How to Fuel Action: Mimic Me Prescription

How to Fuel Action: Mimic Me Prescription


Mirror neurons are ultimately our great simulation mechanism. This biological mechanism is automatic, involuntary, and in constant use. These aspects of mirror neurons make them God’s gift to marketers. To stress its profound importance to marketing, take a second to let the following message settle: Humans are essentially programmed to mimic others DOWN. TO. A. MICROSCOPIC. LEVEL.

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It would be foolish not to take advantage of this as a marketer. How? By employing one of the four ways to hack the social brain. We call this the “Mimic Me” strategy. The simple yet significant strategy is based on the digestible premise: To make your customers mimic the ideal behaviour you want them to exhibit, you must—take this literally, if you must—show it.

The Mimic Me strategy works best if marketers are diligent about identifying key behaviours worth exhibiting. Marketers must find visual actions representing the intended consumer behaviour in relation to the product. The chosen behaviours should be congruent with the brand, the product and the ideal customer. Outside of buying the product, the next best wish for a marketer is the consumer replicating the action of using the product. For example, if marketing a light beer to twenty-one-year-olds, the set of behaviours would include the following:

  • A group of 21 year olds in a supermarket picking up a 30 pack (the quantity is important here).

  • The same group playing beer pong with cans of the light beer on the table.

  • The same group watching college football and enjoying the beer as a group right out of the can (the transportation vessel, can, is important here).

Let’s say you’re marketing an award-winning microbrew Double IPA to 30+ year males. In this case, the set of behaviours differ and would instead include the following:

  • A man pouring the IPA into a chalice glass sitting in a dimly lit cigar lounge surrounded by friends lighting their cigars.

  • Same person cheers-ing his date with the same chalice glass, the date holding a glass of red wine in the traditional burgundy glass.

  • Same person enjoying dinner at steakhouse with the server pouring the beer into a chalice glass.

After creating a set of behaviours, marketers can amplify them by exhibiting the behaviours in messaging (print, video, radio, or digital). With the power of the Mimic Me strategy, the twenty-one-year-old’s brain will imagine himself drinking the light beer at the next college football game along with his best buds. The thirty year old’s brain will imagine himself ordering the dark IPA next time he’s out for a steak dinner, basking in the feeling of drinking premium beer from a chalice glass.

One of the best brands that uses the Mimic Me strategy in full force is Nike, the clear giant in its space. Nike is king at positioning its brand - not only in the market, but in the perception of its consumers. According to Graeme Newell, an emotional marketing expert, Nike has become universal as its “advertisements help show that no matter the location, Nike has a brand for everyone.” Nike’s 30-second Zombies, Friends, Celebrities, and Holidays ads from the #AreWeRunningToday? campaign are especially so powerful. It transcends visual representation of intended behaviour of the Mimic Me strategy and takes advantage of the stickiness in wordplay by making viewers realise that it’s perfectly OK to put their phones down for a little while and go out for a run. Nike has successfully moved its brand into something truly ubiquitous, simultaneously shifting its product focus into an attitude, making people perceive themselves as the hero, and their lethargy as the villain.

For 20 years, Nike has been waving the “Just Do It” banner and has perpetually found engaging, effective, and evocative ways to say it repetitively without boring their global audience, turning it into anything that is nothing short of powerful to compel people to simply get active. After all, to Nike, if you have a body, you are an athlete.

By displaying behaviours in a manner that is easily observable by others and even potential customers, marketers increase their success rate. Selling toothpaste? Show a person brushing her teeth. Selling soda? Show a person opening a can. Selling basketball shoes? You get the idea. Monkey see, monkey do.

Feed Your Brain

15Center founders Matt Johnson, PhD and Prince Ghuman are co-authors of Allure: The Neuroscience of Consumerism. To get early access, sign up here.

Together, they teach individuals and businesses how to ethically apply neuroscience to marketing via neuromarketing bootcamps to uncover consumer blind spots and help brands better engage with their customers. Get your ticket here.