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Marketing and the Brain — Part 3 of 3

Marketing and the Brain — Part 3 of 3

In part 3 of Marketing and the Brain, we’ll cover why your marketing strategy should cater to a person’s tendency to follow their gut feeling, make impulse decisions and protect their free will. These psychology concepts help inform marketers and salespeople how to effectively appeal to prospects, and can be used by you to convert more leads and grow your firm.

Emotional decisions

We often convince ourselves that we follow a strictly logical code for our decision-making process. We tell ourselves that our actions, especially in our professional lives, should be based on rational rather than emotional thinking. We like to believe that when we make a purchase, we have done a cost-benefit analysis: do we need it, and if so, is it worth the price? But in fact, neuroscience tells us that after considering our options, emotions always take the reigns in guiding us toward a final decision.

So, first, what is an emotion, and how does it relate to marketing?


An emotion is the summary of the information registered about your environment or situation. It’s an unconscious reaction to external stimuli, and is meant to protect you from danger by triggering a response to make you navigate a situation in a way that helps rather than hinders you. In other words, an emotion helps you make decisions, big ones and small ones. This is why we usually feel uneasy if we do something that goes against a “gut feeling.”

A study by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio brought the inexorable relationship between feelings and decisions to the spotlight within scientific circles. The study involved people who had damaged the part of their brain where emotions are formed, preventing them from feeling emotions. While the participants could describe in logical terms what they should be doing, they could not make even the simplest decisions, such as choosing between two pens of different colors or what they wanted to eat for lunch. Without a rational way of choosing between eating fish or beef, for example, a decision could not be made.

Marketing is all about getting people to make a decision: usually, “Choose Us.” Since we know that emotions play an essential role in our decision-making, you should play to users’ emotions in your marketing strategy. Even if you have what may be incontrovertible logic in your argument for why prospective clients should pick you over your competitors, they won’t be swayed unless you can convince them on an emotional level that you are the best choice for them. Between two firms that have equal accomplishments, prospects will end up following their gut feeling when it comes down to deciding who they prefer.

To help them come to the discovery that you are the best attorney or law firm for them, you should create an appealing vision for prospective clients in your website through copywriting and design that invoke subconscious feelings of goodwill, security and trust. They will end up picking you because you bring them peace of mind, or you match their image of what makes a good lawyer for them. If you provide prospects with positive emotions on your site, as well when you speak to them on the phone, via email, or in person, then you will likely convert more leads, and grow your firm.

“Act now”

Retro TV Commercial

There are two ways you can sway users through your copywriting using psychological tactics that appeal to basic emotions — and they seem to contradict each other. One is by telling them to “Act now,” and the other is by telling them that they “are free” not to take action.

First, consider the power of the words “Act now.”

By telling someone to “act now” on a website, you are betting on the possibility that the user will make a sudden impulse decision. This is an effective marketing tactic because the mind is actually wired to make impulse decisions. At some point in most people’s lives, they will have made a decision “in the heat of the moment.” This concept applies more commonly to small purchases, or decisions that provide immediate gratification or that have short-term or small consequences. It is more likely that a person will impulsively buy a bar of candy at the checkout line of a corner store than they will impulsively hire an attorney to represent them in court. However, the “act now” concept still has its benefits in legal marketing.

When we see the word “now,” we our mind sends a signal that inspires us to take action. You can implement this concept in the early stages of lead generation. Small, risk-free decisions like contacting an attorney for a live chat can lead to bigger decisions like hiring that attorney to represent them in their case. They might impulsively decide to contact a law firm for an estimate or sign up for their newsletters, which are stepping stones that lead toward conversions. Give users that extra push they need by including the word “now” in your copy when calling for action. Examples include:

• Subscribe now
• Chat now
• Get resolution now
• Download now
• Get an estimate now

Once a visitor acts on that impulse, you’ve gained their first “yes.” And when someone has said yes once, they are more likely to say yes again. This is referred to as the foot in the door technique, which has been used by marketers and salespeople successfully for years. Thus, a little bit of pressure can go a long way.

"You Are Free”


On the other hand, saying “no pressure” can go a long way, too. According to the compliance-generating strategy referred to as “But You Are Free,” people are more likely to comply or take action if they are told that they have the freedom to choose not to.

In a study, subjects were asked to donate money for a cause. Only 10 percent complied when they were NOT given the choice not to comply. But when the request added the phrase “but you are free to accept or refuse,” 47.5 percent of the study’s subjects complied. So why does modifying a request with “you are free to refuse,” which is an inherent given in any request, hold so much weight in a person’s decision to comply?

It has to do with our emotional aversion to orders, regulations and impositions, indicated in the psychological reactance theory. Humans have a fundamental wish to be in control, and when someone makes a request that appears to take away their control, they are more likely to respond negatively to the request. However, when a request is given with the “but you are free” phrase, a person’s mind perceives that their freedom to say “no” is not threatened.

You can apply this strategy to your website’s copy, as well as to in-person meetings with prospective clients. For example, if you are conducting an online survey regarding a user’s experience, you can phrase it with “but you are free to participate later.” You can also provide the impression in your emails or website copy that users have a choice to act — whether in prompting users to sign up for a newsletter, or when you meet a prospective client in person. People care about their freedom — remind them that you are not threatening it.

If you follow these tips, you are likely to connect with clients and prospects in a more positive way. And positive emotions will win their favor, which in turn can help you grow your firm.

Check out part 1 of this series, where we discuss how the brain processes visual input, such as logos, color and images on a website. Also read part 2, where we cover the psychological implications of copywriting and offer surprising tips for writing effective copy.

Cristina Fríes is a MA in English/Creative Writing from UC Davis (2019), and is a legal marketing strategist and content developer for CLM. Her interests include creating compelling marketing content, writing books, and traveling the world.