Neuro-marketing? Is that marketing by way of mind control? To clarify, Neuro-marketing is the practice of using technology to measure a subject’s brain activity responses to marketing stimuli. It looks into thoughts on price, product, place, and promotion regarding both production and communication processes. Understanding a consumer's thought process (fears, wants, likes, etc.) regarding a service or product can help determine a successful marketing strategy for a company.
Companies have been integrating this method into their marketing strategies in the hopes that their discoveries will lead to stronger connections with consumers and eventually result in more sales. The core question that companies are trying to answer is “why?” consumers buy what they do. Why do we prefer one brand over another? Or why do we like a certain type of packaging compared to others? Answers to these questions could lead to huge breakthroughs in the marketing field.
There are a few different tactics used when it comes to neuro-marketing. EEG is a popular choice that works on electrodes placed on the subject’s head (non-invasive). It can track things such as memory encoding, wakefulness, attention, or emotional engagement. It records the brain wave data and makes the determinations based off of algorithms.
The question to be answered for marketers is whether this study is worth it. The hype surrounding this practice peaked in the early 2000’s and has since remained in the media. Does the cost outweigh the benefits?
The core question that companies are trying to answer is “why?” consumers buy what they do. Why do we prefer one brand over another? Or why do we like a certain type of packaging compared to others? Answers to these questions could lead to huge breakthroughs in the marketing field.
Neuro-marketing allows marketers to gain insight about their campaigns before releasing them to the public. While surveys and observational studies could identify these reactions, there is thought to be much more bias involved with those methods. The person being surveyed could manipulate their answer, be misled in the question, or the observer could misinterpret a reaction. Neuro-marketing offers more of a solid solution by interpreting our reactions on a more scientific level.
In addition to neurons being a more reliable result, neuro-marketing can also help determine different cultural perceptions or reactions to stimuli. This is great for global companies. One can begin to understand why a certain stimuli is okay with one culture, but offensive to another. This could lead them to bettering their company and making it internationally accepted across the board. Disney took part in neuro-marketing studies to comprehend different cultural reactions as well as further determine their future advertisements. While analytical data can let you know which advertisement is working better or gaining the best results, it cannot depict why. This is where neuro-marketing can come in and distinguish the elements of the ad that are gaining the reactions desired.
The biggest problem with neuro-marketing obviously is the cost. The technology involved is pricy, so the study itself must be too. It is not necessary to go out and buy your own electrodes or MRI machine. There are companies that are solely designed to run the study for you. Forbes projected the cost somewhere in ballpark of $50,000.00 for 20-30 consumers via an EEG or fMRI marketing study.
Another issue is that like every scientific study, bias and subjectivity can still be involved. These can include typical experiment biases, such as the way the study is set up by the neuro-marketing companies themselves.
Many consumers also consider this neuro-marketing practice “brainwashing” which can give marketers as a whole or the company itself a bad image. Those in opposition of this practice feel it is unethical to determine what makes us “have to buy” certain products or services. They feel once marketers figure this out they could manipulate us to buy lots of products despite our wants or needs. Many of them cite it as minority report style advertising.
Making a decision
Do these benefits outweigh the high cost or potential bad image? Companies such as Walt Disney, Google, Campbell’s Soup, Gerber, Frito-Lay, Microsoft, Yahoo, Hyundai, Facebook, P&G, Coca Cola, and The Weather Channel all said yes. They have done studies to determine their future products, services, packaging, and marketing methods.
For companies that are prepared to spend millions on their marketing campaigns, new packaging, or latest design, the $50,000.00 could save them from a huge blunder. If you have the money to spend, the pros seem to outweigh the cons. From a return on investment standpoint, I’m not so sure that the little extra insight when compared to typical observational studies pans out (rest assured smaller budgeted companies).
What do you think? If you were presented with the opportunity, would you try it out for your business?
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