You’ve probably heard the term “neuromarketing” recently, as it is becoming a commonly used marketing practice. So what is neuromarketing, and what does it comprise? Neuromarketing as a discipline first emerged in 2002, and it has since gained credibility and popularity within the marketing community. In an article published by The American Marketing Association in February 2019, neuromarketing is defined as “a brand new field of marketing research that employs the principles of neuroscience and the medical technology of brain imaging to learn about how consumers unconsciously respond to advertisements and branding elements.” Neuromarketing employs the study of cognitive, sensorimotor and affective responses to marketing stimuli. To better understand consumers’ decision-making ability, neuromarketing provides scientific insight into their minds. So before we start a discussion on how neuromarketing can improve advertising campaigns, let us understand some of its tools—and implications.

The tools behind neuromarketing

To understand a customer’s preferences, motivations and thinking behind their decision, tools such as fMRI and EEG are used to measure specific neural and physiological signals. This can aid in the overall marketing and product development process.

The fMRI, or functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, measures brain activity with the use of multiple magnetic fields to measure the changes in blood flow within the brain. When a certain area of the brain is activated or in use, there is an increased level of blood flow to that area. Similar to this, the EEG, or the Electroencephalogram, monitors the electrical activity within the brain using electrodes placed on the scalp. The EEG can easily track brain activity; however, it cannot precisely decipher the area of activation. In addition, tools like eye tracking and pupil dilation can offer a more physiological approach to the measurement. Other physiological measurements include heart rate, skin conductivity and emotional responses.

How can these tools be used to predict the consumer’s rationale?

A recent study has indicated that the neural measurements recorded from a group of 30 consumers, to predict their market-level behaviour, yield more enhanced results over traditional marketing tools. Information collected from fMRI market research has proven to overtake traditional behavioural information when it comes to predicting music sales, and even the persuasiveness of anti-smoking advertisement campaigns.

What should make this exceptionally exciting to marketers is that small sample size, as noted above, of the population is required to predict the response of a larger-scale customer base response. Therefore, although the neuroimaging study could be expensive, it could quickly pay for itself in short order—with promising returns.

In one of the studies carried out by Plassmann et al., fMRI was used to exhibit how the price of a product can establish a placebo effect. In the study, data collected showed that a higher price tag placed on two identical wines resulted in people rating the more expensive wine as “better tasting.” No effect was shown in the primary taste areas, but rather the cognitive areas that perceive taste. Fundamentally, the individual’s preconception of how good the wine should be due to the higher price tag affected their cognitive perception of it. In another study, fMRI data disclosed the timing of which the consumer is presented with the price of a product, significantly alters their purchasing behaviour. When the price was presented at the beginning, it was shown that the decision question posited by the consumer, changed from “do I like this product?” to “is this product worth it?”. This could be very beneficial for consumer researchers in predicting which purchases would profit from seeing the price, first.

What about the ethical implications of neuromarketing?

Although neuromarketing can be a beneficial tool for marketing communications, as it allows for a deeper understanding of the targeted consumer base, ethical concerns still need to be addressed. In the article, Is Neuromarketing Ethical? Consumers Say Yes. Consumers Say No.”, authored by Jason Flores, Arne Baruca and Robert Saldivar, and cited by the American Marketing Association article, a legitimate concern is raised about brands’ influence through neuromarketing. The authors argue that neuromarketing gives brands a handy tool that can surreptitiously or covertly manipulatively, influence consumers to “push the buy button.”

 So what?

In an era of social and digital marketing, where approximately $400 billion are spent on marketing campaigns, it’s safe to predict the growing influence of neuropsychology in marketing communication, which offers brands a better perspective in understanding consumers’ preferences over their competitors, will become more mainstream. Overall, brands that employ ethical use of this emerging field, will find a more efficient way of capturing their customer’s hearts and minds, which can result in a sustainable competitive advantage over their competition.

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1 Comment

  1. Farah El Gammal has reinforced my knowledge that applied science is important to professional marketers, especially when developing tactics. What colours best apply in the corporate identity of a small business to help attract customers? Are there certain elements of a language that resonate with a particular generation, culture, lifestyle, gender, or income level that triggers action? What behavior of a small business owner and employees attracts a customer to engage in a unique experience and pay a fair price for that experience? Applied science can add a major dimension to marketing that must not be overlooked by professional marketers. And what about marketers in small businesses that cannot afford original laboratory research? Where can they access marketing research and applied science advancements in marketing? We need more articles on this topic and how applied science in marketing meets ethical standards of CIMMO. Farah has opened the discussion.

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