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Episode #25
Filling Seats Podcast | December 6, 2023

Stop the "spray and pray" and market your school with science instead

In this episode:

You’ll hear from Dr. Christophe Morin who is a neuroscientist, professor of media psychology and CEO of SalesBrain.

He has 30+ years of experience in marketing, consumer research, and advertising effectiveness, and his passion is to understand and predict consumer behavior using cutting-edge science.

You'll hear him discuss:

  • Top mistakes colleges and universities make in their marketing efforts
  • How to invest in ensuring your homepage and webpages are capturing prospective students' attention
  • The top strategy tweak any team can make that will make the biggest difference, regardless of capacity or bandwidth
Dr. Christophe Morin

Dr. Christophe Morin


Podcast Inst Logos-25

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Host: You're listening to filling seats, the state of enrollment, marketing, and higher ed. Hosted by StudentBridge. In this podcast. You'll learn, what's working to grow shape and sustain enrollment. At colleges and universities directly for marketers thought leaders and ed tech innovators, because anyone can design a brochure, but not anyone can fill seats.

[00:00:27] Host: Welcome to episode 25 of filling seats. In this episode, you'll hear from Dr. Christophe Morin, who is a neuroscientist, professor of media psychology, and CEO of sales brain. He has 30 plus years of experience in marketing, consumer research, and advertising effectiveness. And his passion is to understand and predict consumer behavior using cutting edge science.

[00:00:56] Host: You'll hear him discuss top mistakes colleges and universities make in their marketing efforts, how to invest in ensuring your homepage and webpages are capturing prospective student's attention, and the top strategy tweak any team can make that will make the biggest difference regardless of capacity or bandwidth. Let's meet Dr. Christophe!

[00:01:19] Dr. Christophe Morin: I'm a persuasion scientist. I've spent my entire career decoding how decisions are made in the brain, and, developed some models and theories that have been used by companies all over the world.

[00:01:35] Dr. Christophe Morin: So I created Sales Brain 20 years ago, out of frustration for conventional market research, which I believed was not able to tap into the unconscious part of our experience as consumers. And so, I figured that if I'm going to tap into the unconscious, I need to become a neuroscientist,

[00:01:57] Dr. Christophe Morin: and, through my training, my education as a neuroscientist, I discovered modalities ways by which I could safely and ethically understand what goes on when people navigate a website. Look at a commercial. And all of that, is information that they typically cannot communicate. Therefore, having the capacity to use eye trackers, e eeg, which, give me some brain data from which I can establish if people are engaged, if they're excited or bored or completely confused.

[00:02:32] Dr. Christophe Morin: And Sales Brain has been the leading research and training company in that space called Neuromarketing for 20 years.

[00:02:40] Host: , some of your top clients or different sectors or industries that you work with.

[00:02:45] Dr. Christophe Morin: So we don't specialize in any industry because if you're GE and you're selling function or mri a client of mine, or if you are, esurance selling, Insurance or student bridge, selling digital enrollment platform, you still need a good message. And therefore, we've been able to work with very large companies that have somewhat sophisticated, products and services like TransUnion, Prudential, and others.

[00:03:13] Dr. Christophe Morin: Two companies that often have a simple product like a nutritional bar. For a power bar or a bottle of water for, sparkling ice. And therefore, in all those situations, it is about the discipline of understanding and predicting what that message will do for people to say yes.

[00:03:33] . And you also have experience directly in higher ed.

[00:03:37] Dr. Christophe Morin: Yes, I have a true passion for higher ed. Obviously I've been a consumer of higher education and, my student loan, track record can prove that I'm totally overeducated. but I've enjoyed every step of the way, my capacity to absorb more information. I became, a CEO of a high.

[00:03:56] not to mention it was a French, immersion school. Since I was born in France, I do have a bias for my own native language. So I've appreciated the involvement at, uh, high school level, but also at the university level. Since I've been teaching for 10 years now, Masters and PhD students in media psychology, the benefit.

