment for major depression – and it worked.

Some patients received a single injection of Botox, while others received a saline placebo injection (“fake treatment”). Neither set of patients knew which injection they had received. Six weeks later, these were the results:

  • The Botox group = 47.1% reduction in depression symptoms
  • The placebo group = 9.2% reduction in depression symptoms


The injection of botulinum toxin paralyzes facial muscles, making it impossible to frown. So yes, there were aesthetic benefits that led to better mirror feedback from others.

But there was an additional benefit that no one predicted.

Expressing a positive emotion (or NOT expressing a negative emotion) causes us to feel a specific mood, not just the other way round.

They concluded that there is a mutual activity between our physiology and emotions. Marketers caught onto this and realized that moods can cause emotions, but feeling a specific emotion can also evoke a specific mood!

The message: Any content you watch or interact with has the ability to get inside your head, without your conscious consent.

They Use Simplicity

There are over 150 cognitive biases at work at any given moment.

Cognitive biases are systematic patterns of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Therefore, user preferences and beliefs are hard-wired based on life experience.

Biases exist without a logical rationale.

The subconscious mind is driving 90% of our decisions.

Before learning about a product or service, there are pre-existing beliefs and biases that predispose a user to make a purchase.

Big brands understand this and know how to appeal to this animalistic, irrational nature in all of us.

There seems to be no difference between humanity and nature. Although, there are endless ways we choose to live our lives in a different fashion than what we see in nature.

Perhaps, we’re not that different from the trees in the forest, or our ancestors who lived thousands of years ago…

Perhaps, we are still one with nature.

And the idea is not to try changing this, but to become observant and aware of our natural tendencies.

Algorithms are reactive and predictive, not emotionally intelligent (they’re artificially intelligent).

They tell advertisers what users respond to but not why users are responding. Therefore, becoming more aware of what’s on your feed, and only commenting on or interacting with the content you’d like to see more often will help you.

Most importantly, if a piece of content is provoking an emotional response that doesn’t make you feel good, don’t interact with it.