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Lessons Learnt from Chinwag Psych

Last month the Chinwag Psych event took place in London, and State of Digital was there to attend and share key tips and takeaways with our readers.  The topics of the day were psychology, neuroscience, and behavioural economics with speakers sharing their findings around four key topics:

  • Anticipate
  • Persuade
  • Analyse
  • Optimise

Combining Big Data Analytics and Psychology

Ed Weatherall, Client Director at Visual DNA was the first presenter of the day.

What does it mean, big data and psychology?  What can we get from this? Historically, we operated in a physical world, we can see one another, we are emotional, we have a personality.  When we meet people,make friends we understand and know how and why they react in certain ways.

Visual DNA are trying to understand the who and the why at a massive scale.  Then they can match behaviours to understand personality.

How does Visual DNA collect data?

Visual DNA have developed a unique and patented way of understanding people, driven by science of converting visual personality quizzes into rich and accurate audience profiles.  Take the quiz Visual DNA have set up here:

Ed demonstrated that Visual DNA finds out people’s personality by asking them to take a quiz which identifies their “Big 5”:

  • Openness 
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness 
  • Neuroticism
  • Finding out the personality of consumers helps businesses to predict what customers want.
  • Agreeableness is interesting for those in gamification.  Someone who scores highly high on “agreeableness” means they care a lot about ethics.  Someone who scores lower down “agreeableness”  is more competitive.
  • Neuroticism in terms of social, means the consumer needs to be engaged on a social and emotional level (they will be on social media complaining)

VisualDNA have 300 million profiles across the web.

In business, we spend a lot of time thinking about our brand, but not as much time on our customers’ personality.

People do not generally buy for functionality anymore, as there is a lot of choice. Eg when buying a chicken, people buy organic chicken or they may buy chicken that is slightly more expensive but supports local farmers.  Visual DNA is taking what they have learnt to the market.

Chinwag Psych - Visual DNA

Three pillars of DNA

  • Credit and Risks
  • Marketing Services
  • Consumer

Credit and Risk

  • Over half the world population do not have access to credit. In Russia, 40% of the population have been using cash their whole life (and no credit cards).
  • Visual DNA have made links between personality and risk.  For example for online applications of credit cards, they want to help get 13 million people out of poverty.  It is not affordability of a credit card that makes someone accepted, but it is the likelihood of consumers who will pay back the loan.  The willingness of paying back the loan is due to their personality.
  • Psychology is understanding one of the new ways lenders to enter under developed markets.

 Marketing Services

  • How do we apply this to Marketing Services? The first banner advert that went live was 78% CTR. Now the stats are around 0.05%.  This is because we have been pushing a lot out and done little to understand recipient.
  • Marketing need to create relevant experience so they need to understand consumer.Marketing can help with better predictions that make it cheaper to engage consumers.

Better targeting

  • Acquisition
  • Conversion
  • Retention

We need to understand more “what is it my customers want?” . We need to segment audience and predict what they want. VisualDNA are not thinking of the click, but the personality of the individual.

People don’t mind telling you information if it will make their life easier and help with targeting.  There is a huge opportunity with understanding personality at scale.

For more information, view Ed’s presentation on SlideShare.

Social Media is a Living Organism

Mark Adams is the founding director of The Audience UK which now manages 70 social channels for celebrities, brands and media companies. Mark spoke about the anatomy of the social organisation.

How to demystify social platforms

A social network is a living organism and will keep growing. Technology moves so fast and there are constantly new platforms developing.

All organisms are defined by 7 distinct characteristics

  1.  Life rids itself of pollution
  • Social organisms react poorly to negativity and bad marketing.

2. Life must be nourished

  • Professional brand content is competing with every other relation you have and losing out badly.

3. Life reacts to physical stimuli

4. Life exchanges with sentiment

  • Need to be told a story that fits with them. Emotions are working through the platforms. All life has the ability to move and develop.  Brands do not give enough space for how consumers can do something with this.

