What is the Reticular Activator?


The reticular activator is actually a network of nerves and cells in the brain that work to eliminate distracting background noise and show you just what you want to see. But what does this have to do with marketing?

It was my friend, Ray McClelland, who first explained the reticular activator to me. Ray explained it something like this:

Example of the reticular activator

Say you’re in the market for a new car, and you test drive a red Toyota Camry. You really like it, and you decide to go home and think about the purchase decision. On the drive home, you notice several new, red Toyota Camry automobiles. In fact, everywhere you go the next few days, you see red Toyota Camrys. You hadn’t noticed them before, but there’s a red Camry passing you on the road everyday! Wow, this is a popular car, and you decide it must be a good car to purchase. So you return to the dealer and buy one.

This is the reticular activator at work — there is, in fact, no increase in the number of Toyota Camrys on the road, but thanks to your reticular activator, you’re noticing that car all the time. What a powerful system inside your brain this is! It’s almost as though your brain is reminding you about the car just because you’re focused on it.

Can businesses use the reticular activator to influence buyer behavior?

The beauty of the reticular activator in the brain is that it acts so subtly — the individual experiencing its effect doesn’t even realize what is happening. In the example with the new car above, the person doesn’t feel as though he or she is being bombarded by Toyota Camrys; rather, they’re appearing just as “suggestions” that you happen to take notice of.

There is an online marketing technique that mimics this — it’s called “retargeting”. A retargeting ad is an ad that an individual sees after leaving a particular website.

Perhaps you have had this experience yourself:

You visit a website such as Amazon because you’re shopping for an item. You leave Amazon’s website, perhaps without making a purchase. Now, for the next few days, you see an ad for the item you were interested in, appearing on other sites you visit.

That’s called retargeting.

Small businesses can do the same thing, even if they aren’t eCommerce sites such as Amazon.

Say you decide to promote a new product or service, so you send an email to your in-house list and your prospects. Your email encourages people to visit your website for more information, and some people do. But you want those folks to remember you, so you set-up a retargeting campaign that shows them your ad the next time they logon to Facebook.

Voila! Now they see reminders of you throughout the day, or over the next few days — even weeks or months. You have created the reticular activator experience for them!

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