[00:04:18] Dr. Christophe Morin: Of persuasion science and therefore, every single week I have an opportunity to contribute to higher education. And I truly believe that it will open people's minds. It would their awareness and hopefully their consciousness to be not just successful, but also, contributors to making this place a better.

[00:04:39] Host: What are some top mistakes that you see colleges and universities making with their marketing efforts?

[00:04:46] the top mistake is not unlike, mistakes that I see many of my clients,confront, and that is for the most part, that they failed to see the world from the perspectives of who they are targeting. I e students, for the most part, lots of those messages on colleges or universities are about colleges and universities, not the students ability to thrive when they are indeed in their hands walking away with a great education.

[00:05:17] Dr. Christophe Morin: So the teaching around that is how do you begin to rethink your message so that as a student you feel engaged, you feel. colleges and universities understand even your struggles, your pains, your frustrations before they start spraying and praying, all the reasons why they should join a particular campus.

[00:05:40] Within the sales brain methodology, you talk a lot about pains, but I would say that higher education is an industry that likes to remain very positive. it's very aspirational. How can a school market correctly regarding pains when they don't wanna be like a Debbie Downer?

[00:06:00] Host: So to.

[00:06:01] Dr. Christophe Morin: We don't have one brain. We effectively have two. We have a primal brain structure, which sits on the bottom of the brain, which is essentially the survival brain. And that part as enormous dominance in the early interaction that a student will have with a college or a university.

[00:06:21] Dr. Christophe Morin: The reason in my model we talk so much about pain is because the primal brain is much more interested in the fact that you understand, empathize with the struggles that I have or the confusion that I have. Before I begin to really think about making the decision to join the college or, get into a lot of debt.

[00:06:41] Dr. Christophe Morin: So the pain conversation is not negative at all. It's your opportunity to connect at a deeper level with the emotional center of the brain, which happens to be in the primal brain, to connect to the rational brain. Is a second step in that rational brain. You can begin to unpack, programs and the positive, aspirational reasons why you should pick up on the,the promises of a particular brand or college.

[00:07:10] Dr. Christophe Morin: But that conversation is a second step in the process of perion.

[00:07:15] Host: So in its simplest form, instead of saying, come here and you will. Have a great career. It's, we know you're worried about debt and about money, so come here and have a great career and have low debt so it's acknowledging the pains, the fears, and then talking about what the positives are.

[00:07:40] Host: Is that accurate?

[00:07:41] Dr. Christophe Morin: It is. And for any college or university, the nature of the pains that you can solve could change. And for instance, if you are in your current college, in university, able to deliver affordable degrees or. , certificates. What your ability to then speak to the fact that your value proposition, your claims as we call them, really provide answers.

[00:08:10] Dr. Christophe Morin: You could say medicine to those pains, then the direction of your message is going to be aligned with those pains. So the idea is not to solve all the pains, cuz it's very difficult, but to identify those. Types of frustrations, worries, or concerns. I use the word pain, but it's really kind of a box of worries in general, and to be able to point and identify those that you can solve as a college and university better than anybody else is going to provide that early form of message.

[00:08:41] Dr. Christophe Morin: That the primal brain of the students is going to resonate with before they get into the details of the what and the details of the programs that you are going to offer.

[00:08:54] Host: So something that comes up a lot on this podcast is the idea of personalization. And so I think, understanding someone's pain would be a great way to personalize messaging. So how would you suggest a school collect data or identify what those pains are in order to personalize messaging?

[00:09:17] there's a number of ways to do that. Obviously you could do it at a cognitive level by having people do checkbox on some of the primer worries or concerns that they may have. you can also present. videos, that would in a way dramatize maybe some pains and frustration and see to which extent those videos are receiving a lot of clicks or views or forwards so that you can gauge in a way.

[00:09:45] from a sort of psychological standpoint, how much these videos or stories seem to resonate and there are really a lot of ways thanks to technology today, that we can develop that content and use that content in order to then create what you call personalized messages that are really tapping into those specific worries and.

[00:10:09] Host: What are some top strategies that you think higher ed can borrow from some of the private sector clients that you've worked with?

