Neurotechnology is being used in marketing. Check out a paper I wrote a couple years ago, and google Martin Lindstrom.
Neuroscience and Market Research: Neuromarketing
Ashlee S Muller
University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Graduate Research Paper
9 July 2010
Neuroscientific methods have long been used within the social sciences, especially neuropsychology, but they are just beginning to be used in conjunction with marketing research (Reimann, 2009). New advancements in the field have allowed scientists to look inside the brain and observe what is going on. They can see how the brain functions, processes information, and how emotions influence behaviors – like buying choices. The application of neuroscientific methods to market research is called consumer neuroscience, or neuromarketing (Marci, 2008). After gathering neuroscientific data, the logical next step is integrating it into a marketing plan. The goal is to take the scientific findings of the neuromarketing study and use them to prepare an advertising strategy that will win over consumers (Walvis, 2008).
The most common method of gathering neuromarketing data uses a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) brain scanning machine that produces a color-coded image of the brain taken while participants are exposed to different stimuli including product advertisements, branded packaging, etc. Scientific interpretation of the resulting image by trained personnel reveals the participant‘s unconscious feelings about the brands or advertisements in the study (Lovell, 2008).
Other methods for research include the electroencephalography, or EEG. EEG measures brainwaves with a headband-like sensor. Many times the EEG test is combined with other measurement tools including eye-tracking systems, and galvanic skin-response metering. Compared to fMRI methods, using EEG is more affordable and convenient. However, some are convinced that the EEG provides
less-impressive data than could be gathered from traditional means like focus groups and questionnaires (Frazier, 2007).
The concept of neuromarketing was first proposed by Jerry Zaltman in the late 1990s. The article Inside the Mind of the Consumer, published in the June 12, 2004 issue of the The Economist credits Zaltman for propositioning the union of neuroscience and marketing. 2001 marked the first official opening of a neuromarketing division within a marketing firm (Wilson, et al., 2008). The October 2008 Campaign article, Is Neuroscience Making a Difference?, by Caroline Lovell says that there are now more than 90 neuromarketing agencies worldwide.
The article The New Ad-Buying Measures that May Be on Tap This Fall, written by Andrew Hampp mentions that neuromarketing is one of the methods that marketers are looking to to expand reach negotiations with network advertising sellers for the Fall of 2010. The article talks about how A&E networks will become the latest network to partner with a neuroscience company. Their goal is to measure the eye movements and brainwaves of consumers to determine their emotional engagement with programming and advertising. A superior audience may no longer be rated on size alone; it may now be looked at from an engagement or impact perspective, which may influence the negotiation process in advertisement purchasing (Hampp, 2010).
Why has neuromarketing become relevant?
Over the last few years the scope of market research has changed. With the increase of digital correspondence – via social networks, blogs, forums, etc. – we have become a ―listening economy.‖ We have changed the way we think about and
use information. Where there was once a simple consumer, we now see reviewers and publishers with blogs, fan sites, and forums online, and as a result the way we brand our products is becoming increasingly more consumer-centric. In that respect it has become even more imperative that we know what the consumer is thinking (Smith, 2009).
Data gathered in a 2009 paper by Joel Rubinson of the Advertising Research Foundation stated that from 2003 to 2008 the mission, vision and scope of research have changed. He provided the following key words, the first group derived from a global Research Leaders Summit in 2003, the second from a series of leadership meetings and industry forums in 2008 and 2009.
The following lists are from The New Marketing Research Imperative: It’s about Learning, Joel Rubinson, 2009:
2003 key words:
R4 (i.e., right information, right place, right time, right form)
2008/2009 key words:
Sharing via social media
Categorization (i.e., how humans learn about new things)
Strategy (i.e., where to play, where to win).
The conclusion that Rubinsin draws from this is the following:
―The shift in research strategy in only five years is profound, from an emphasis on report-card accountability metrics to becoming a learning organization that puts the human at the center of marketing thinking.‖
Rubinson also says that emerging mental models – including neuroscience, anthropology, and behavioral economics, which have contributed to the knowledge of how people interpret messaging – is one of the major reasons that there has been a shift toward learning (2009).
As the advertising world becomes more consumer-centric it is going to become increasingly more important to understand what the consumer is thinking.
―…neuroscience seeks to understand the neural mechanisms underlying complex thoughts, such as reasoning, decision making, object representation, emotion, and memory, which overlap with marketing notions such as positioning, hierarchy of effects, brand loyalty, and consumer responses to marketing.‖ (Perrachione, 2008)
Rubinson predicts that accurate forecasts and accountability metrics will no longer be enough to create memorable marketing in a learning economy (2009). However, others are quick to point out that in order to incorporate neuroscience into marketing it is important to think about the limitations. The methods are scientific and the neuroscientists will be the ones to determine which questions can be answered within the limitations of the technology (Perrachione, 2008).
Why should researchers consider neuromarketing?
