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Guide: Neuromarketing - what is it?

Guide: Neuromarketing - what is it?


Country Manager Denmark

The discipline of neuromarketing links brain research to marketing. The purpose of neuromarketing is to find the consumer's mental "buy button" by gaining an understanding and insight into the consumer's partly unconscious motivation behind a purchase action.

In this way, neuromarketing is a departure from traditional marketing, where the focus has been on "persuading" the consumer to make a purchase and where the buying behavior is considered rational.

The rational consumer

The vast majority of theories on consumer behavior are based on the idea that the purchase decision is rational. In other words, it is assumed that:

  • The consumer has constant and stable preferences
  • Emotions don't matter in the buying decision
  • You have full information about the market, i.e. you know all providers and prices on the market.
  • The purchase decision is a logical process where the consumer has made a "cost-benefit" analysis of whether or not to buy a particular product.

Over time, this model has been developed and it has been found that the consumer is not rational and stable, and that the consumer's choices are biased. Therefore, the idea of the emotional consumer has been developed.

The emotional consumer

A shining example to illustrate the emotional nature of consumer behavior is the famous blind taste tests, which in the 1970s revealed that consumers prefer the taste of Pepsi, yet Coca Cola is the best seller. Neuroscientist Read Montaque found the answer to why this is the case when, in 2003, he verified the blind test and invited people to taste colas with MRI scans. Participants were placed in a scanner and asked to drink cola blindly. Once again, most preferred Pepsi, but when the subjects were told what they were drinking, the subjects suddenly preferred the taste of Coca Cola. And the MRI scans also showed a change in brain activity. When the participants drank Coca Cola - and knew that this was the brand they were drinking - the memory area of the brain was activated. Montaque's own explanation for the result is that the participants recognized Coca Cola from the advertisements, and the company's marketing thus causes consumers to ignore the actual quality of the product.

Montaque's experiment shows that emotions are very much linked to and can determine consumer buying behavior. And it is precisely the idea of the emotional consumer that neuromarketing is based on. People are complex and so is our consumer behavior. With neuromarketing studies, we try to learn more about the unconscious processes that trigger a certain action in people. For example, different colors evoke different emotions in us and will therefore, according to neuromarketing, also evoke different actions. You can read more about the effect colors can have on your sales here.

The big question in neuromarketing is which stimulus elicits a certain action. To find the answer, neuromarketing uses a number of different methods. It can be something as simple as analyzing facial expressions, eye tracking, heart rate measurements, elecdermal activity (which includes sweat on the skin, dryness, etc.). Eye tracking is one of the most commonly used methods. It involves putting on a pair of glasses and typically being sent to a store or asked to watch a commercial. You can then measure and track what the consumer has been looking at. For example, if the consumer is out shopping, you will look at what kind of products catch their eye. Let's say the consumer wants to buy a cheese. Then it can be interesting to analyze whether his eye catches the "round", "triangular", "square" - or is it the price that first catches his eye? All insights and valuable knowledge for the company when deciding how to market a certain product.

Examples of neuromarketing

  • McDonald's has been in the media spotlight several times for using neuropsychological tools to influence customers' consumption patterns.
  • One of the bigger rumors has been that McDonald's put fragrance in their cleaning products, which made their customers addicted and made them want to visit McDonald's again. It was believed that McDonald's was trying to create associations through this scent . Every time you smelled this scent somewhere else, you would want to visit McDonald's.
  • If you've ever walked past a burnt mangle cart and thought that the smell really makes you want to buy burnt mangles, you might find a scent of burnt mangles being sprayed around the cart.
  • Airport businesses that spray a scent of coffee to make you want to buy a cup of coffee on your flight.
  • The New York Times has previously written articles about how Disney has a secret "neuromarketing lab" and then allegedly uses the eye-tracking method to analyze advertisements and their effect on viewers.

Tips: Read also "Why your marketing fails"

Ethical considerations

Neuromarketing and its effects are often debated in the media. Is it really a case of companies manipulating consumers and exploiting the ability to influence the irrational consumer to make a purchase? Practitioners of neuromarketing will argue that the use of neuromarketing will benefit the consumer because the consumer will receive more relevant advertisements and the marketing aimed at consumers will therefore be much more meaningful to the consumer. Neuromarketing researchers also point out that while a brain scan can describe the consumer's reaction in a particular situation, it cannot control the consumer's action.

If a business owner or marketer is considering using neuromarketing techniques, one solution to the ethical issues can be openness and transparency about which techniques are being used. Making consumers aware of the use of neuromarketing gives them an opportunity to critically evaluate the stimuli they are exposed to in the marketing of your company's products.

Good luck with marketing your business!

/Qred Team

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