When it comes to marketing, it’s all in our heads

What do brands like Hyundai, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, H&M, Microsoft, Campbell’s Soup and Coca-Cola have in common?

They’ve all used neuromarketing techniques to get inside people’s heads and find out what they’re thinking. The need to know what people want and what they can or cannot buy is at the very heart of modern marketing.

But how can marketers know what their customers really want when in reality they don’t really know themselves?

One of the answers seems to lie in neuromarketing, the study of why consumers actually make the decisions they do. Neuromarketing, also known as consumer neuroscience, refers to measurements of physiological and neural signals to better understand customer motivations, preferences, and decisions.

In a nutshell, neuromarketing can involve a number of measurement tools and techniques that track what people actually think, rather than what they say. These tools measure brain activity using things like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), steady state topography (SST), electroencephalology (EEG), galvanic response (GSR) and eye tracking.

It is generally accepted that the midbrain spends only 2% of its energy on conscious activity, with the rest largely spent on unconscious processing.

The applications of neuromarketing are numerous. It can be used in research to find out what a particular audience thinks of a brand’s products, advertisements, or marketing messages. This can help brands market these products and services more effectively by targeting areas of the brain that will produce the desired response in the targeted demographic. It can help companies redesign products that don’t work by testing them in the market in real time on the human brain.

There is no shortage of academic research on the power of neuromarketing, while you could fill a small library with voluminous tomes from authors such as Norman Doidge, Martin Lindstrom, David Owens, Erik du Plessis, Nir Eyal, Steven Pinker and of course David Lewis, who is often referred to as the godfather of neuromarketing.

Although neuromarketing only really became popular in the 1990s, there is now plenty of empirical evidence to support its effectiveness, and much learning has also permeated into the broader field of behavioral economics psychology.

Daniel Kahneman’s 2011 book Thought, fast and slow, for example, popularized the concepts of how the brain really works by creating what he called System 1 and System 2 thought patterns.

Lindstrom argues that approximately 90% of our consumer buying behavior is unconscious, and we cannot actually explain our preferences, or likely buying decisions, with any precision.

According to him, market research and customer questionnaires were of dubious value because often people really didn’t know what they wanted. Needless to say, market research companies would disagree. In fact, many market research companies also embraced forms of neuromarketing when they were among the biggest investors in the early days of neuromarketing.

Of course, neuromarketing is not without criticism. Some watchdog groups and consumer advocates, particularly in the United States, have claimed that neuromarketers exploit people.

What goes on in people’s heads should perhaps stay there. In the digital age where people can be targeted online for up to an inch of their lives, it’s easy to see why people might be concerned.

As long as brands use it ethically and for the right reasons, they’re unlikely to fall foul of regulators.

When it comes to the realm of politics and political messaging, however, we should probably have cause for concern given what we learned from the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. in the USA. If in a dystopian future neuromarketing is used to create more effective propaganda and manipulate people’s democratic right to freedom of thought and speech, then we will all be going to hell in a handcart.


Brady Family Ham is a Bloom client. Photo: Fennell Photography

Blooming good MD

Sinéad Boyle has been appointed managing director of Dublin-based creative agency Bloom.

With over 15 years of experience in the advertising world, she previously worked for ICAN and eightytwenty.

She joined Bloom as an account manager in 2014 and was named head of client services in 2017.

Bloom’s clients include Brady Family Ham, the Irish Banking and Payments Federation, Citroën and Catch Chocolate, among others.


Dunnes launched a price promotion

Dunnes goes all out

With fierce competition in the Irish retail market showing no signs of abating anytime soon, Dunnes Stores has launched a major campaign to highlight its ‘Double Savers’ promotion.

Titled “Shrink Your Bill,” the new advertising campaign was created by The Public House and is airing on TV, VOD, radio, OOH, social media and digital.

Campaign media is planned and purchased by Carat.

Comments are closed.