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While not many may be aware of it, a new, controversial and well-developing branch of marketing called neuromarketing is forming and affecting consumers. What exactly it is, how big influence it has for our shopping decisions and what dangers brings to the retail world is not so obvious yet, but this topic is worth of reflection.
Neuromarketing is the study of how people’s brains respond to advertising and other marketing stimuli by scientifically monitoring brainwave activity, heart rate, eye tracking, skin responses and body language. The goal is to translate these responses into human emotions, thinking styles to understand customer reactions for different stimulus.
Adding to ideological values like higher needs, ethical rules, taste specialists have possibility to create a desirable product that satisfies customers fully.
There are basic tools used in neormarketing analysis like ƒMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), which measures changes in brain activity and EEG (ElectroEncephaloGraphy), which measures activity in specific parts of the brain and Sensors measuring heart rate, respiratory rate, the skin’s response to stimuli, and tracking eye movement.
So far, the most popular studies about neuromarketing have been done by Dr. Read Montague, a Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, Director of the Human Neuroimaging Lab, and Director of the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience.
The test arranged by Dr. Montague was called “the Pepsi Paradox” and was inspired by a series of TV commercials from the 70s and 80s, in which people were asked to take “the Pepsi Challenge.” In the commercial’s blind taste test, Pepsi was usually the winner. However, in Dr. Montague’s study, 75 percent preferred Coke.
Even though the respondents knew what they were drinking, Montague noticed activity in the prefrontal cortex, indicating higher thought processes, and concluded that respondents were associating the drink with positive images and branding messages from Coke commercials.
Martin Lindstrom a 2009 recipient of TIME Magazine’s “World’s 100 Most Influential People” and trusted advisor for top executives in numerous Fortune 100 companies including PepsiCo, McDonald’s Corporation and American Express also found out interesting facts about this topic and documented them in the book Buyology – Truth and Lies About Why We Buy.
He proved that warning labels on cigarette packages stimulate activity in a brain area associated with craving, even though respondents claimed that the warnings were effective. He noticed that images of dominant brands, such as iPod, stimulate the same part of the brain activated by religious symbols.
There are a lot of controversies surrounding this topic as well. Skeptics claim that neuromarketing can manipulate consumers by using levels of fear or stimulating positive responses. Practitioners argue that such precise manipulation is impossible and unnecessary. They believe that neuromarketing only seeks how and why customers develop relationships with products, brands, and the company itself.
Said Godin who is American bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change concludes the topic in a blog spot in short well matching description: “Just like every powerful tool, the impact comes from the craftsman, not the tool. Marketing has more reach, with more speed, than it has ever had before.
With less money, you can have more impact than anyone could have imagined just ten years ago. The question, one I hope you’ll ask yourself, is what are you going to do with that impact.”