Highlights from Cannes: Keith Barry Brings Magic to Marketing

The highlight of the Saturday’s sessions at the Palais was Keith Barry: a hypnotist, mentalist and magician. What, exactly does magic have to do with marketing? The answer could be… everything. Ken Hertz from memBrain interviewed Barry focusing on the power of suggestion and the ways our subconscious minds can be persuaded from reality. Barry uses hypnotic techniques, psychology, and neuro-linguistic programming. The use of key words and guided prompts can alter another person’s reality, sensitizing them to other realities.

Perception is everything
For instance, Barry put the thought of himself in a bath, having a “good scrub” into the mind of an audience volunteer. Then he put her hand into a box and asked her to feel and identify an object inside. She guessed the object was a “squishy sponge”. It was actually a very hard rock. We couldn’t believe our eyes. He performed several versions of this trick—all ending with the same shocking results.

Not a mind reader, an observationalist
For his next trick, he asked us to think of a question about ourselves that no one could guess. He then began to guess the questions and then nailed each one—from a first girlfriend’s name to a make of a favorite car to ATM pin numbers! Barry maintains he is not a mind-reader, but a thought-reader and observationalist. His take: though we like to think we’re so unique and special, people are actually quite similar in many ways. Because 90% of communication is non-verbal, you can read people’s body language, movements, facial cues & micro-expressions to tell what what’s going on inside their heads. Think of it more as brain-hacking than a brain-reading.

How can we apply the tricks of the trade?
The million (or billion?) dollar question now is how can we, as marketers, employ Barry’s approach in our campaigns and content? Are we doing it already? The world of facial recognition and artificial intelligence has given us some advanced tools but are we using them correctly? Influencing consumer behavior and creating demand, love, and preference for products and services is only part of our remit. The key moving forward is to work our magic—translating our learnings into messages and experiences that sell.