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For years marketing was considered to be a form of art (or at least something adjacent to art). Even though it was driven by the needs of the market, there seemed to be a consensus that it requires some sort of artistic sentiment. This, however, is starting to change. More than ever marketing efforts are being treated as science. Scientific achievements in the field of neurology are finding their way to advertising agencies, which is quite a good match.
The term Neuromarketing was first used around 2002 (but it can’t be attributed to any specific individual). The first serious research was completed in 2003, and the results were published a year later. Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine took MRI scans of people drinking Pepsi and Coca Cola. The test showed that each drink triggers different parts of the brain. It also implied that brain reacted differently when it recognizes a well known brand. The subjects preferred Pepsi, as long as they weren’t aware of the brand. This changed when the cups were properly tagged.
This research was met with criticism, because of numerous ethical concerns, such as using the science to affect the subconsciousness of the consumers. Nevertheless, both the term and the scientific field are still around and new uses of neuroscience in marketing are being discovered daily.
How does it work?
Measuring the effectiveness of a marketing campaign has always been an issue. It usually relies on surveys and questionnaires. Subjects are asked to describe their own feelings about the product and the advertisement. This is obviously a problematic method, because people are not aware of most of their inner motives and drives. Also numerous reasons motivate people to distort their true views (peer pressure being the most important one).
The use of sophisticated imaging technology such as MRIs, MEGs and EEGs scans can provide a much clearer picture of the subject’s respond to certain stimuli. Depending on which part of the brain is being used and how much oxygen flows in that part in a specific time frame, scientist can measure the responses and adapt the ads accordingly.
Measuring the emotional response to an ad is the most important part of neuromarketing. It isn’t always easy to explain why consumers find some of the ads appealing and not the others, and the same goes for actors used in those commercials. It’s too simplistic to say that causing positive feelings sells and invoking negative ones doesn’t. For instance, the image of Christmas gift cards is not associated just with the rush of a holiday shopping, but also with a certain sense of nostalgia. Neuroscience can help with understanding these complicated reactions.
It’s also interesting to analyze how consumers process the advertizing. Transfer of memories from short to long term part of the brain (this happens in the left hemisphere) is an interesting field, which can obviously be beneficial to the industry. Certain intervals of a TV ad invoke more intense brainwave reaction than others. These so called “branding moments” can be of great use to the creative power behind TV ads.
The technology for brain imaging has developed rapidly and therefore became less expensive. Wireless and wearable MRI scans will soon be available. This will allow users to observe the ads in a more relaxed environment, which will, in turn, give more accurate results. Eye tracking solutions will also be available and they can be of great use in understanding how people interact with websites. Original squeamishness about using neuroscience for advertising purposes has largely disappeared. First of all, businesses are becoming more forthcoming with using neuroscience in their research, because this is now perceived as being on the cutting edge of things in advertising business. Neuromarketing Science & Business Association has been established in 2012 to provide both the scientists and marketing agencies with the set of ethical rules for their future work.
Neuromarketing, bold mixture of scientific development and marketing efforts seem to be the future for both fields.