Author: Sophie Moore
Webamp picked the brains of Neuromarketing expert Anita Klausen about what really makes her tick, how the world of marketing can benefit from the work she does and the importance of believing in yourself.
If you’d asked a younger Anita if she ever saw herself immersed in the marketing world she would have thought you were crazy. And yet here she is, embarking on a new journey as a self employed neuro-marketer, doing what she loves for a living. Her story begins during her studies where her dream was to become a multilingual simultaneous interpreter until her path took an unexpected turn once she came into contact with the world of marketing during her bachelor’s studies. At this time she did everything by the books, having two marketing jobs before becoming a board member, volunteering in the marketing departments of four organisations all while maintaining a very active blog that served as a news site for all things marketing. It all changed when she began focusing on her thesis, entitled ‘The role of Dopamine in Social Media interaction and CRM’ and she found her niche in the world of Neuromarketing. Once this interest was sparked, it grew within Anita like a wildfire. She became more and more rooted in the Neuromarketing world, being invited to speak at some of the largest marketing conferences, offered teaching positions, all pushing her to realise this was her calling. She ‘set up shop’ and founded her own company that would allow her to pursue these passion projects seriously as a professional alongside her regular job working at Bolius - where she had worked her way up to become their Head of Social, running social media campaigns and working closely with project managers and project management teams. She found herself feeling a little restless and frustrated, leading her to take a bold move and take a leap of faith in her own business, leaving her position at Bolius. Sometimes it takes hitting a wall to remind us of what’s important, to give us a push towards chasing our dreams rather than putting them to the side while we play it safe. Sometimes it takes realising we’re putting our potential on hold and denying ourselves the time and energy to focus on what truly matters to us. And so in August Anita decided to turn the focus on her own work, and start working for herself.
“It felt like a gamble in light of COVID-19, but so far it's been a great decision both personally and professionally. It feels like the most natural thing and it's definitely been one of the best things I've ever done for myself.”
It allows her to focus even more on neuromarketing while still being able to focus on advertising and paid media. This year has seen a lot of us having to learn how to think outside of the box, to come up with new ways of working in an attempt to stay afloat amidst the crashing waves of uncertainty that 2020 has forced upon us all. Businesses are finding new ways of doing things, evolving and adapting like never before and changing their perspectives. It's refreshing to see despite the circumstances under which these changes had to be made.
As Anita puts it : “It's safe and easy to do exactly the same as everybody else, but thinking outside the box changes the game completely.”
So after all this talk about neuromarketing, what is it exactly? Neuromarketing is having insight from neuroscience and applying it to marketing. It's about knowing why certain things work, as opposed to just knowing what works and what doesn't.
For most of us, this seems a very niche area of a very broad concept. Anita’s journey towards specialising in Neuromarketing began with a fascination with a debate that was going on at the time. A debate about Social Media and addiction that drew her in with a need to research it further. She had always associated addiction with alcohol and drugs and knew what effect it could have on people but this idea of addiction to social media was a new concept, she had never seen it affect people in a way substance addiction can. The deeper she delved into research, the clearer it became that no one had ever made a clear connection with actual evidence that it was even possible to become addicted to social media. In fact, no study existed that explored the link between social media and dopamine and how one triggers the other (an overstimulation of dopamine during a longer period of time is what causes addiction). This was when she knew this had to be the topic of her thesis, one which led her to win an award for her research.
However it wasn’t an easy ride towards recognition. She suffered from countless rejections from lecturers who thought the topic was too ambitious to be a successful thesis before finding a PhD who was willing to be her supervisor. If it weren’t for that one person who was willing to take a chance on Anita and trust in her to deliver on what she thought was possible, she would not be where she is today. She would never have specialised in Neuromarketing. It goes to show how important it is to have people behind us, believing in us and our vision. It’s about having the drive not to give up when we encounter people who don’t understand our passion for something, who are unwilling to see the potential we hold within us. Just because one person, two people or a whole group of people can’t see past their own projections of what is and isn’t possible, it does not mean it is not possible for you. You know within your heart what you are capable of, just as Anita did and you owe it to yourself to keep on going until you achieve it. Giving up means a waste of potential. Giving up means you value others opinions and beliefs about the possibilities more than your own. Imagine what creations and businesses and collaborations could be possible if we stopped getting in our own way and refused to give up.
