Limbic map-the method to define a target audience in 2021.-CXL Digital Psychology and Persuasion course (Review)

“All models are wrong, but some are useful.” — George Box

he right question would be “Is the model true?”. George Box, a British statistician, said it never is, but rather “Is the model good enough for this particular application?”

Furthermore, as marketers, we are constantly testing various things, but for what cause? To increase conversions, is it a lead generation or e-commerce sales. In the end, our goal is to grow the revenue one way or another.

Watching Andre Morys speech, about various methods used among marketers, it just came naturally to change the way of thinking. The A/B testing method we usually use is, in most cases, ineffective. There are more powerful methods/techniques where we can get a better idea of what drives the decision-making of our targeted audiences, either product, brand, promotion, emotion or any other reason related.

The Method/Techniques for our tests should be more accurate and by saying that we have to dig deeper. The Answer? We have to personalize it, and we can do it thanks to ↓

The Limbic map, a more user-centred design approach that pays attention to the user’s feelings toward a product. However, what does that mean?

How are decisions made?

“People do not buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.” — Zig Ziglar

All customers go through the same, basic steps when making a purchase. They want to determine the best possible products to fit their needs. People always do quality research, and mostly compare it to other options, and then what?

Decision time.

We might think that most of our decisions are rational, and looking at different studies on the topic, they are. 70% of our decisions are conscious, while 30% emotional. However, a high percentage of our conscious choices are emotionally driven.

That leaves us in a territory where it is impossible to pull out exact numbers. While it is ungrateful to have pure assumptions without any numbers as proof, the experience is teaching that we make most of our decisions based on our emotions. It is just the human drive, the deep unconsciousness, which in the end makes us human.

For us marketers, a simple start to understanding users decisions is putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes and try to think about what emotions drove them to make a particular choice.

4 Factors that Influence Decision Making

Decision-making is an important area of research in cognitive psychology. Psychologists understand four mental processes that are responsible for our decision.

Click here for a detailed explanation of different factors that influence decision-making and how they are perceived.

The one that seems like the most important is the emotion factor.

Emotions are the primary system that we use to process information and form an optimal decision.

Is it true?

Yes, there are plenty of studies to prove it. And the best thing? We have numerous, proven methods to attract more customers, sales and other conversions that came out of those studies. Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman (2002 Noble Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences) explained the two ways that we think:

Intuition (System 1)

  • the reflex system, which triggers an automated mode of thinking
  • similar past situations, routine problems
  • the gut feeling
  • emotion, motivation, behaviour

Reasoning (System 2)

  • analytical, rational side to the thinking process
  • slow, requires serious cognitive effort
  • logical judgment
  • perception, cognition, thought, language, real calculations, math

So what is the point?

Understanding customers decision, their likes or dislikes, values, habits and beliefs, helps to realize why are they using the service or product, and most important:

  • it provides the necessary information to drive the brand forward
  • creates predictability in business outcomes

Here is how it works,

Define the target audience by applying Emphatic design

“People may forget what you say. They may forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Carl Buehner.

If you wonder what emphatic design is, it is a user-centred design approach that pays attention to the user’s feelings toward a product. According to the CXL Institute;

It tries to tease out some subconscious desires that customers would typically have difficulty envisioning or articulating, as well as to align branding and design with those subconscious desires to create more motivation to purchase.

The CXL’s Institute understanding is a bit different,

emphatic design is an actual research process as opposed to more of a philosophy, where they create a piece of formative research known as a Limbic Map®

What is Limbic Map®?

After watching André Morys (CEO and founder of konversionsKRAFT, leading German conversion optimization agency) summit talk about Five Neuromarketing Hacks to Dominate Your Market, I was astonished by the valuable insights that I got.

According to André , if you want your buyer personas to count, you have to look beyond basic, all the way -to their core values and emotions, so he shared a model popularized by German neuroscientist Dr Georg Häusel:

This mysterious thing is a technique developed by the German firm, Nymphenburg Group.

It maps emotions based on three categories:

  • Stimulant- playful emotions like creativity, curiousness, fun, pleasure and humour
  • Dominance- order and discipline, attaining status or position over others
  • Balance- security-related terms like trust, friendship, loyalty, and home

From these three emotion systems, further subsystems can be derived that are different in each individual (taken from Nyphemburg’s white paper on the technique):

  • Harmonizers — family-oriented, emotionally led and tend to avoid risks. They go for brands which signal positive emotions and trustworthiness.
  • Traditionalists — usually lead a modest lifestyle and are sceptical of new things, risks, spontaneity and relaxed attitudes. They expect brands to be “safe” and trustworthy.
  • Bon vivants — free-spending, money is no object types. They enjoy shopping and follow the latest fashion trends. They are very event and experience-oriented people.
  • Disciplined — differ from traditionalists in that they do not necessarily emphasize tried and trusted products, but are attracted by the straightforward and uncomplicated. They like guaranteed quality and a good price/benefit ratio.
  • Hedonists — enjoy everything that highlights their body or personality, or places them in the limelight, including flaunting brand labels. They tend to be ambitious and creative. They gravitate towards impulsive buys, usually towards expensive products.
  • Performers — assertive, highly ambitious, ready to take on responsibility and more rational than emotional. They value exclusivity and prestigious brands, rejecting cheap brands.
  • Adventurers — love nonconformity, spontaneity and leadership. What attracts them are risks, novelties, fashion, attractive brands offering added value or performance attributes.

