I came across a blog post on the New York Times website (http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/07/the-secret-of-neuromarketing-go-for-the-pain/) the other day about a company that claims to be the first neuromarketing agency. A salesman there, Christophe Morin, believes that the proper way to sell or market a product is by stimulating the part of the brain that controls emotions like fear and pain. This intrigued me, and I decided to take a deeper look into the neuromarketing concept.
Since this word may be new to you, here’s an explaination: Neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience to marketing. It involves studying the brain’s reaction to advertisements, packaging, or other marketing aspects using scanning, imaging and other brain activity measurements. The brain activity that occurs may or may not be conscious to the viewer, which explains why this data is more informative than a standard focus group. The hope for marketers is to use this information to create campaigns that are directed to stimulate the audience subconsciously. So, neuromarketing is a study of the subconscious activity that occurs while viewing marketing stimulus.
The point of using neuromarketing is to have an effect on what is called a “meme”. A meme is a unit of information that is stored in the brain. These memes influence a person to make a choice or decision in as little as 2.6 seconds. If a meme is affected in the right way, we can remember a good concept (joke, song, idea, etc) and share it with others later. These memes can be directly affected by marketers. Some good examples of the traditional meme:
- The smell of grandma’s apple pie
- Recognizable/memorable characters in fairy tales or cartoons
- A simple song or melody getting stuck in your head
Neuromarketers (the group of researchers performing the neuromarketing tests) believe that in order to have a successful pitch you need to reach a subconscious part of the brain, since according to studies, only 2% of brain energy is used on conscious activity. According to A.K. Pradeep, Founder and Chief Executive of NeuroFocus, a California-based neuromarketing firm, this subconscious part of the brain is where consumers develop their interest in a product as well as impulses to buy them. This is also where brand loyalty is established. Hence why it is important as marketers to target this part of the brain.
The neuromarketing concept has also been called “brandwashing” by some. Those using the term are concluding that the act of neuromarketing will basically influence a consumer to buy a product subconsciously, or in other words, brainwashing. But, the process of neuromarketing is a little less powerful than one may think. Many believe that the brain activity being stimulated has a very powerful influence on people’s behavioral responses, which is simply untrue. What marketers can gain from this understanding is simply how to better position their brand, product or service. Paul Root Wolpe, a bioethicist and director of the Emory Center for Ethics says, “The idea is that somehow neuromarketing is going to be so much more powerful that, like zombies, we are all going to go out and buy soap. But that is just not realistic in terms of the way the brain works.”
So while marketers cannot control their customers, they can learn how their brains respond to their campaigns thanks to neuromarketing. While some consider Neuromarketing a brainwashing technique, it is simply a more accurate indicator of a consumer’s reaction. Or more simply put, a focus group of the subconscious mind.
By Erin Scheck