Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive and affective response to marketing stimuli. Neuromarketing is the study of how people's brains respond to advertising and other brand-related messages by scientifically monitoring brainwave activity, eye-tracking and skin response.
Researchers use technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain, electroencephalography (EEG) and Steady state topography (SST) to measure activity in specific regional spectra of the brain response, and/or sensors to measure changes in one's physiological state to learn why consumers make the decisions they do and what part of the brain is telling them to do it. Neuromarketing research raised interest for both academic and business side. In fact, certain companies have invested in their own laboratories, science personnel and / or partnerships with academia.
Companies such as Google amongst others have used neuromarketing research services to measure consumer thoughts on their advertisements or products.
The bases for Neuromarketing derives from the Greek Philosopher Plato (Chariot Allegory, Phaedrus). Plato’s chariot-drawn-by-two-horses philosophy was the first to link the human person to a human soul (mind). Plato paints the picture of a Charioteer driving a chariot pulled by two winged horses. The Charioteer represents intellect, reason, or the part of the soul that must guide the soul to truth; one horse represents rational or moral impulse or the positive part of passionate nature (e.g., righteous indignation), while the other represents the soul's irrational passions, appetites, or concupiscent nature. The Charioteer directs the entire chariot/soul, trying to stop the horses from going different ways, and to proceed towards enlightenment.
The philosophy of Plato has evolved in the concepts of Neuromarketing. There are two types of mental processes in the brain: System 1 and System 2. The former is concerned with subconscious, automatic reasoning, whereas the latter is concerned with conscious, intentional more deliberate type of reasoning.
Just as these two systems can be regarded as ‘complementary opposites’ to each other, they can have very distinct applications in marketing.
Because system 1 specializes in making fast (subconscious) judgments, the retail environment with its hundreds of same-category products requires that the emphasis should be on utilizing the skills of System 1. When a customer enters a retail store, the abundance of lights, colors, signage and sounds can distract the customer so far as there are no unique stimuli that can draw the customer’s full, undivided attention that ultimately results in a purchase.
A company’s products, therefore, needs to be sufficiently unique in terms of design, contrast with competitive brands, readability etc. so that the impatient customer is ‘allowed’ to use the fast-thinking System 1 when crawling the isles in search of the right product and thereby making a quick decision.
The base of neuromarketing is “meme”. Meme is a unit of information stored in the brain. These units are effective at influencing a person who is making choices and decisions within 2.6 seconds. If “meme” is chosen properly we remember the good, joke or song and would share it. “Memes stay in memory and they are affected by marketers”.
Examples of memes: Aromas of fresh bread, sweets, grandmother's pie; characters in fairy tales; melodies that cannot be forced out of one's mind. Thus neuromarketers examine people (brain scan, revealing subconscious motives) and manipulate them.
Best-known technology of neuromarketing was developed in the late 1990s by Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman. It was patented under the name of Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET). The essence of ZMET reduces to exploring the human unconscious with specially selected sets of images that cause a positive emotional response and activate hidden images, metaphors stimulating the purchase. Graphical collages are constructed on the base of detected images, which lays in the basis for commercials. Marketing Technology ZMET quickly gained popularity among hundreds of major companies-customers including Coca-Cola, General Motors, Nestle, Procter & Gamble.
In a study of Read Montague, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, published in 2004, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to study what he called "the Pepsi Paradox". 67 people had their brains scanned while being given the "Pepsi Challenge", a blind taste test of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The study was inspired by a series of TV commercials from the 70's and 80's where people were asked to take "the Pepsi Challenge". In the commercials' blind taste test, Pepsi was usually the winner. In Dr. Montague's study, subjects were fairly evenly divided between Pepsi and Coke; however, when the subjects knew what they were drinking, 75% said they preferred Coke. Montague saw activity in the prefrontal cortex, indicating higher thought processes, and concluded that the subjects were associating the drink with positive images and branding messages from Coke commercials.
The results demonstrated that Pepsi should have half the market share, but in reality consumers are buying Coke for reasons related less to their taste preferences and more to their experience with the Coke brand.
In another study, at Daimler-Chrysler, researchers found that the "reward" centers of men's brains were activated by sports cars, in a similar manner to the way the same areas of the brain respond to alcohol and drugs.
The results of neuromarketing research can be surprising. In Buyology, Martin Lindstrom documents a three-year study. Among his findings:
· Warning labels on cigarette packages stimulate activity in a brain area associated with craving - despite the fact that subjects said that they thought the warnings were effective.
· Images of dominant brands, such as the iPod, stimulated the same part of the brain activated by religious symbols.
· An image of a Mini Cooper activated the part of the brain that responds to faces.
Some consumer advocate organizations have criticized neuromarketing’s potentially invasive technology. They claim that neuromarketing is “having an effect on individuals that individuals are not informed about". Some anti-marketing activists warn that neuromarketing could ultimately be used to manipulate consumers by playing on their fears or unethically stimulating positive responses. Practitioners argue that such precise manipulation is neither possible nor desirable. According to BrightHouse, an Atlanta-based consultancy firm, neuromarketing only seeks to understand "how and why customers develop relationships with products, brands, and the company itself".
Advocates nonetheless argue that society benefits from neuromarketing innovations. German neurobiologist Kai-Markus Müller promotes a neuromarketing variant, "neuropricing," that uses data from brain scans to help companies identify the highest prices consumers will pay. Müller says "everyone wins with this method", because brain-tested prices enable firms to increase profits, thus increasing prospects for survival during economic recession.