However, what does that mean?

As mentioned in the CXL Institute article about Emphatic Design, you are looking for the implicit reasons people use your product. With this knowledge, you can better design and position your product to align with their emotions and motivations.

How does this implicit thing work?

It is clear where this is heading, right? No?

In this example, the implicit code is a high-end product, BMW car, reserved only for a rich and powerful man, without directly stating that message.

Where can implicit codes be seen?

  • A strong phrase “Some of us are driven”
  • Lightning
  • Surrounding (Skyscrapers, Dubai)
  • Position of a product

So, the first thought when we see a BMW is: the rich and successful man, probably good-looking. When we think of Dacia profile person, well answer for yourself.

As Morys stated, “Understand how the human brain works to leverage that knowledge into business growth”.

It is easy to try nowadays, by applying the 5-second test, to identify which implicit codes websites send out.

5-second test:

1) Print out the website

2) Find five people that do not know it

3) Show it to them for five seconds

4) Ask them about their first associations, what did they see? Record that.

What’s next?

  • try to visualize the results with a limbic map
  • Answer these three questions:
  1. Do you know what is relevant to your customers?
  2. Is the message understood?
  3. Why? Why not?

To learn more about Implicit Advertising, check out this free tutorial that covers all the aspects of advertising communication that are not spoken or written outright.

Limbic map: How is it used for targeting the right audience

Struggling with buyer personas? Running A/B tests that are ineffective?

These are some questions that can be solved easily by applying this simple method. Now that we covered the limbic types and implicit codes, it’s time to see limbic map in action.

André Morys, did a fantastic case study about buying personas, and how to apply the limbic map to create more valuable personas;

These buyer persona templates might look nice and detailed; however, they are relatively ineffective too, considering they lack motivation and emotive context.

Therefore, the statistics have shown that 60–70% of B2B marketers admit that they do not truly understand their buyer personas.

Here's an example,

What do we know about Jack Rowland, what type of guy is he?

  • Likes to help
  • He’s authentic
  • Agreeable

However, once again, the information about him does not help. We could say that all these inputs are indicators but not valuable insights.

Morys five-step approach:

  1. Motivation / Core values
  • We need to turn our indicators in core values — the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization

By doing that, we create emotionally focused types that Andre Morys calls limbic personas or limbic types.

2. Eliminate conflicting values and focus on one value

  • let’s take all these indicators that we have, and allocate them on the limbic map

3. Set an exact value type

  • Based on that different indicators, try to create one word, or a term to describe that type of person.

What would be the name of that person?

Morys suggested “The Harmonizer” because harmony and agreeing with other people is crucial for that type of person

4. Remove unneeded information

  • that means everything because it was all about indicators
  • now that the type is known (The Harmonizer), simplify the persona description of Jack Rowland

5. Deduct specific information that is important for the product or service

What has this to do with the product?

  • let us pretend to sell a bank account to people
  • try to align this type and his motivations with the product

It could mean:

Implicit emotional motivation

“I want a bank that cares about me as a human being. I don’t want complicated bureaucratic systems — I need to talk to real people. It should be that easy.”

This type of customer wants a partner or a bank that cares about him as a human being. He doesn’t want a complicated bureaucratic system; he wants to talk to real people, it should be straightforward — That is what could be deducted from the information available

Emotional objection

“They want my money, and they do not care. It will be just another complicated computer interface for people that only care about making money.”

That’s what you can do if you create personas, get them to the point of emotional motive — try to align that motivation with the product and service, so it’s getting more helpful and not that generic as most of the personas are

Why is this helpful?

Morys succeeded by creating this straightforward five-step approach on how to find emotional motivation among users, making the buyer personas more useful, or even optimizing websites for the potential user;

Let's assume, Jack Rowland is representing the most important Values — how do you optimize the banking landing page?

Pick a random website, see if there are any matches with your type ( in this case no), however we can allocate all these emotional factors or motivations on the limbic map, so we see that this is everywhere, but now we have Jake Rowland, and we know Jack Rowland is the key person that we want to optimize a website for.

And that's how we optimized the landing page — by changing key visuals, towards value propositions that are important to Jake Rowland.

Most importantly, Morys pointed; when creating emotional resonance, is all about knowing what the key motivations, the drivers for the behaviour of the audience are.

Even If you don’t have personas directly, start with a limbic map and try to find values and motivations that are important for your audiences.

From there on, things should be more comfortable, as much as you might think Limbic maps are more challenging to understand than regular buying personas.


By mapping out user emotions and motivations on a Limbic Map®, we can get a better idea of what drives their decision-making, and from there, we can better develop A/B test hypotheses to explore.

Noah from 37Signal pretty much summed up the facts;

“Running an A/B test without thinking about statistical confidence is worse than not running a test at all — it gives you false confidence that you know what works for your site when the truth is that you do not know any better than if you had not run the test.”

Thank you for reading. I hope you find something interesting to think about.



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