Implicit motives orient the attention of individuals, ultimately shaping their behaviour.
— David McClelland, Chairman of the Department of Psychology, Harvard University
Twin Design /

Twin Design /

Why does the human brain pay attention to one thing, and not to another? Understanding the mental process that directS attention is crucial to improve marketing performance.

The Challenge

  • The marketing industry struggles to capture the consumer's attention.
  • Ad recall levels are shrinking in a hyper mobile and hyper connected world.
  • Increased media spending does not equal increased attention for the message.

The Problem

  • Marketers have a limited knowledge about the neural mechanisms that direct human attention.
  • Too much guessing and too little science has a negative impact on the ROI of most media investments.

The Solution

  • Cognitive sciences now produce insights that help to win the battle for attention.
  • Adopting the knowledge and installing a science driven marketing culture.

Beyond Reason

  • Beyond Reason provides the training, the tools and the services that corporations require to install a science driven marketing culture.
  • Adopting the Beyond Reason method increases overall marketing performance.


in detail

Imagine a cyclist ploughing through rush hour traffic. The roar of car engines,  the smell of petrol fumes, the vibrations in the handle bar, the pressure on the pedals, splatters of rain on his skin, faces of anonymous people in the streets, etc, etc.
Although his senses do pick-up these signals, most of them go by unnoticed. Our cyclist is not consciously paying attention to most of what his nerves are conveying to his brain.


Now imagine that you have invested in a bus shelter poster campaign.
You want the people in the street to notice your poster, you need to capture the consumer’s attention.  But does putting your poster out there equals getting attention? No. Unfortunately, the answer is no. 

To our cyclist’s brain your poster is just another visual impulse, it does not distinguish itself from the faces in the street, nor from anything else he might be observing. The assumption that putting your message out there equals capturing attention, is one of the most common mistakes in marketing. 

How does it work then, how does the brain decide what it pays attention to?
And how can a commercial message increase its ‘attention capturing’ potential?

Ivan Mateev /

Ivan Mateev /

A traditional campaign development process start with a creative briefing. Most creative briefings do include a ‘stopping power’ criterium. This means that the creative agency is expected to inject an element in the campaign that makes audiences stop and watch, an element that makes people pay conscious attention to your message. This is a lot to expect. How this huge expectation should be met is left to the agency’s imagination and creativity.

The next step in the campaign development process is the evaluation of the agency’s creative proposals by the marketing team. Since most marketing teams do not have a scientific framework at their disposal to measure the proposal's 'stopping power', they quite understandably resort to experiences, interpretations and intuitions -basically,  their best educated guess.

Too much guessing and too little science results in a highly unpredictable media ROI. Organisations should not be relying on imagination, agency creativity and interpretations to win that all important 'battle for attention.

BEYOND REASON offers a solution to this problem. 
The combined sensorial system -everything we see, hear, smell, taste, sense- constantly uploads a vast flow impulses to our brain. The volume of transferred data roughly corresponds with 11,5 million bits per second (bps) of information. 
The outer layer of brain activity, the conscious thoughts, can not deal with these high volumes. Several studies estimate that the conscious brain can only process 50 bps of data. This is the reason why we simply can not pay equal attention to all of the sensorial impulses. It needs to be filtered, or the system clogs-up.
So how does the filter work -were and how is it decided what part of sensorial input merits our attention, and what part doesn’t? 

A network of nerves conveys all sensorial input directly towards the deeper brain regions. In only a few milliseconds the input gets processed, tagged, categorised and stored. It is somehow comparable to a sorting centre of the postal services.
During this ultra-fast processing, impulses that that strongly relate to the fulfilment of implicit motives are granted a sort of priority status. Priority status impulses are allowed to travel towards the outer brain layer, towards a level of conscious attention.

For instance, imagine that our cyclist is on his way to pick up his daughter at school.  Amongst all the visual impulses the face of his daughter is just another batch of information traveling through the optic nerve. Only during the processing it receives priority status -this particular batch of visual information strongly relates to the cyclists implicit motive: parent/child bonding - only then the signal is allowed to travel towards the level of conscious thoughts. The cyclist is completely unaware of this process, he' just' recognises his girl, and pays attention to her.  The reason why he does not pay attention to the vast majority of other sensorial impulses, including your poster, is because they do not relate to his implicit motives. These less relevant impulses are stored in the short term memory or are simply deleted, in any case we will hardly ever consciously pay attention to them. 
If your poster goes by unnoticed, if it fails to capture attention, your campaign investment is largely wasted. In order to avoid this, your commercial message needs to be processed in such a way that the brain of your target audience attributes a priority status to it. 
Campaigns with real stopping power need to contain outspoken elements that relate directly to the fulfilment of the consumer’s implicit motives. 

Innovative market research methods help marketing teams and their agencies with the development of campaigns that win 'the battle for attention'.  
BEYOND REASON has the knowledge and specialised tools, to research implicit motives. 
BEYOND REASON can help you to win that all important ‘Battle for Attention’


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→  Read more about implicit marketing science
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