5. All life has the ability to move and develop.

  • Brands do not give enough space for how consumers can do something with this.

6. Life evolves through reproduction

  • Social organisms evolve through a similar type of reproduction All reproduction is organic and responsive. Mark then shared with the audience how timely content on social media is imperative for the maximum exposure.

Chinwag Psych - Wolf of Old St

Clint Eastwood sent a tweet on Twitter which said:

“The seat’s empty. “

Then within 12 minutes, Obama posted, this seat’s taken with photo of  the back of Obama’s head

If the President of the United States can get tweets signed off this fast, your company has no excuse.

7. Living things become larger and more complicated as they grow.

  • Social organisms follow suit.
  • Start with content first, the community and the story, instead of wondering what platform to project this on.  Do not be scared of the new platforms being developed in the market.

With any story, it is important that you tell this in front of the right audience.  For example Mark told the audience about a Fiat advert that went live in the United States.  The advert promoted the car as a sexy supermodel. However, in a country of big cars such as Chevys, this advert did not do as well as the company had hoped.

The Neuroscience of Telling Stories

Sarah Walker is the Global Head of Neuroscience at Millward Brown and shared some of the insights her company and team have worked on over the past few years.  They have completed 6,000 projects and tested all sorts of different brands for 60 different markets and for 200 clients.

  • Everybody is talking about storytelling.  Stories can help brands engage people and overcome their indifference. No one sits there while watching tv and waits for  the advertising break to think about car insurance for example.

What is it about stories that are interesting for brands?

  • Your brand doesn’t have to be the star in the story in order for it to shine.  The story does not need to be about you.
  • Great advertising creates change for brands.  Changing the brand associates that feeds a decision is very important.  It is about changing the criteria for a decision.

Stories are powerful tools for creating change by:

  • Creating emotional journeys
  • Building brand cues and associates
  • Making information more compelling
  • Telling us how and when to use brands
  • Stories can create emotional journeys and can build positivity with brand.
  • Stories give the organisation something to engage with .
  • Stories can build cues and associations

E.g. Andrex, everyone knows about the little puppy that represents the toilet roll that is soft and strong.  These cues act as memory cues, like when see a puppy, people think of Andrex.

  • Stories can make information more compelling
  • Stories can create the script for how and when to use the brand
  • Connect brans with scenarios – Eg HP associate themselves with bacon sandwiches.  Feels like necessary component.

But the brand cannot be tagged on the end like a sponsor. Brand has to be part of the story.

  • Brands needs a role, for example with Lynx it is the fact that it attracts women
  • With Strongbow, you get a you reward
  • Brand can be a character.
  • A brand can also be a hero, it is the problem solution.
  • Brand has to be integral to the story.
  • Most of all, the brand has to be credible for people.

Stories can be powerful tools to change brand image but only if they are:

  • Credible
  • Relevant and
  • Worth listening to

Further details of the power of story telling can be found on SlideShare.

The Lessons of Communication by Contagion

Mark Borkowski is a PR guru with a publishing background.  He wants to engage in positive word of mouth. Never before has that been possible with the tools at our disposal.

  • PR works because it understands the power of stories and even more so with technology to spread those stories.Mark became a story creator
  • The ability to spin a story has increased.  Google is now the default research tool.
  • Newspapers are panicking cause news at any cost? Need to pull in that data. With news at any cost, the heard has grown.  They now have the power.
  • The herd is a disruptive thing. At some times they are uncontrollable.
  • We believe in the power of the crowd (the herd).  And now the herd can talk aback.  They don’t just lap it up.  They are saying something, they have the tools.

Is the story more interesting than the truth? Telling the truth is not as important as making it interesting.

  • People get carried away with stories but they are not true.
  •  Repeatable truth, people want it to be true.
  • We are capable of believe things that are not true.
  • Stories are the life inside the human mind.
  • It is not about likes, hashtags and conversions.  Bad ideas do not work.

