Companies Spend Billions on Marketing Campaigns, but Neuroscientists Could Someday Determine Which Ads Best Capture Consumers’ Attention
This article discussed how emotions, herd instincts, and memories can influence our buying decisions.
A German study showed that men, when viewing pictures of sports cars, as opposed to other cars, had high activity in the nucleus accumbens of the brain, which is the center for self-reward. Triggered by dopamine, it releases endogenous opiates – substances linked to lust and pleasure. This means that carmakers can design ads based on previous studies of variations, using the variations that caused the highest emotional response.
Most of the tests used were done with fMRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging – which measures metabolism changes throughout the brain. Such tests were used in the Coke vs. Pepsi duel. Given blindly, each drink scored equally well. When people were told what they were drinking, the satisfaction center (ventral putamen) was still equal, but the medial prefrontal cortex was also activated with the coke. This shows that Coke’s long-term advertising was more successful, and is nearly hard-wired into our brains.
Also, the researchers showed that some people prefer what the majority prefers, even if certain parts of their brain suggest that they do not really like what they chose as much as another option.
In commercials research, it was shown that woman had a front-brain surge during certain commercials. These were the commercials they remembered best. Companies can use this to test new commercials. If they get the front-brain surge, they know the commercial will be well-remembered.
Most neuroscientists warn that these findings are at best preliminary. The understanding of all areas of the brain is limited, especially when regarding obscure situations such as marketing. Also, testing is extremely expense. Furthermore, people probably react to stimuli differently in a testing tube than on their couches, so the results can be conceivably distorted. Nevertheless, marketers are jumping onto the bandwagon prematurely, and self-proclaimed neuromarketing experts are sacrificing good science for cash.
Overall, I think this article from Scientific American represents a trend that we have already witnessed, the explosion of advertising and the convergence of marketing and technology. Ever since television and the first video commercials, advertising has come hand-in-hand with new technologies, leaving us with thousands of pop-up ads. (unless we use FireFox) Anyway, this is just the next step in the corporation’s quest to control the consumer, using any means necessary. Perhaps there is a threat in this, that companies could become so manipulative and deceptive that consumers with pay more without realizing it. This article, however, could serve a positive purpose by revealing to consumers just how vulnerable they are. Maybe knowledge of the industry’s practices will allow us to consciously avoid falling victim to new tactics.