[00:10:17] as a researcher, I would highly encourage, the colleges and universities to use methods that are now well established. To verify how good your content is. We're talking eye tracking studies that could at least give you metrics that tells you which areas on your website are recruiting the most attention for how long, What is the nature of the gaze, which is basically the patterns of attention that we have.

[00:10:49] Dr. Christophe Morin: You can also use software today, even online. That will decode facial expressions that will capture by just simply using camera. With permission, obviously you can identify to which extent people are happy, sad, engaged. So all that data stream I think is gonna be essential because it will bring you back to the reality that your messages are designed to engage customers, not just satisfy your urgency to explain who you.

[00:11:21] Host: a lot of university websites have. Thousands, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of pages. So for someone listening to this saying, Oh my gosh, I need to have eye tracking software on every single one of these pages.

[00:11:35] Host: And this seems like a decade long process. Where do you think would be the biggest bang for the buck for someone to invest in something like.

[00:11:44] Dr. Christophe Morin: Definitely the landing page. we all know that the central message, your first capacity to seduce, which happens in less than five or six seconds, is going to be in your landing page. That page should be surgically. Optimize. And when I say that, I mean every dot literally has its purpose and therefore, constantly assuming that because it's a screen you should, be able to fill it all up is, a very dangerous move, which is known to improve nothing but increase.

[00:12:24] Dr. Christophe Morin: The bouncing rate and lower the average visiting time. And I've been researching this data for 20 years. the evidence is compelling and it has nothing to do with higher ed or selling insurance. it's across all services. Our level and appetite for attention is going down and down and down, which puts more pressure on the quality of that landing page to.

[00:12:50] Dr. Christophe Morin: The narrative of your solution.

[00:12:52] Host: . What are some things that you typically see on website homepages or landing pages that do really well or do really poorly?

[00:13:03] the primal brain to go back to that brain structure is mostly a visual brain. And therefore, if you put too much text or numbers, chances are they won't be processed at all. Now, I'm not asking you to eliminate all kinds of texts, which we know can play to your favorite, particularly for SEO purposes.

[00:13:23] Dr. Christophe Morin: Search optimization purposes. Your capacity to communicate must be first and foremost visual, and the best visual you can always depend on is facial expressions. We are not interested in objects or buildings as much as we are interested in connecting and in fact mirroring. Or sampling emotions of the people we consider our peers.

[00:13:53] Dr. Christophe Morin: So if I'm a student and you're inviting me to consider a student that is, Experiencing joy, chances are that I will experience joy if you're inviting me for just a few seconds to a facial expression that signals frustration because you're confused. You don't know how to pick a college. you're showing me that I can identify to an emotion that I've had because I'm so lost into my ability to pick a college.

[00:14:18] Dr. Christophe Morin: So those moments while happening in seconds can communi. Enormous benefit to your brand and to your own capacity to connect emotionally and humanly to your customers.

[00:14:33] Host: Perspective, , it's more important to have facial expressions that mirror, whatever it is they're trying to communicate on the page, as opposed to empty campus shots, which is very common and very popular on university websites.

[00:14:50] Dr. Christophe Morin: buildings. I know enough about American campuses that some are absolutely gorgeous, and you would assume that. Will be in and in itself a form of attraction. I'm not denying that necessarily. I'm just saying as humans.

[00:15:04] Dr. Christophe Morin: O over the long history of our evolution, we've learned that decoding facial expression is more urgent and more important in our predictions of our own state of mind. Then looking at a. And, and so in the construction of your narrative, you have to take those priorities, which in many ways are biological priorities ahead of your own sense of pride or aesthetic to the architecture of your campus.

[00:15:33] Host: Can you risk letting your prospective students fall asleep? Are you snory-telling or storytelling with student bridge? You'll have better stories, better visits and better enrollment. If traditional marketing isn't working, we'll help you deliver better content. If your visitors aren't sticking around, we'll help you provide a better experience.