Therefore it is important to do the following when telling stories:

  • Learn to trust different avenues of reference.
  • We ask whether you are leading your audience or following them.
  • Love the haters, if you can understand why you are being hated, you can understand and have a chance. We hate Ryan air but there was a 16% increase in profit in the last 5 years.

So put all this into context.

  • Traditional media still works.  800,000 people watched  Game of Thrones and there is another 1.2million who watch it on catch up.
  • Capturing the crowd
  •  People are scared of getting it wrong
  • But take courage, the most difficult thing is sometimes persuading people to do the right thing,

Amplify these triggers that are necessary to create stories

Funny , sexy, cute, spectacular, shocking, illuminating and then if you can amplify those triggers go to emotion.

Writing Copy That Persuades

Brian Massey from Conversion Sciences shared his tips on how to get past the bouncers in our brain.

  • 93% of communications is non-verbal when the words don’t match the facial expression
  • What is it about inconsistence that makes us pay more attention?
  • Why cant we just state the facts and be heard?
  • Brian spoke about two different areas of the brain, Broca and Wernicke.
  • Broca’s area takes verbs and turns them into images and your visual sketches in your mind
  • Wenickes area is take nouns and attaches them to images of nouns.

Chinwag Psych - Brian Massey

In getting past the bouncers in one’s brain, it is important to get past Broca. To get past Broca, understand the unexpected, unbelievable. This is uncertainty.

  • Wernicke plays with nouns.  It is all about relevance, emotion and storytelling.
  • If an advert can plant something in the message and it is relevant, this is good.
  • Triggers are anchors and this is what makes customers visit a company website.

 Watch the full video of Brian’s presentation here.

Neuromarketing is Bull****

Craig Sullivan from Optimise or Die  gave the audience a practical tool kit to get inside peoples’ heads.  This tool kit will then create create levels and turn into experiments.

1.  Get out of the office – you are all scared to admit you are guessing.

  • Go out and meet your customers.  For example go out for beer, caffeine and work breaks.  Go to where people are and ask them about your product/service.  Get someone to give you useful insight for exchange of beer.
  •  Interview like a pro.  Don’t ask random questions.

2. Immerse yourself

  • Test all keyword campaigns
  • Use real devices
  • Get your own emails
  • Order your products
  • Send an email
  • Be difficult
  • Break things

3. Experience the end to end

  • Do the same for all competitors, be a mystery shopper.

4. Get Session Replay

  • Gives you insight missing from other tools
  • Rich source of data on visitor experiences
  • Segment by browser, visitor type behaviours, errors

5. Get Their Voice

  • Have sitewide omnipresent feedback
  • Triggered behavioural feedback
  • Use of features, cancellation, abandonment
  • 4Q Gap analysis is very good
  • Do not under rate surveys
  • Make contact and feedback easy and encouraged
  • Add contact and feedback everything (eg all emails)
  • Listen to customer regularly
  • Meet your sales and support teams regularly
  • Make the team spend half a day a month at the call centre

6. Act Like a Private Eye

  • For your brand(s) and competitors
  • Check review sites, discussion boards, news
  • User Google alerts on various brands and keywords
  • See what tools they are using (ghostery.com)
  • Sign up for all competitor’s emails
  • Run cross competitor surveys

7. 8 Million Pounds a Year – One Bug

  • Test the stuff on your website, test how he emails render
  • Email , browser and mobile devices testing

8. Machine Learning

  • Google Content experiments
  • Optimizely
  • Visual website optimser
  • New machine learning tools

9. Building a Hypothesis

  • Brainstorming the test
  • Check your inputs
  • Assemble the widest possible team
  • Share your data and research
  • Design Emotive writing guidelines
  • Check your copywriting guidelines
  • User Get Mental Notes
  • What levers can we apply now?