Marketing doesn't have to be as complicated or scary as it can often seem. It's all about playing to your strengths and outsourcing when your weaknesses require you to. Anita’s advice to those just starting out without their own marketing guru is this :
“Work with specialists. Hire a nerd or find a freelancer. If you're new to marketing and have a limited budget you're better off going with a very, very small agency or a dedicated freelancer, you're easily overlooked at a large agency. And if you do hire a nerd you should fully hand over the reins to them. Let them tell you what to do, and not the other way around. They know what they’re doing, you have to let them do their thing.
And last but not least, prioritise your strategy and tactics before you go to war. Sure, you can start throwing money at Facebook and Google for Ads, but you'll be shooting blanks if you haven't pinpointed your enemies, kings and queens. You can’t go to war if you don’t know who you’re up against. You can’t win if you don’t know who you’re battling.”
It’s about knowing who you’re trying to communicate with, how exactly you want to communicate with them and understanding the ways in which you can do so. This takes a special kind of confidence in yourself and your work. It takes having a clear vision of who you are and what you have to offer, to clients, to customers and to employers. During her time at Bolius, Anita faced this challenge herself. She observed that the marketing agency they were using was underperforming. She felt in her gut that she herself could do a better job and took a bold move in deciding to say exactly that to the CEO of the company. She told him that compared to the performance of their marketing agency she'd be able to deliver double the results with half the budget they were given. He looked at her quietly for what seemed like forever. Then he said: 'Okay, I'll give you a chance. But you better deliver!". Not many people would have had the guts to have such unwavering confidence and their abilities. But it paid off.
“He fired the marketing agency. I remember being so sure of my statement until the CEO actually gave me a chance. Then suddenly I doubted myself and was constantly trying to convince myself. In the end I delivered more than promised and the CEO never hired an agency to do my job again. I think of that experience whenever I start doubting myself. Why change my mind if I was at one point so sure of myself?”
In a world that is more often than not male dominated, Anita has found a place for herself. She has believed in herself when others haven’t and she’s refused to play small in the face of uncertainty.
“At times I can tell that I have to make an effort to show my know-how or put my experience and expertise to show. Like there's an assumption that I'm not as 'nerdy' as the guys because I'm a woman. I become aware of it when I'm assumed to be a 'he' because I work in marketing, e.g. when people recommend me to others. "Oh, he sounds like a match". However, people are more surprised by the fact that I ride a motorcycle or play table football than they are about me working in marketing.”
It would be wrong to say that there isn’t a disparity between men and women within the marketing world nonetheless. In 9 out of 10 settings Anita finds herself being the only woman in the room, her network consists of more men than women and it is not uncommon to see marketing offices that only have male employees. There is clearly a problem.
“I very often see females in marketing not promoting themselves. It's simply not something we're raised to do - we're raised dressing up dolls and being straight A-students. Not climbing trees and learning what it feels like to fall or riding fast on our bikes and learning to feel confident in taking risks. I've definitely worked on myself - and I still do - in order to teach myself to be more bold, learning that opinions and disagreements aren't a failure, that self-promotion isn't a death sentence and that very often the limits to your success are only defined by how self-restricted you are.”
If that isn’t a mindset to admire, what is? It’s people like Anita, who identify the ways in which we are held back, to push back against them and refuse to live in the way we were raised, that have the power to inspire change in us all. A change in the way we treat ourselves, a change in the way we show up for ourselves and each other and a change in the things we believe we are capable of. Imagine what kind of world we could be living in if we just commit to unlearning the lessons society has taught us about ourselves. Imagine a world in which we all had the confidence in ourselves to be bold and no longer fear failure. What a world that would be.
Webamp offers its thanks to Anita for taking the time to share her insights and journey to become the expert that she now is in the Neuromarketing world. If you were inspired by the world of neuromarketing, go to Anita's site anitalk.dk to learn more about the work she does, or connect with Anita on Linkedin. All images in this post are courtesy of Christina Jensen, find more of her work on instagram @chris1million.