[00:15:56] Host: And if stealth visitors aren't raising their hands, we'll help you get more. Be where your students are. 24 7 with student bridge. We've proudly partnered with hundreds of institutions to deliver thousands of online experiences, to hundreds of thousands of prospective students leading to better stories.

[00:16:16] Host: A private liberal arts school had one third of all self visitors return to their site and browse for much longer than the average student. Better. Two public universities saw a four to 20 times increase in virtual event participation and better enrollment. One law school partner saw a 23% increase in enrollment in only one year and a small public college had 20% enrollment growth over four years.

[00:16:43] Host: Are you ready to amplify the story of your school, faculty and students with a video? Viewbook. Are you ready to activate the ultimate self-guided campus tour app when you can't be there with visitor? Or are you ready to deliver an impressive virtual campus experience with video and 360 degree images with interactive maps, student bridge is your one stop shop for easy and engaging enrollment solutions.

[00:17:07] Host: Learn

[00:17:11] Host: . anything else that you would share about landing pages or homepages?

[00:17:15] Dr. Christophe Morin: A lot of colleges and universities frankly, have trouble identifying what we call claims. The. Most compelling reasons why a student should choose a campus, so seek to really clarify. Up to three because beyond three, the message is going to be too overwhelming and really do your homework. Identify from your nearest competing university or college, how those claims that you're about to promote and maybe deploy across multiple channels, are really the short story of the why.

[00:17:57] Dr. Christophe Morin: Why is far more important than the. The what will be picked up by the rational brain when people have basically used their visual system and their gut system to get the emotional confirmation that they are a fit with your college and university.

[00:18:16] Dr. Christophe Morin: Uh, I mean, there are, about 4,000 colleges and universities in the US and I think they all do a really good job of communicating the how when to apply by and what documents you need and what website you need to go to. But a lot of them say, a. We have small classes and you're more than a number and you know, all of these very repeatable phrases and so you're so right.

[00:18:38] it's the why that's really the differentiator. And we'll cut through the noise.

[00:18:43] Dr. Christophe Morin: Absolutely.

[00:18:44] a lot of schools are really struggling with. Budget, bandwidth, staffing. What are some easy things or one easy tweak that they could make that would really have a big impact in your mind?

[00:18:58] Dr. Christophe Morin: Less is more. And I would really encourage, simplicity and discernment. There is this, I think. Idea that you must be present everywhere. You must be present on YouTube. You must be present on TikTok. You must be present on Twitter. but controlling the narrative and having the discipline and in fact the money or the staff to manage all those messages is very difficult.

[00:19:23] Dr. Christophe Morin: So I would. In fact, recommend if you're serious about optimizing messaging that you focus maybe on your website first. Then introduce discipline into your other messages that live on Instagram or Facebook or other platforms. But expect that just AB testing is not good enough. They have to be pre optimized.

[00:19:46] Dr. Christophe Morin: Ideally based on this field of persuasion, neuroscience, or neuromarketing as we call it, because it will save a lot of time and a lot of money, and I know that most colleges and universities don't have a blank check in marketing and advertising, so less is more, more discipline. To optimize core messages at the beginning and then seek to deploy as you get better roi.

[00:20:13] Dr. Christophe Morin: It's not difficult to deploy messages if enrollment goes up

[00:20:18] when you were talking about your claims, those three why's. So starting with what are the three why's for our school? Tackling the website first and then ensuring that everything from there. Falls under one of those three claims or content pillars it's often referred to to really control that narrative.

[00:20:39] Dr. Christophe Morin: Exactly. I like the notion of content pillar and the, the discipline is not just about picking your claims, but also. Organizing the evidence of your claims. And that's another area where I see some colleges and universities do well in presenting testimonial of their students, talking about their alumni.

[00:21:00] there's really a need beyond your claims to establish that they are true, that they're credible, and that is part of what we call the gain evidence of your value. And those, of course, pieces of evidence are. Visual, I better visualize, such as in a customer story or in some sort of demo, that would live on your website.

