Neuromarketing: When Ads Read Mind and Make You Buy

Posted on May 29, 2012 in Business and Economy

By Abdul Wahid Khan:

Several devices to record brain waves were already there and used but they are getting more detailed with the advancement of technology. Even though they are getting more sophisticated, scientists say that we have still very little knowledge of brain and our map of our brain is as unexplored and vague as the map of the world in the 16th century.

The field of neuromarketing is an application and extension of neuroscience. The Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging technology called in short as fMRI as used initially for examining brain. Ale Smidsts of the Erasmus University in 2002 coined the term neuromarketing while the first marketer to use this technique was Gerry Zoltman at Harvard in 1999. Basically, it is mainly about which parts of the brain become active when subjected to different stimuli. Then comes the interpretation stage and various dependent variables are analyzed using correlation.

The development of this field started long ago when brain scientists used to have Pupilometer for observing and measuring pupil movements in response to a TV commercial or a print ad. They said this was not as effective as direct response of words. Coca cola used it up to some extent. Then came Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) which checked the skin response instead of pupil. Later also came eye tracking technology which could trace exactly which part of the TV screen the eyes were looking at.

Finally in 1970, Herbert Krugman and Flemming Hansen started studying brain processes using Electroencephalograph (EEG). An advanced version Magneto-encephalograph (MEG) is used to show which areas of brain light up in response to different actions. It has been tested in various experiments at London Business School where they found various important areas like location of brand equity in brain. Such locations are called as known centers and neuromarketing focuses on these centers. But the problem is that some centers are active with various stimuli and it is hard to determine relation between such stimuli and generalize them. For example, insula light up during price-pain as well as smoking addiction. So, research needs to come to a conclusion about such areas and confirm which is basic activity or a set of activities for activeness of insula. A lot of studies have appeared in the press but a very few of them have been published.

Various problems with the neuromarketing exist. The field is quite new and it is still under development. Various studies in this field are going on and the views are varied. It gives opinions and views in lots of directions while marketing needs simple answers based on Keep It Simple (KIS) philosophy. So, it needs solid proofs to drive marketing campaigns. News and media have also made lots of hyper claims about it which has given it a miraculous brand image. Neuromarketing is sometimes considered unethical because some critics say it read minds of consumers and then make such ads so as to make them buy. It is a topic of debate and there are different views. Various consulting firms have started which make marketing strategy using this technique. Among all such discussions, one important use can be for the benefit of society to show ads to abandon smoking or let people have some good habits.