Have you ever had a situation where you thought about a certain item and Facebook suddenly shows you the ad with the exact product? It’s a bit creepy, right? Well, it’s all neuromarketing that works behind and presents the potential ads that you might find interesting!
Yes, neuromarketing is neuroscience that observes the brain’s activity and how it works while we are shopping or looking for a specific product. Based on the activity, the neuro marketers are able to predict which package color or shape might attract you to buy the item, even if you don’t need it. Why would I buy something that I don’t need, you might ask?
You would buy it because the emotions control you more than common sense and therefore it is the reason of buying things you actually don’t need. When you know how people react to certain things, you can predict the situation or object that might provoke such emotions and actions. Therefore, marketers use it to create better ad campaigns and increase their sales.
As an experienced neuromarketing expert, I have been working on researches and consumer cases for the past 10 years, which helped me to understand how marketing works and why some people make certain decisions. What I have learned so far was that people buy because of the emotions provoked by the packages, color, sound, and other exterior stimulations. It leads us to the fact that the entire marketing is basically neuromarketing as every campaign tests the different aspects of a certain product.
What is Neuromarketing and How Does it Change Our Shopping Habits?
Neuromarketing is a mix of neuroscience and marketing, where the ultimate goal is increasing sales. For example, Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) or Electroencephalogram (EEG) allows you to understand how certain parts of the brain are stimulated and why which helps you to tailor highly-customized ads that will affect the consumer’s brain and tempt a consumer to buy some product. So, the entire thing is based on the brain’s chemistry and activities.
When presented a certain product/item, a consumer will see it and then produce neural signals in the brain, based on the appearance, taste, flavor, sound, shape, material and many other external preferences, which can be measured using certain tools. The measurements collected in this case are highly valuable as these tell us how a consumer reacts. It means that we can use those results as a form of psychological tracking that helps us to define and predict the consumer’s behavior for future marketing campaigns. But, how the tools of neuromarketing can help in improving marketing?
The fMRI can detect increased blood flow in the brain, which is associated with increased neural activity. The change in blood flow is associated with emotional responses, engagement, and recall, which can help in determining the prices or improving the branding of a product. Though highly precise, this method is super expensive and must be performed in a specialized lab, which is the biggest con of this method.
The EEG detects the electrical signals, produced by neurons in brain that we can use to measure engagement and recall. It serves as a great tool for improving the ads and branding as it measures the brain’s activity within short periods of time. It is not as expensive as fMRI neither as precise as fMRI as well.
Eye Tracking Gaze (ETG) helps us to understand where a consumer looks at, which helps in the process of determining the object that grabs attention. With this tool, we can easily improve the website’s design or packaging of the product. The biggest pro is that is inexpensive, but the biggest con is that we cannot measure the emotions.
Biometrics track the skin conductance, heart rate, and respiration during the external factors, helping us to determine the level of engagement and the outcome of the response in a certain situation. It is inexpensive method, assists in improving the ads and overall content, while it shows the best results when we use it with other methods like EGT. Now, let’s explain how all these can affect our shopping habits in everyday lives.
How Does Neuromarketing Affect Our Shopping Decisions?
Based on the brain’s activities measured from the earlier cases, we can conclude that most of the work relies on emotions. For example, the research showed that the political campaigns that presented a dose of fear through the fight against terrorism and crime had far more success than the campaigns that promoted prosperity, advancement, and peace. The reason is that fear is one of the primal emotions and instincts and our subconsciousness, once notes the pictures and videos of violence and wars, choose it over the peaceful campaign that does not contain such emotions.
Taking this as an analogy, especially when understanding how colors do work, we can create a campaign that will drive you to buy the items. When an item they want to sell is present all the time and packed in a brain-tempting appearance, it is very likely that your brain will go for it, even if you don’t like it in the first place. It means that neuromarketing controls you!
Empathy is a strong weapon that can drag us to buy a product that we actually don’t need. When a commercial shows a person that uses a perfume that is attractive to women (presented in the commercial), we feel empathy through the observation and behavior. Our brain, automatically, puts ourselves in the same situation, which means that we coordinate with the feelings and reactions of other people.
One thing that can make you buy something even if you don’t need it at all is a smiley face. Would you go back to a bar where a waitress is angry, or would you go back to the pub where the waitress is smiling when serving your drinks? Of course, in the second one because of the cheerful and pleasant face expression — exactly what marketers put on their packages.
How Our Brains Deceive Us: Do We Have a Free Choice?
We take a t-shirt from our closet, we buy Snickers, we move our car and we do a lot of other actions on the daily basis. Well, is that all form of free will/choice or is it a product of the subconsciousness and brain’s activity? The philosophy has not been able to define the true and universal definition of free will but rather to explain it as a possibility to do otherwise.
In the experiment from 1983, made by Libet et al, it became evident that the actions we take (including movements and decisions) are triggered by the unconscious neural activity, while the awareness of such movement/decision occurred some 350 ms after it was made. Therefore, we could say that the concept of free will does not exist, in terms of what we see as free choice. Since there are a lot of similar studies, can we actually say that we have a free choice when everything is practically predetermined, or at least decided before the brain acknowledges it?
Such an illusion does exist in the marketing as well — before you even think of a product and whether you need it for your life, you already bought it. Such impulsive reaction is based on the subconscious patterns that are incorporated in the products, taking the marketers one step ahead of you. Therefore, we could say that buying decisions are already made by the professionals who design the products.
How Can We Recognize Neuromatketing In Our Everyday Lives and Use it?
One thing you can do is to keep track of your shopping habits. You, as a consumer, should be aware of your shopping habits so you could buy more efficiently, without throwing cash away. Define what you buy, where, and in what amount to be able to avoid neuromarketing traps that are made with the goal of money taking.
Let the need to drive you, not the emotion as the emotions can empty your wallet easily when you are in shopping. The emotional signals are presented in various ways — through a commercial where a kid drinks a beverage and smiles afterward, to a package that has an angry face that depicts you when you cannot reach the upper corners when cleaning. Therefore, make sure you are aware of the emotional signals in the ads and content so you could buy rationally and avoid spending too much money if you don’t have to.
Be aware of the fact that the content makes you buy something as it is all about the content, especially today as consumers want to watch content instead of reading it. Good content is a half job done — consumers are tempted to try out something simply because the content they see can help them to achieve empathy. Once you put yourself in a similar situation, even though it is very unlikely you will find yourself in such a situation, you already bought the product!
WRITTEN BY Dr. Maria Stern. Main photo by @alinabuzunova via Twenty20