―Consumers will never, ever tell the truth. It‘s not because they‘re lying – because they‘re not – they‘re just unaware,‖ says Martin Lindstrom, author of Buy-ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy (2008). Our brain works automatically, processing information without our direct awareness. This emotional processing takes place in parts of our brain that are secluded from our language center, which makes it difficult for us to articulate the real reason why we are making decisions (Marci, 2008). ―Eighty-five percent of decisions…are made in the nonconscious part of your brain,‖ says Martin Lindstrom (2008).
Neuromarketing seeks to ―bridge the gap‖ between customer surveys and qualitative research, and what consumers are really thinking. The article Neuroscience: A New Perspective by Graham Page, suggests that neuroscientific techniques have value to researchers in several instances including the following:
The following descriptions are taken from Neuroscience: A New Perspective,Graham Page, 2010:
Sensitive Material: Qualitative and survey methods are most vulnerable to distortion when sensitive material is involved. Methods that don‘t rely on explicit questions can reveal unstated attitudes more effectively.
Abstract or “higher order” ideas: Consumers may find it difficult to express some of the abstract ideas at the heart of some brands‘ positioning. Implicit association methods are useful to probe for ideas that participants might be too self-conscious to verbalize, or simply unable to articulate.
A need to probe for transient responses to ads or brand experiences: Consumers are great at talking about the gist of an ad or brand, but they may not be able to explain how they got there. Eye-tracking and EEG can help researchers fill in the blanks by identifying the focus of attention and illustrating the highs and lows of emotional and cognitive response to a piece of creative.
A need to understand consumers’ feelings: When questions are framed correctly, consumers can talk about their feelings in response to surveys and qualitative research. But neuroscience-based methods can an additional level of detail about the timing of these responses and their origins.
The following is an example of how neuromarketing can be used to answer difficult questions in the advertising world. As reported by Dr. Carl D. Marci, Director of Social Neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, in the article Minding the Gap: The Evolving Relationships Between Affective Neuroscience and Advertising Research, studies comparing sugared colas have eluded to the fact that brand preferences and emotional memories are stored in the same parts of the brain, areas that override the areas that deal with taste alone. He states that the results of this study provide evidence that there is a neurological basis for brand preference choices, and that neuroscience can help sort out the details. Other studies have tried to sort out the basis of personal preferences, the importance of context in advertisements, as well as the recall of advertising content (Marci, 2009).
What are the major issues surrounding neuroscience and marketing?
There are many critics regarding the application of neuroscience to marketing. Some of the extreme have introduced the idea that neuromarketing might lead to ―consumer zombies‖ who are influenced by ―hypereffective advertising campaigns‖ that have been crafted from the information provided from the studies (Senior, 2008). However, the fact is that consumers will still possess the power of their own free will, and that there are many other nontransparent tactics already in place, but it is not to say that this activity will not increase with the popularity of neuroscientific methods in research (Wilson, 2008).
Some are critical of the methods altogether. When a consumer is hooked up to machines and presented with a decision between products, or an advertisement they are in a completely different environment than they would be when it actually
counts. The things on a subjects mind when they are wired up to a machine are likely to be 100 percent different than then things on their mind in the middle of a grocery isle. These subconscious differences may influence their decision to go a different direction than identified under the scientific study (Miley, 2008).
Other issues surrounding the use of neuromarketing are those of ethics, which has been termed neuroethics for the purpose of the neuroscience community. Some of the factors that are being examined include subliminal advertising, manipulating consumer behavior without their knowledge, and ―seductiveness‖ of ads – can the consumer resist the temptation? Some researchers propose a ―code of ethics‖ for the neuromarketing industry, which could translate to the academic industry as well (Senior, 2008).
What factors need to be considered for a neuromarketing study to be successful?
It is important to remember that neuromarketing research is science. Marketers and those involved need to approach their goals with that in mind. Several factors need to be followed to assure that the research is carried out in a successful, truly scientific fashion (Senior, 2008).
First, appropriate studies need to be designed. ―All neuromarketing research needs to have a strong theoretical background with a clear experimental hypothesis,‖ say Carl Senior and Nick Lee in an editorial written for the Journal of Consumer Behavior (2008). It is important that neuromarketing studies are designed in this manner so that criticism of the validity of the experimental procedure can be avoided down the line (Senior, et al., 2008). The following are some of the factors that should be considered as methods are being put into practice:
First, the experimental team should pay special attention to who they decide to include in the study and how they are recruited. Each study as a specific niche – it‘s important that the subjects for that study fit into that niche. What is the variable of interest? Choose participants based on that. If it is a male interest variable, studying female participants is of no consequence (Senior, et al. 2008).
Second, projects should be reviewed by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) before they are implemented. For legal purposes, a full appraisal of risks is needed from the appropriate authorities. And on that note, the researchers should practice discretion while creating their studies. An appropriate neuroethical system of values should be adopted and upheld throughout the research (Senior, et al., 2008).
