Neuromarketing is Everywhere

29 10 2008

Neuromarketing is the use of brain scanning technology to monitor consumer reaction to commercial messages.

Martin Lindstrom, international marketing consultant, conducted a three-year study of 2,000 consumers that scanned their brain function as they looked at branding materials. U.S. politicians are highly interested in this possibly new area of marketing, as are the politicians’ marketing agencies. Lindstrom’s report on the study is actually a book called Buy-ology, of which a section of the book is dedicated to the political implications of neuromarketing.

Lindstrom says that there’s no doubt that you’ll see this in politics and cited the fact that Clinton’s advisor went on to start his own neuromarketing agency based on what he learned working with politicians. Lindstrom says in an AdAge video that he doesn’t “think any politician will admit to using it, if they’re using it, of course they won’t, that would be a guarantee for them losing the entire election.” He also talks about it coming down to swing voting because swing voting “comes down to the subconscious mind.” Things that politicians and marketing pros hadn’t even thought about, like the place where you vote, can affect your voting decision.  For instance, if you vote in a church, it might influence your vote – hence the anti-abortion stance of the church, which makes you vote Republican rather than Democrat if you had voted at a more neutral location.

“One of the main concerns is that we’re going to reach a level where we forget that we’re human beings and we just look into the brain. And [I] also think that we’re afraid of subliminal advertising. We’ve now proven that indirect signaling in ads actually have an effect, in fact a much stronger effect that we thought it had, so there are several areas from an ethical point of view which will raise concerns in the average [population].”

Lindstrom’s report also states that the government-required warnings on cigarette packages are ineffective against getting people to not smoke, and these warnings actually promote smoking by activating the part of the brain that controls cravings, the nucleus accumbens. Lindstrom’s book reports: “We couldn’t help but conclude that those same cigarette warning labels intended to reduce smoking, curb cancer and save lives had instead become a killer marketing tool for the tobacco industry.”

There’ve even a neuromarketing blog, which I stumbled upon this morning: The blog touches on everything from Google wanting our brains to the way products are placed on a shelf to make us want (or not want) the associated shelf items. All marketing has to do with psychology – we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t we’d get a certain response from people. I think neuromarketing is going to get huge (huge understatement?), so this is one blog I’ll be bookmarking.




One response

1 11 2008
Jonathan Salem Baskin

Mind-reading is fascinating stuff, but perhaps understanding what words and images impact brains is an imprecise tactic supporting a bigger strategy: prompting behaviors that matter to businesses?

Brands are already far too inwardly-focused on influencing thoughts, and I’m not sure that the industry needs more encouragement to dive deeper into this inexact science.

Rather, why not focus our understanding of brands externally, on the sets of behaviors in which companies and their consumers engage, and that can be mapped and measured as chronologies to purchase and repurchase? Who needs to read minds when you can see actions?

I’ve written extensively about the ‘brand is behavior’ opportunity in my new book, Branding Only Works on Cattle, and my chapter on measurement is available for free for a short time on my site:

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