Time To Treat Your Customers Like Cavemen

Let’s party like it’s 100,000 B.C.

Psychologically, there are many ways we haven’t changed much from that early man. The biggest failing of digital marketers is when we think of consumers as “digital consumers” instead of just “consumers.”

I love digital. It’s incredibly powerful. I’d put digital budget up against traditional budget any day of the week. But, the next time someone starts treating a digital consumer like a magical unicorn to be revered and treated special, here’s a little timeline to share:

  • 10,000 BC: Caveman Bryan took cues from other people on what to eat. If “Joe” got sick eating that new berry, I’m probably not going to eat that berry. If Joe smiled, ate 10 more and could still outrun a sabre-tooth – hello, new food!
  • 100 AD: Emperor Bryan had a food taster. Food taster Joe had the unfortunate duty of tasting everything served to me. If Joe got sick, I stayed away from the food.
  • 1950: Shopper Bryan was living in the golden age of the supermarket. More food was available than ever before, much commercially packaged in new ways. I would see Neighbor Joe put something in his shopping cart and I would be willing to try it as well.
  • 1998: Webizen Bryan started shopping for books on After selecting a few books, I would see what other Average Joes like me had purchased based on similar tastes.
  • 2012: Facebooker Bryan sees a bunch of Friends gushing over how great the newest iPhone is. I start to think “Maybe it’s more than just a taller screen.”



We still look to our fellow cavemen to judge which berries are worth eating and which aren’t. It’s a survival instinct we can’t easily reprogram.

And, it’s not the only one.

Humans Notice Living Things More Than Non-Living

Despite the fact that a silent car is more likely to take us out than a silent wolf, we are naturally predisposed to see a walking dog instead of a gliding Prius. According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this goes back to the days when we had to detect animal (human or otherwise) movement in the trees and grass in order to protect ourselves.

This could be why watching someone say something is so much more effective than simply listening to someone in an online video.

Dopamine Levels Effect Decision-Making

The human brain gets hit with a blast of dopamine to signal a reward for a pleasurable experience such as winning something or learning something. Research out of the University College London shows that people are more likely to pick something based on “gut instinct” when they have higher dopamine levels.

That’s why “rewarding” consumers can have long-term associative benefits to your brand, even if the reward is psychological — even providing fans behind-the-scenes insider access via a tweet or post.

Individuals Are Instinctually Cooperative

Humans aren’t very fierce. We don’t have claws, fangs or poisons. But, we can cooperate. This helpful spirit is ingrained in us and helped us survive thanks to cooperative hunting and gathering. According to research in Nature, our instinct is to be helpful even if reasoning causes us to be selfish.

This is probably the single greatest argument for making social sharing as easy as possible. If you make it instinctual for followers to help the group, it is much more likely to happen.

So, yes, social media might have strikingly new and different mechanisms for enacting marketing. But we better not forget that the people around those mechanisms really haven’t changed since cavemen days.

Otherwise, you’re just drinking the Kool-Aid.

2 comments about "Time To Treat Your Customers Like Cavemen ".
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  1. Jean Renard from TRM Inc., October 3, 2012 at 5:13 p.m.

    Really like the caveman thinking though the act of eating poison leading to quick results is different today. The public is a bit shell shocked over being sold poisons that kill slowly or having test results falsified and the "truth" becoming an annoyance that needs to be circumvented rather than aimed for in the making of a good sales pitch.

    The problem now, is that people lie, and deaths happen off-screen. You can buy friends, buy reviewers and experts are the cheapest things to own outright.

    We still have each other, but increasingly we are rightfully becoming a lot more suspicious, given the political landscape, it might be argued that it is too little too late.

  2. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, October 4, 2012 at 7:22 a.m.

    You mean, "Monkey see, monkey do".

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