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We all have alligator brain thanks to COVID-19

3 April 2020

Even if you’re lucky enough to have held on to your job and your health to date, I’ll bet you’ve noticed that you’re feeling off.

You can’t focus too well. You’re forgetful. You’re snappy. You’re doing what you can to keep things simple and ignoring everything that’s not.

COVID-19 is massively stressful for all of us and it’s impacting how we feel, how we think and how we make decisions.

A couple of years ago I went to Yale for a Behavioural Economics Immersion and learned about System 1 versus System 2 thinking. Professor Zoe Chance describes System 1 as our ‘alligator brains’ and that’s what we default to when we’re busy, or overwhelmed, or stressed. Like now.

I’ll spare you the psychology lesson suffice to say that now is not the time to list all of the rational reasons why your customers or work team (not to mention your partner or kids!) should start seeing things your way. They are literally incapable of ‘hearing’ you.

Instead, embrace the following:

– Get to the point using simple words.

– Appeal to people’s existing beliefs, values and emotions. Rational arguments and change campaigns won’t work right now.

– Focus on ‘ease and convenience’ as this will trump ‘quality’ every single time. Make it as simple as possible for people to buy and use your product or help you around the house.

– Finally, don’t poke the alligator. Stop sending out your regular marketing emails. Unless you are giving your customers something they will value right now, leave them alone or risk turning them off.


Anne Wickham

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