The Brain Doesn’t Recognise Your Future

Modern science is now allowing us to take a deep dive into the functionality of our brain like never before, writes Ram Jalan

How do we think? How do we make decisions? Or how can the decision-making process be swayed? Well, the human brain is an enigma. More than 100 billion nerve cells work together to give us the cognitive abilities which have empowered us to become the most superior species on the planet. The brain is far more powerful than any supercomputer ever built.

Within the intricate labyrinth of our minds, a peculiar phenomenon emerges our brains, regrettably, fail to recognise our future selves. This disconnection with our future alters the course of our decision-making and hinders the establishment of long-term goals. To unravel this captivating enigma within the realm of consumer neuroscience, innovative marketing strategies come to the fore, seeking to bridge the gap and forge a profound connection with our future selves.

The beguiling campaign, "Do it for Denmark" unveiled by Spies Rejser, a Danish travel agency, sought to orchestrate a remarkable upsurge in the country's birth rate. Among its captivating advertisements, a whimsical video playfully urged couples to embark on a romantic weekend getaway, invoking the rallying cry of "Do it for Denmark!" But, the campaign never really worked its trajectory veered off-course as its focus leaned towards long-term outcomes, neglecting the allure of immediate gratification. Furthermore, the message conveyed might have, in some instances, appeared rather insensitive to certain viewers, rendering the endeavour less successful than anticipated.

Modern science is now allowing us to take a deep dive into the functionality of our brain like never before. FMRI scans, demonstrate something very interesting that is the regions of our brain responsible for predictive processing succumb to a perplexing shutdown when tasked with envisioning our distant future. Our own future selves, within the realm of our cerebral landscapes, transform into complete strangers. The farther our gaze extends, the more alien and disconnected we become. Thus, attempts to motivate our brains by divulging elaborate plans, be it for retirement, physical fitness, or other endeavours, inevitably lead to disillusionment. Regrettably, this innate response perpetuates procrastination, making us cling to our familiar preferences and the comforting embrace of our comfort zones.

Moreover, today we want everything instantly whether a cup of coffee or a bowl of noodles. The human inclination to favour immediate rewards and tangible benefits over future rewards manifests in a psychological phenomenon known as "delay discounting". As we distance ourselves from hypothetical future scenarios, our present selves tend to display diminished self-control, paving the way for decisions that prioritise personal gains over pro-social or transformative endeavours. Rarely do thoughts of the future emerge organically, except in the face of impending mortality, permanent illness, or incapacitation. Consequently, brands must craft messaging that balances the allure of long-term benefits with the enticement of immediate rewards, while ensuring the message resonates as deeply personal and relevant to their discerning audience.

In the intricately delicate dance between our brilliant brains and the vast expanse of the future, lies a truth both compelling and promising, a well-crafted advertising campaign possesses the power to transform our brains' perception, turning strangers into lifelong friends.

(The author heads Digital Marketing and Customer Experience for a Life Insurance brand. With a strong focus on MarTech and Digital Transformation, he brings expertise in driving successful marketing strategies and enhancing customer experiences.)

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