10. Hire or Train Great Copywriters

  • On average 5 times as many people read the headlines compared to the body copy.
  • If you are not writing for simplicity, comprehension and persuasion, you are missing the biggest trick in all this work.
  • Do not get developers to write error messages
  • Eye control and copy detection

11. Read stuff

12. Agile, learn and optimization

  • Have a agile environment.
  • Think like a store owner.  Which floors or department will you invest in and optimise. Look at the footfall and see where the opportunities are.

13. Work the dark side

  • Learn from failure
  • Seek out unhappy people
  • Interview annoyed customers

14. Use Great Photos

  • Stock photos do not work
  • They are not genuine
  • Images are vital to help sell an experience
  • Helps people process information and stories


  • It is all about input and execution
  • Don’t randomly test – game the system
  • If you read all this stuff, you’ll do well
  • Drive split test using data, psychology and customers.
  •  If it is not working, you are not doing it right.

The full presentation can be found on Craig’s Slideshare profile.

Create Killer Headlines with These Secrets

Nathalie Nahai spoke about The Secret Psychology Behind Persuasive Content.  She shared with the audience how to apply web psych principles to help engage people using three different forms of content:

  • Copy
  • Images
  • Videos

There are 3 secrets to online success:

  1. Know you are you are talking to
  2. Communicate persuasively – for example, body language, expressions, clothes to get people to trust you and get a rapport with.  Then adapt the core message to the audience.
  3. Sell with integrity

When persuading people, you have to be careful about intention. Do you want them to buy the stuff so that you (the organisation) can get rich? Or do you want there to be a mutual benefit?


Is this a golden ratio 80:20?

80% on headline and 20% content. But people are annoyed if there is no content with the headline. So think about the content first, ask yourself would it make people read on?.  It is important to have a hook to get people to read your content. Nathalie shared with us how to create these important persuasive headlines.

Chinwag Psych - Nathalie Nahai

9 Steps To Persuasive Headlines

  1. Understand your target audience
  2. Write to one person
  3. Write the outline of copy first then headline
  4. Use psychological trigger words
  5. Write several diff headline and read them aloud
  6. Pick no 1 benefit and include in headlines
  7. include the problem in the headlines
  8. Write a totally wacky headlines
  9. Split test headlines

Use trigger words including:

Weird, bizarre, strange, effortless, pain staking, fun, it is not what you think, fun, secret etc.  Buzzfeed and upworthy are good examples of creating great headlines.

Be Audacious

  1. Promise your reader something valuable
  2. Dare them to read your article
  3. Be bold
  4. Be seductive.

There is a formula to make persuasive headlines.  Include a number and trigger in the headline.

For example, if you are writing on the subject “Frying Eggs”.  Write an article called “13 unbelievable ways you can fry a small egg”. 

It is important to have the following in the headline:

  • Number
  • Trigger word
  • Adjective
  • Keyword
  • Promise

Engaging Images

Images are instant, data rich and visually compelling.  Images should:

  1. Elicit emotion (anger fear, happiness, sadness)
  2. Tell a story
  3. Create a Curiosity Gap

Viral Videos

Boost shareability and these are the ways to create viral videos:

  1. Use nostalgia
  2. Mirror Your Audience
  3. Make it Funny

Key Takeaways

  • When writing copy/selecting images, know who you are targeting
  • Use web psych optimise your process
  • Elicit emotion in your process

The Strongest Persuader = YOU


This was a great event organised by Chinwag Psych, with lots of fantastic tips and takeaways that we can all input in our business.  It has been said throughout the day, but it is imperative to understand the consumer before the marketing can be effectively carried out.



Jo Turnbull is the organiser of Search London and the founder of SEO Jo Blogs, which provides practical advice and tips for those in SEO.
  • This event sounds like it was something right up my alley! I’ve a long standing fascination with neuroscience and behavioural economics. Great takeaways, Jo!

    Though truth be told, any guy speaking at an event whilst wearing a lab coat is, in my opinion, drinking a bit too much of his own kool-aid… I mean, seriously?

  • Nick Garner

    Im with Barry Adams on this – it looks like it was a fascinating event