The Neuroscience of Human Connection

Dr. Matt Johnson’s focus is at the intersection of psychology, neuroscience, and marketing. He believes that every marketer should understand human psychology and that every consumer should understand their own psychology better. Dr. Johnson is passionate about helping marketing practitioners harness insights from neuroscience to better understand, serve, delight, AND connect with their customers – particularly as it pertains to brand loyalty, experiential design, and ethical persuasion.

Listen to a conversation with Matt Johnson PhD, neuroscientist and author of “Branding that Means Business”

Dr. Johnson shared some key learnings from his most recent book that can be applied to event brands and community building.

  • Branding is a deeply human enterprise – A brand needs to be relevant and resonant in the mind of the individual consumer.
  • Bonds matter only when they matter to customers – Dr. Johnson shares some great examples of companies that focused more on psychological motivators as opposed to purse strings as a pathway to success. One brand he calls out is Airbnb and notes that the concept wasn’t at all innovative (VRBO and others had been around for a while) but their play on the end user’s emotions (specifically their need to belong) is what differentiated them.
  • The ‘Why’ Test – Dr. Johnson emphasizes the importance of drilling down in market research to learn why it matters to your customer base. Keep asking “why” to get deeper psychological research, then extract the insights and incorporate them back into the brand.
  • Co-Creation – Dr. Johnson reminds us of the importance of engaging consumers/community members in the building of the brand. And he reinforces the importance of driving connection between members of the community, not with the community brand itself. Harley Davidson is an example of a company that provided a shared opportunity with shared linguistic references, but let the bonds arise between riders instead of trying to force it top-down.
    Relentlessness – Like Jeff Bezos at Amazon, identify your brand culture and then be maniacal about maintaining it.
  • Keep one eye on the Constants – It is nearly impossible to predict the future, but one can identify the things about society/human nature that don’t change. Community builders can focus on identifying the constants within their community (e.g., for Amazon, customers are never going to want slower shipping times) and then deliver on them to help develop and maintain bonds.
  • Trust – Social psychology identifies that within the first milliseconds of seeing someone, we are assessing them on warmth (good intentions or not) and competence (ability). In order to be perceived as warm, community managers must express positive intentions and invest in the long-term well-being of the members. Dr. Johnson cites Converse as an example. The sneaker company leaned into its popularity in the music industry and started offering free recording time to amateur musicians.
  • Final Advice – Understand your core audience in a way that doesn’t serve the organization. Ask what your customers value, and what would add value to their lives. What are their aspirations? Do the research – get the data points, then bring in the organization to harness it in a way that aligns with the purpose of the organization and the desired business outcomes. This will ensure warmth and competence are primary in the creation of your community.

You can learn more about Dr. Johnson’s work and order his book HERE.