[00:21:22] Dr. Christophe Morin: That would of course immediately identify the degree to which there is, energy. a good vibe into the campus because of those, pieces of video that confirm that your claims of there's a good vibe on the campus you love, it is indeed verified through a mean experience of a video or an interactive map.

[00:21:44] Host: A lot of what you talk about with sales brain is visual and sometimes even. Video, visual, as opposed to just like a static image. And whenever I ask schools, what are the top channels that they rely on? It's a lot of email and print. And then from there, various social media channels or different things like that.

[00:22:05] Host: Does the channel matter in terms of, the visuals of, your methodology and how you deploy sales brain?

[00:22:14] Dr. Christophe Morin: , big issue here, which is. Two things primarily. We talked already about the importance of tapping into the default channel by which the primal brain is making a decision or creating an impression, which is visual. The second aspect is our, this state, you could say our annoyance in front of too much cognitive effort.

[00:22:38] Dr. Christophe Morin: And whether we like it or not, we do not. invite a lot of spending of our cognitive energy. it has nothing to do with intelligence. It has nothing to do with education. We prefer to learn very quickly and with the least amount of spending of our glucose and oxygen.

[00:22:58] Dr. Christophe Morin: So what I would encourage, universities and colleges is to reexamine many of the messages that. Produced today, you may not perceive as creating cognitive effort, but if they're entirely tech-centric and or make reference to concepts and situations that are fairly abstract, they will have zero. Effect on people's brain.

[00:23:21] Dr. Christophe Morin: So less is more and less thinking, more visualization. Introduction of pictures of course is a possibility even if the chance that they might be flagged by spam, tracers. but go always to the extent that you can to video because video is by far what will be best remembered and ultimately trigger the most emotional cocktail.

[00:23:45] Dr. Christophe Morin: So that's why of course, companies like Student Bridge have promoted the use of video because it will ultimately deliver the best brain experience there is.

[00:23:55] Host: We just did, a few episodes ago, an entire episode on the Power of Video and talked extensively about that. what is something that you see for the future of marketing or even higher ed marketing?

[00:24:08] Dr. Christophe Morin: I think the field I'm in and I somewhat created 20 years ago is moving fast and furious online. And what that means is instead of doing, research as I was doing them, in a lab, inviting people, hooking them up, we can now really safely and ethically, invite people to. A homepage, watch a video, and the cost and the technology behind those steps is getting less and less a problem or an excuse.

[00:24:40] Dr. Christophe Morin: I know the field of higher ed people are often. Overworked and underpaid. Let's be blunt here for a minute. And so the idea of using yet again, tools and technology could be overwhelming at the same time, how can we continue to think that marketing or enrollment is a push process? It cannot just be a push process.

[00:25:04] Dr. Christophe Morin: It has to be a pool process. It has to come from stories and stimuli that are inviting. Appetite for more, and that is going to be confirmed. Only if you have some feedback, loop some research methods that help you continue to improve those cycles of engagement.

[00:25:27] Host: Beyond the eye tracking and facial recognition, are there any other feedback loops that you would re. That schools utilize.

[00:25:37] Dr. Christophe Morin: What's emerging, and it may not be ready today, is the possibility of course of using, biometric data. Data that could, let's say, be captured by an iWatch or a Fitbit. And so for those who are interested in somewhat of the cutting edge of where this field is going, you might wanna start paying attention to applications that give, marketers an opportunity to monitor.

[00:26:06] Dr. Christophe Morin: The physical, physiological state of your students while they're attending an event or while they're visiting a campus, if they agree through these apps to share their biometric data, it will become possible to have additional metrics that go. Beyond or are complimentary of seeking self-reported methods, Basically asking people, Hey, did you enjoy that tour?

[00:26:34] we can pretty much know if they did based on the tric data. Heart rate primarily can give us enormous data of flow or frustration on an event that could have lasted, an hour.

[00:26:47] Host: , so when some administrator is rambling on and on about things that Gen Z doesn't care about, they can show them that, okay, well they all went to sleep at this. Point. and they did not enjoy that. what is an app or a marketing tool that you could not live without?

