These days advertising is everywhere. Even our dominant TV genre is nowadays advertising. Media that was once largely commercial free now is filled with commercial messages. Have you ever wondered how many ads we see per day? One of the sanest studies I came across said we see about 250 images per day and probably don’t notice half of them even though we’ve been exposed to them. The fact that you are in reasonable proximity with these messages to be able to see them doesn’t mean you see them all. Our brains can’t truly process that many messages. We can’t notice, absorb, or even judge so many visual attacks a day. So there must be something special about the ads that do affect us. We can’t deny the power of these daily ads. In fact I can’t really imagine the modern society without the advertisement. I guess we all can see why and that is the reason why making an effective advertisement is so essential. In order to do that neuroscience offers 3 very helpful neurotechniques that are being used in a popular technology called “Neuromarketing”: fMRI (Functional magnetic resonance imaging), EEG (Electroencephalography) and eye tracking technique. The concept of neuromarketing was developed by psychologists at Harvard University in 1990. While the term “Neuromarketing” was coined in 2002 by Ale Smidts, the bases derive from the Greek Philosopher Plato (two horses’ theory). The technology is based on a model whereby the major thinking part of human activity (more than 90%), including emotion, takes place in the subconscious area that is below the levels of controlled awareness. For this reason, the perception technologists of the market are very tempted to learn the techniques of effective manipulation of the subconscious brain activity. The main reason is to inspire the desired reaction in person’s perception as deeply as possible. Neuromarketing is originally supposed to be not about manipulating the subject’s brain but just reading its response. These techniques provide researchers with useful information about the consumers’ opinion. Researchers found these techniques more efficient ways to predict the effectiveness of commercials than scientific methods with quantitative pretesting, using variety of questionnaires. One of the big ideas behind these tools is that what people say they think and feel doesn’t always match what they really do, so focus groups and surveys can’t always give an accurate insight.
Eye tracking appears to be the most affordable and reliable choice. It helps correlate the emotional, attention or memory activity with the visual focus on the advertisement. It measures how quickly someone is looking at an object after that object is presented. This is to investigate how it draws the attention and to measure how long and how often people look at an object. This shows whether they like the image or not. The more they look the better they can remember it.
EEG records electrical impulses produced by the brain’s activity to see whether a subject is engaged or not, or has positive or negative emotional engagement. EEG is a very effective tool because it provides immediate readings and it’s more portable and easy to use.
FMRI measures the blood-flow to areas of the brain that are responsible for decision making and gives even more insight into how the subject is reacting to content. It also measures whether an ad can be memorized or not.
The base of neuromarketing is “meme”. Meme is a unit of information stored in the brain. These units are effective at influencing a person who is making choices and decisions within 2.6 seconds. If meme is chosen properly we remember the good, joke or song and would share it. “Memes stay in memory and they are affected by marketers”. Examples of memes are: Aromas of fresh bread, sweets, grandmother’s pie; Characters in fairy tales, melodies that cannot be out of head. Thus neuromarketers examine people and manipulate them.
Advertisement affects parts of our brains that handle emotions causing us to respond physically and mentally before we even begin to think about a decision. Even when we don’t think we’re being affected, we are, and the fMRI can measure that. So the emotional appeal and the experience are very important. I give you the example of a research about Coke versus Pepsi:
In a study from the group of Read Montague published in 2004, 67 people had their brains scanned while being given the “Pepsi Challenge”, a blind taste test of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Half the subjects chose Pepsi, since Pepsi tended to produce a stronger response than Coke in their brain’s ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region thought to process feelings of reward. But when the subjects were told they were drinking Coke three-quarters said that Coke tasted better. Their brain activity had also changed. The lateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that governs high-level cognitive powers, and the hippocampus, an area related to memory, were now being used, indicating that the consumers were thinking about Coke and relating it to memories and other impressions. The results demonstrated that Pepsi should have half the market share, but in reality consumers are buying Coke for reasons related less to their taste preferences and more to their experience with the Coke brand.
Off course there are many people against these so-called non-traditional approaches toward gathering consumer opinion. But there are many more that use neuromarketing to improve the effectiveness of their advertisements in this very competitive market. But for us as a consumer a very important question will arise: How far marketers are willing to go to get the most effective ads. Let us be more aware next time we go shopping, or at least let’s try to be more mindful about how we choose.
You can click here to watch a video about eye tracking technique: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01g5vlb