Cheat Sheet

Neuromarketing For Dummies

From Neuromarketing For Dummies by Stephen Genco, Andrew Pohlmann, Peter Steidl

Neuromarketing is all over the news, but most people aren’t quite sure what it really is. A working definition is key not only to understanding what all the buzz is about, but also to making use of neuromarketing in your own marketing endeavors. Traditionally, advertising effectiveness was all about a direct, conscious path from viewing an ad to making a purchase, but with neuromarketing, you can capitalize on an indirect, nonconscious path as well. Similarly, there are differences between the consumer model used for traditional marketing and what brain science tells us is actually the case: as opposed to the rational consumer model (followed by traditional marketing), neuromarketing follows an intuitive consumer model, and there are key differences between these two models.

What Is Neuromarketing?

The term neuromarketing refers to the use of modern brain science to measure the impact of marketing and advertising on consumers. For decades, marketers have sought to understand what consumers were thinking, but they’ve relied on traditional techniques — asking them what they thought in focus groups and surveys.

Neuromarketing techniques are based on scientific principles about how humans really think and decide, which involves brain processes that our conscious minds aren’t aware of. When combined with sound experimental designs and procedures, these new techniques provide insights into consumer decisions and actions that are invisible to traditional market research methodologies.

Neuromarketing is not a new kind of marketing — it’s a new way to study marketing, so it’s part of the field of market research. Here are six major areas where neuromarketing is being used today:

  • Branding: Brands are ideas in the mind that draw strength from the connections they make. Neuromarketing provides powerful techniques for measuring brand associations.

  • Product design and innovation: Neuromarketing can measure consumer responses to product ideas and package designs that are largely automatic, emotional, and outside our conscious awareness.

  • Advertising effectiveness: Much advertising impacts us through nonconscious means, even though we don’t think it does. Neuromarketing explains how.

  • Shopper decision making: Neuromarketing shows how store environments directly influence how shoppers decide and buy, and it’s not a logical process.

  • Online experiences: The online world provides new challenges to our old brains. Brain science shows the many ways we can be subtly influenced as we go about our online activities.

  • Entertainment effectiveness: Entertainment creates experiences in people’s minds that can influence attitudes, preferences, and actions. Neuromarketing shows what happens when entertainment transports us into an imaginary world.

Neuromarketing uses a variety of tools and techniques to measure consumer responses and behavior. These include everything from relatively simple and inexpensive approaches, such as eye tracking (measuring eye gaze patterns), analyzing facial expressions, and behavioral experiments (for example, seeing how changes in product displays affect a consumer’s choices), to more complex, sensor-based approaches, including biometrics (body signal measures) that measure perspiration, respiration, heart rate, and facial muscle movement (electromyography [EMG]), as well as neurometrics (brain signal measures) that measure electrical activity (electroencephalography [EEG]), and blood flow (functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI]) in the brain.

How to Apply Neuromarketing to Advertising

The traditional model of advertising effectiveness assumes a direct, conscious route from viewing an ad to making a purchase. But advances in brain science have identified an indirect route that takes into account nonconscious processes. Each route is more likely to succeed in different circumstances.

Direct Route to Advertising Effectiveness Indirect Route to Advertising Effectiveness
Purpose To communicate a simple and logical argument that persuades consumers to buy a product, either by reinforcing their current preferences or by changing their preferences from a competing product. Two steps: First, influence brand equity by changing brand attitudes, memory, and intentions toward the brand. Then, allow brand attitudes and associations to impact sales at the point of purchase.
Emphasis Attention, conscious processing, logical argument, explicit recall, and immediate sales. Emotional connections, nonconscious processing, implicit memory, brand attitudes, and future sales.
When it works the best When the product or the product category is new, when the product is expensive and purchased infrequently, when the purpose of the ad is to generate a direct response rather than an impression leading to a sale in the future. When the product and its category are well established and familiar; when the ad minimizes information and message content and focuses on an emotionally engaging narrative in which the brand plays a central role; when the product is inexpensive and purchased frequently, so the ad is aimed at building or reinforcing longer-term associations with the brand.

Using Brain Science for Marketing

Traditional marketing is often based on a rational consumer model that views the consumer as persuadable by rational arguments and consciously aware of what drives his purchase decisions. However, brain science research has demonstrated that an intuitive consumer model provides a more realistic picture of how consumers actually decide and buy. The following table presents the key differences between these two models.

The Rational Consumer Model The Intuitive Consumer Model
Information about brands and products drives purchase decisions. Habit, experience, and emotional cues provide shortcuts to making decisions.
Factual information can be retrieved by the consumer, completely and accurately. Feelings about products and brands are the main memories retrieved by consumers; facts are remembered sporadically and often incorrectly.
Preferences are determined rationally. They’re clear, unambiguous, and enduring. Preferences are rarely the products of careful logical analysis. More often, they’re inferred from the consumer’s behavior, rather than the other way around.
A cost-benefit calculation is made to make a purchase decision at the point of sale. Most purchase decisions are made spontaneously and without much conscious deliberation at the point of sale.
Preferences can only be changed by presenting new information. Product and brand preferences can be changed by changing the situation within which the consumer is shopping.
Marketing and advertising communications are messages that deliver rational, logical arguments about brands and products. Marketing and advertising primarily influence consumers in nonconscious ways. At a conscious level, consumers believe ads and marketing have no effect on them.
Marketing and communications influence consumers by providing logical arguments that are consciously remembered at the point of sale. The primary way that advertising influences the consumer is indirectly, through repetitive association of the advertised brand or product with positive themes and images.
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