As marketers, we are all driven by one simple goal: how do we convince our potential customers to buy our products/services and eventually turn them into loyal users of our brand? In doing this, we try different channels, different techniques and strategies to see what works the best.
Companies have been spending tons of money in buying advertising space, trying to create awareness of their brands and conducting market research in hopes to get a better understanding of the purchasing behaviour. As a marketer I have always been fascinated with the latter. I always felt that understanding what drives the customers’ buying habits would be the key to launching a successful marketing campaign. It is the key to spending our marketing dollars on the right areas where we are confident that we will get a return. To explore this interest further, I took all the market research courses I possibly could during my MBA and I got involved in actual real-life market research projects for local firms to get a better understanding of how it’s done.
As valuable as I think this experience was, I have always felt that something was missing. We were crafting surveys, conducting in-depth interviews to really understand what makes the customers tick. But I was never sure whether we were getting the right answers. And this was not because I thought people were lying to us or deliberately holding back crucial information that would help us. I simply thought that often times people did not actually know the real answers to our questions. They didn’t know what they wanted or even if they did it was not easy to articulate it in words. More importantly, I thought that a lot of the real answer were in fact hiding beneath the conscious mind so even if the interviewees wanted to give us honest answers, they just weren’t aware of them on a conscious level.
Neuroscience Meets Marketing
Then I stumbled upon the concept of neuromarketing. Frankly, it sounded like something out of a sci-fi movie where people used mind control devices to manipulate others, which I guess it could be used in such a way if that was the intention. But what intrigued me was the potential of this fairly new field as it pertains to market research. Our customers may not be able to articulate their true feelings and opinions about a brand in words. But if we could somehow retrieve this information from its source –the brain- then they wouldn’t have to!
This entire premise is of course limited to our current and incomplete understanding of the human brain. But with the recent developments in neuroscience, we are now able to generate neurological maps that can pinpoint the specific areas of the brain where neural activity is present. Although this technology is primarily used to enhance our understanding of mental illnesses and unlock the mysteries of human brain, its extensions into business management are starting to make a significant impact in market research.
This amazing partnership between neuroscience and marketing is executed through the use fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) procedure where the brain activity is measured through the detection of associated changes in blood flow. This information is then processed and mapped out on a computer screen that allows us to see the brain areas that register activity during specific actions. This way, researchers can identify what areas of the brain are activated when a subject is watching a new commercial, the pilot of a new TV show, or even when different sensory impulses are activated. And thanks to our current understanding of the human brain, we can tell what emotions are associated with the activated brain area. Whether it is a pleasant experience that will result in a marketing success or just a horrible scheme that is doomed to fail.
Since it is still an evolving field, it is not very easy to find countless resources on the subject. However, If you are interested in finding out more about the potential in neuromarketing, I would highly recommend checking out ‘Buyology’ and ‘Brandwashed’ by Martin Lindstrom, ‘Brainfluence’ by Roger Dooley, ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ by Robert Cialdini and ‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely. I am looking forward to seeing the evolution of this field and how it is going to change the face of market research.