The final thing that needs to be considered for a successful study lays in the hands of the marketing company. It is important to look for experience when seeking out a company to perform the research. Making sure the scientists involved are familiar with the limitations of the technology will make for a more successful outcome. They scientists should also be aware of how neuroscience can add the most value to a proposed question (Page, 2010).
What are the benefits for marketing and advertising?
According to Gemma Calvert, a professor of Applied Neuroimaging at Warwick University and co-founder of the neuromarketing consultancy Neurosense, neuroscience will save brands money, ―It‘s not a litmus test—it‘s a damn sight better, in terms of predictability, than other techniques (Page, 2010).‖ This thought is furthered in the article Neuroscience: A New Perspective. The author concludes that neuroscience research will soon become a standard tool in the marketing researcher‘s
tool kit. However, the learnings from neuroscience can only be used to their fullest potential when they are combined with the knowledge we gain from traditional sources like surveys, focus groups, and interviews. The trick is to use the right inference at the right time (Page, 2010).
Robin Wight, the chairman of The Engine Group, thinks about the benefits in a bit of a different fashion. He suggests neuroscience will transform how we assess marketing. ―The marketing industry has failed to get beyond the rational mind model of communication,‖ he says. ―We are not rational creatures; we are rationalizing creatures. If we are driven by our unconscious decisions, how misled is an ad that focuses on the conscious mind?‖ (Lovell, 2008).
The bottom line is that neuromarketing can offer insights into issues like distribution channels, pricing policy, ethical branding, etc., places that consumers have a hard time articulating an issue (Senior, et al., 2008). The following is an example from Martin Lindstrom, founder of a firm specializing in neuroscience (2008).
A stereo-equipment manufacturer had their customers rate the quality of their remote. Participants did not rate it favorably and they could not explain why. Martin‘s neuroscientific research revealed that there was activity in these participants‘ brains in the area associated with touch. This led them to the conclusion that the remote was too light – an associated quality of poor craftsmanship. After the remote‘s weight issue was addressed, customers began to rate the remote more favorably (Lindstrom, 2008).
What do the marketing agencies think?
There are varied opinions about the utility of neuroscience in marketing research. There are ethical issues, environmental consistency issues, interpretive issues, and methodological issues, but what do the people who work in the marketing and advertising industry think? Here are thoughts from three different individuals working in the agency world:
The following quotes are taken from Is Neuroscience Making a Difference?, Caroline Lovell, 2010:
―I love the concept of neuromarketing. However, there are a few tiny weeny issue-ettes that need considering. Conventional research is expensive enough. Having to stick to every respondent into an MRI scanner…might be pushing clients‘ budgets a little. Also, existing qualitative and quantitative methodologies can be criticized for using far from real-life conditions. But squeezing someone into a terrifyingly noisy plastic tube and forcing them to watch an ad is about as far from their sitting room as you can get.‖
Creative – Damion Collins, executive creative director, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
―I don‘t think it will massively revolutionize what we already know about human behavior. A lot of the companies that will use neuroscience are big companies that have a little imagination and hope it will magically provide consumer insights. But it‘s dangerous when used predicatively. Hooking people up to monitors treats them like laboratory rats. People have always looked for the Holy Grail to predict what will make people buy stuff but it has eluded us: selling stuff is an art rather than an absolute science. We reject advertising when it‘s pumped into our living room. Who is going to volunteer for it to be rammed into their brain?‖
Planner – Andy Nairn, executive planning director, Miles Calcraft Bringshaw Duffy
"Neuroscience is an absolutely intrinsic part of our planning process. Frankly, it sometimes confirms what we instinctively know, but I still think there‘s value. We thought there was something missing in the media
planning process in that when you think of the rationale for a media channel selection; a lot of it is about research, coverage and statistics. But it doesn‘t take into account the ability of a channel to stimulate and influence our brains. It sounds a bit Machiavellian and slightly scary but it is a totally sensible way to look at things. The danger is to turn it into too much of a science. People still need to think creatively about solving problems.‖
Media Planner – Jonathan Fowles, exectutive planning director, PHD Media
―Neuroscience will round up the picture rather than completely change the story,‖ says Graham Page, executive vice-president, Global Solutions, Millward Brown. Marketers and advertisers should use the neuroscientific research they have gathered in conjunction with other more-traditional methods of research, not in place of it. Neuroscientific nuggets should be reserved for the places that they will add value to the message (Page, 2010).
Many new papers and articles on neuromarketing are suggesting that marketing will be transformed, both in practice and in how we interpret the effectiveness of messages, but the truth is (according to account planner, Andy Narin in the quotes above) ―…selling stuff is an art, rather than an exact science.‖
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Marci, C. D. (2008, August 01). Minding the gap: the evolving relationships between affective neuroscience and advertising research. International Journal of Advertising, 27(3), 473-475.
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