The collaboration between neuroscience and marketing may seem like the stuff of science fiction; however the study of the nervous system is beginning to be used by marketers to accurately measure what the consumer is feeling. In a manner inconceivable in the past, the practice allows marketing experts to understand how the brain responds to creative stimulus and more importantly what particular emotions those ideas trigger. Consumers naturally connect to the brands and experiences that make them “feel” something. By putting neuromarketing science into practice, marketers now have the opportunity to create an emotional affinity with brands and forge effective long-term bonds with consumers.
Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing that studies consumers’ sensimotor, cognitive and affective response to marketing stimuli. Many companies, including Google, CBS, Disney, Frito-Lay and others have extensively used neuromarketing services. Businesses are continually developing strategies to build stronger consumer loyalty and boost brand recognition. Sophisticated marketers are now using eye-tracking technology or data analytics monitoring read time consumer preferences in efforts to improve marketing effectiveness.
Neuromarketers don’t just want to get into your heads, they want to get into your your brain, even if they have to rewire it in the process! When we think about brands, something happens in our brains — there’s electrical activity; a measurable response. The technology used to monitor this response is becoming increasingly refined, and as it does so, neuromarketing’s grasp on our most fundamental responses to advertising and products is tightening. When a marketer uses knowledge of the brain’s physiology to measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts, they are using neuromarketing techniques. When a company modifies a marketing strategy that reacts to specific human behavior, even though the brain is indirectly involved, they are using a form of neuromarketing. Neuromarketing has existed from the moment the first sign appeared outside of a craftsman’s shop. When population increased and more craftsmen appeared, competition increased as similar businesses offered the same product. Business owners quickly learned to modify their efforts in order to gain a bigger share of the market.
Neuroscience offers brands and products the opportunity to analyze — with increasing precision — the brain’s direct responses to stimuli. Of course, such technology can be put towards convincing us to buy products or to like ads, as well as merely measuring our responses to existing material. Indeed, this is already being done as the results from the first generation of neuromarketing are applied to the next wave of branding and advertising.
Dan Hilll, author of About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising (and author of his previous book, Emotionomics) and founder of this company, Sensory Logic, has focused on what neuroscientists call “microexpressions,”—consumers’ facial expressions—that provide specific practical data for marketers.
In an article in the New York Times, by Natasha Singer, “Making Ads That Whisper to the Brain,” she argues that because most of our brain’s activity is unconscious, neuromarketers believe that traditional surveys and focus groups are inaccurate. She cites the view of Dr. A.K. Pradeep, of Neurofocus, a neuromarkting firm, who contends that for marketing pitches to consumers to work, they need to reach the unconscious levels of the brain.
Technology is developing rapidly. Biometrics such as retinal scans, voice files and finger prints could one day make passwords obsolete. So too are biometrics and technology emerging in the gaming industry with newer games focusing on emotional experiences by users. For example, Flower, which is a PlayStation 3 video game, intended as a “spiritual successor” to Flow, a previous game. The game features no text or dialogue, formaing a narrative arc primarily through visual representation and emotional cues. Flower was primarily intended to arouse positive emotons in the player, rather than being a challenging or fun game.
Without knowing it or needing to understand brain physiology, these early marketing efforts attempted to effect the decision making portion of the brain and bypass the centers of the human brain responsible for emotional processing and rational thinking. Before the advent of modern medical science, these efforts were somewhat hit-and-miss and could be judged only after implementation. Using a company’s marketing budget on ineffective campaigns or advertising efforts that backfired was not uncommon. The first academic reference to neuromarketing was published a decade ago. Professor Read Montague suggested increased performance of one product over another if its brand was more recognized by the consumer. This was based on a study in which an fMRI machine was used to monitor the frontal lobe of the brain, the area known to be responsible for our thinking, planning and decision-making.
Technology is developing at such a rapid rate that it won’t be long before our biological profile will become intrinsically linked with technology in everyday life. There are already reports that biometrics will soon render passwords irrelevant, with our biological makeup being used instead to safeguard identity through retinal scans and voice files. To put this in context, there are rumours online that the impending iPhone5 will include an iris scanner for this very purpose.
This bridge between biology and technology is also emerging in the gaming industry where marketers look for inspiration to enrich experiences and build closer connections with consumers. With the launch of the Nintendo Wii in 2006, motion control became the most coveted and in-demand technology around, which was most recently capitalised by Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s Move. However, the next big craze in gaming will be brainwave technology. NeuroSky, the US company specialising in brainwave technology seems to be leading the way. Its technology has already been incorporated into toys available on the market such as the Star Wars Force Trainer, which allows users to float a ball through a tube simply by concentrating.
Today, the techniques for gathering data from our brains have been mostly developed in order to analyze consumers’ decision-making behavior. These include the brain imaging techniques:
- Electroencephalography (EEG), which measures the subconscious brain response to stimuli directly
- Eye tracking, to analyze visual focus
- Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), which measures the brain’s response to stimuli in the skin for the identification of emotional or physiological arousal.
Facial coding is the latest trend in the world of neuromarketing, and involves using software designed using expert guidance to pinpoint fleeting moments of ‘true’ emotion which pass over consumers’ faces during engagement with a product or ad.
In today’s competitive marketplace consumers are bombarded with advertisements, and business owners need to find ways to get their marketing efforts noticed. Neuromarketing helps internet marketing professionals craft messages that stand out from the rest. If you manage an advertising company or a marketing department, or you’re involved with internet marketing training, it is essential to understand how neuromarketing can give a business an advantage.
Neuromarketing can be used to design effective web sites, product styles, layout for operating manuals and training material and even colors of the boxes used to ship and display merchandise. It can help to identify the best place for a call to action. Armed with this information, potential problems can be identified quickly and products can be restyled and tested again with relative ease. Neuromarketing also works well with the science of consumer behavior and psychology by helping identify the right time and place for promotional activities.