SD #38 | The Best Avatar in the World Isn't Enough

#brain #copywriting #marketing #neuroscience Apr 15, 2023


You Can Create the Best Avatar in the World, But It's Pointless if You Don't Do This


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Read Time: 6.0 minutes


No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.  —  Daniel Kahneman

What’s the Tip?

You can create the best, most-researched buyer persona or avatar in the world and still miss the mark by targeting the wrong part of their brain.

The secret to cutting through is to craft messages that target your customer’s primal brain. But too often, that’s not what happens. Too often, you’ll target your customer’s rational brain. That’s a problem. Here’s why.

On the evolutionary scale, our rational brain is the most recent part of the brain. It deals with high-level cognitive functions.

But deeper inside, we have something called the primal brain. And guess what? The decisions that really matter are made by the primal brain.

Behavorial economists like Daniel Kahneman describe this as the bottom-up effect. Decision-making starts with the primal brain before radiating to the rational brain.


How Do You Use It?

One of the best ways to reach a customer's primal brain won't come as a surprise. It's storytelling. Storytelling does two things in particular that grab the attention of the primal brain:

1. Clarity. Your primal brain doesn't do complicated. It spends most of its time jealously guarding its energy, so it can assess potential life and death situations and respond accordingly.

Storytelling creates clarity by having a recognizable beginning, middle, and end, which are driven by cause and effect.

But clarity, while essential, will only take you so far with the primal brain.

You have to give the primal brain a reason to engage. To do that, you've got to grab its attention. And that requires pattern-interruption.

2. Pattern-Interruption. If you ever watched Sesame Street as a kid or with your kids, you probably remember the game "one of these things is not like the other."

That's essentially what pattern interruption is all about: your attention is grabbed when something stands out...something that disrupts.

And when it comes to the primal brain, the interruption has to have high stakes! The interruption has to be perceived as helping or threatening survival. 

In storytelling, this interruption comes in the form of a change, which could be a problem or an opportunity.


What are Some Examples? 

Recently, we've been talking a lot about a sales strategy called "creating the benefit of the benefit."

You may have read about this when we talked about "non-smarmy marketing" a few weeks ago. We also talked about it last week as part of a LinkedIn series led by Sophie Lechner.

The idea is this: most of us know that when selling a product or service, features will only get us so far. What we really need to sell is the benefit.

Now, let's apply what we know about the primal brain and the rational brain to this idea of features and benefits.

Features appeal to the rational brain but aren't emotionally charged enough to interest the primal brain. This is where benefits come into play. 

Here are two examples from a PDF we put together on the benefit of the benefit:

Example 1: Noise-Canceling Headphones

Unless you're in the market for these, this description registers a "0" on the primal brain interest scale.

Feature: Advanced noise-canceling technology

Still a "0: on the primal brain scale.

Benefit: Uninterrupted, immersive listening experience

Moves the needle a little.

Benefits of the Benefit: Increased focus and productivity, reduced stress levels, and the ability to enjoy your favorite music or podcasts anywhere without being bothered by external noise.

Now, we're getting somewhere. Primal brain is primed.

More Beneficial Magic

By showcasing the deeper impact of the headphones, you're not just selling a pair of headphones; you're selling a more focused, stress-free life and an opportunity to create a personal sanctuary wherever you are.

Your primal brain translates this benefit of the benefit to mean more time to shore up energy for what really matters.


Example 2: Time-Saving Meal Delivery Service

Unless you're in the market for this kind of service, this description registers a "0" on the primal brain interest scale.

Feature: Pre-portioned, ready-to-cook meals delivered to your door

 Still a "0" on the primal brain scale. 

Benefit: Save time on meal planning, shopping, and preparation

Ok, we're moving the needle a little.

Benefits of the Benefit: More quality time with loved ones, reduced stress around mealtime, and the opportunity to explore new cuisines and develop healthy eating habits. Opportunity to create new, shared experiences with family and loved ones.

Now, we're getting somewhere. Primal brain is primed.

More Beneficial Magic

Rather than merely selling the convenience of pre-portioned meals, you're offering customers a chance to reclaim precious time, strengthen relationships, and embark on a journey of culinary discovery – all while making healthier choices.

Your primal brain translates this benefit of the benefit to mean you've got another food source plus a way to strengthen the bonds of family and community which are mission critical for protection and survival.

What's the Benefit to You?

You're likely going to spend some time, effort, and maybe even money trying to get a handle on who your ideal customer is. Nailing down your avatar or buyer persona is an investment. 

By doing this work, you're narrowing the pool of sales targets to those who are most likely to buy from you which is awesome.

But you still need to make sure you're targeting the primal brain of that avatar.

Storytelling that provides clarity and interest can go a long way in influencing the primal brain of your targeted decision maker and ultimately boosting your sales!



  1. 🧠 The primal brain is responsible for the decisions that really matter, while the rational brain deals with high-level cognitive functions.
  2. 📖 Storytelling is one of the best ways to reach a customer's primal brain, as it creates clarity and interest, removing distractions and making it possible for us to care
  3. 👀 Pattern-interruption is an effective tool to engage the primal brain, as it must have high stakes, and be perceived as helping survival or threatening it
  4. 💡 Features appeal to the rational brain but aren't emotionally charged enough to interest the primal brain. Benefits of the benefit, on the other hand, move the needle and provide more significant, primal brain-oriented value.
  5. 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 The benefit to you is that by targeting the primal brain decision maker through storytelling that provides clarity and interest, you can boost sales.
  6. 🌟 Clarity and interest are key to engaging the primal brain, and pattern-interruption can help you stand out and grab attention.
  7. 🎉 Crafting messages that target your customer’s primal brain can help you cut through and reach your ideal customer.


We hope you've found this issue of StoryDirect helpful! If you'd like to receive tips like this each week, plus much more, check out the StoryDirectors' Club!

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