[00:27:02] I've come to, enjoy more artificial intelligence applications and, that is possibly one of the earlier step that most colleges and universities can do. And that is we do have some, apps now that simulate. Eye tracking and even emotional engagement. What does that mean? our visual system is in the back of our head and we know it very well.

[00:27:27] Dr. Christophe Morin: We know the neurons that are making it possible for us to have a visual understanding, and that means we can predict. Based on a visual which neurons are going to fire in our head, and that type of application does exist so that you can load up an image of a landing page, for instance, or even a video, and you can output without doing this on humans, you can output predictions that are about 70 to 80% accurate.

[00:27:57] Dr. Christophe Morin: That's enough to be able to say this video or this landing page, Is catastrophic, and so I'm encouraging. I have a lot of clients that are using these methods, of course, particularly because they want to catch a prototype landing page or piece of advertising before it's fully deployed.

[00:28:16] Host: Are there any names of these tools that you would, be willing to share if anybody wants to look into any

[00:28:23] Host: of them?

[00:28:23] Dr. Christophe Morin: we have one. So I would of course be selfishly inviting people to just visit the site and, you will find information about ai. eye tracking, that we perform and have done for over 10 years now. So the apps are getting better and faster and more reliable than ever

[00:28:44] Host: And if you could go back five to 10 years and give yourself advice, what would it?

[00:28:49] Dr. Christophe Morin: to recognize that changing, habits for marketers is a very, Cruel process. I underestimated the resistance. I assume that the idea of making the brain, central to marketing effectiveness would be largely adopted immediately. but it's, obvious that as humans we don't like to change and we feel sometimes threatened by, someone like me that would suggest other ways.

[00:29:18] I've become more forceful and probably less, fearful of people's judgment. And as a result, I find that the curve of adoption accelerations becomes a little faster. There's a lot of excitement in the field today. I teach, in a university and I know that many, many universities are now starting to integrate courses on consumer neuroscience or media neuroscience because it's here to stay, Whether.

[00:29:43] You know, accepted or not. you will find that more and more people are talking about this capacity that we have to get incredible teachings from, the response of our brain.

[00:29:54] the term neuroscience can be intimidating. in fact, many neuroscientists may even tell you,the idea of bring neuroscience in marketing seems evil. So be prepared to, receive. Some objections, but understand that learning more about the brain is not going to just, help your marketing.

[00:30:12] Dr. Christophe Morin: It will likely, help you understand your students. And for instance, understand what is happening in the raise of, anxiety and stress. I've found it personally, life transforming because while I initially became an earth scientist for marketing purposes, it's helped me. Part of my career in studying the neuroscience of stress and anxiety, and also have a better understanding of my own children.

[00:30:39] Dr. Christophe Morin: So neuroscience is not for just neuroscientists, it's for whoever has an interest and passion in understanding and predicting, consumer behavior, including the behavior of your own family members.

[00:30:51] Host: I love that. if someone wants to connect with you or reach out what is the best way for them to.

[00:30:57] first I would encourage you to do this maybe on LinkedIn and see, some of the posts that I, put there to, to fuel hopefully the motivation to learn more about the brain, they can email me, and visit the. We're quite generous, I think of many of those teachings without having to buy anything, including my books.

[00:31:15] go visit the site and I think you'll see additional tips and ideas in terms of what you can do to improve your capacity to persuade.

[00:31:23] Host: Thank you so much for interviewing with me today. This was an amazing conversation.

[00:31:27] Dr. Christophe Morin: Thank you, . It was a real pleasure to be with you today.


[00:31:32] Host: This is the Filling Seats podcast, hosted by StudentBridge, your one stop shop for easy and engaging enrollment solutions. If you're tired of snory-telling, and ready to start storytelling your way to better visits and better enrollment, visit

[00:31:50] Host: To connect with this episode's guest, check out the show notes. If you enjoyed this episode, leave a rating and review and don't forget to subscribe. For more information about the podcast or to let us know, you'd like to be a guest visit Thanks for listening!