Via Johnnie Moore
Via Johnnie Moore
"Despite all the new technology (neuromarketing), simply talking to consumers remains one of the most effective ways to improve the “customer experience”."
Wow! What an enlightenment. It is cheaper to be nice to your clients and improve the overall customer experience than hire the team of neuroscientists with expensive machinery to get into customers subconsciousness. Image by turtlemom4bacon via Flickr
Simplicity is often the best solution. However we humans love the glittering lure of fancy technology and people in white smocks that blur the simple ways leading to problem solving.
Read the whole story at The Economist - The Science of Shopping.
Image by alles-schlumpf via FlickrUnderstanding the brain has become the holy grail of the marketing - the promised land of getting really close to separate consumers from their money in a scientific way. As exciting neuroscience is, as doubtful its findings can be.
"(...)in most of the studies, which linked brain regions to feelings including social rejection, neuroticism and jealousy, researchers interpreted their data using a method that inflates the strength of the link between a brain region and the emotion or behaviour." writes New Scientist.
Neuromarketing shamans jumps quickly to conlusions that may not be even true. However marketers are ready to spend their money on neuroresearch in hope to get quick fix. But you know what quick fix isn't any strategy. It is like pouring the water into the glass filled with holes, instead of fixing the holes.
Image via Wikipedia"That is the problem with all neuroscience. We don't really know what we are seeing when we watch the brain work. Is it the thing itself - the thought, the flash of insight - or just an aspect of it, the bark rather than the dog."
Professor Lawrence Parsons - Sheffield University.
Via John Dodds
Read also my review of Buyology
Yes, I've discovered this in the morning. Based on analysis of my blog - text - Typealazer returned the type I am. Funny enough I've never perceived myself as logical person. And ouch! It hurts I am not very good at understanding other people's needs. Try it yourself and see your real blogger brain :-) . It is even better than neuromarketing, cheaper at least.
Why do we choose Coca Cola over Pepsi or Apple over Dell? Price, promotion, I can hear some shouting. In fact, we as consumers ask ourselves those question very rarely, if never.
Martin Lindstrom decided to find out what lies behind the success or failure brand experience nowadays. To find out the truths and lies about consumer behavior, he conducted 3 years long and 7 mil. USD worth research that involved brain scanning of 2000 people from 5 countries who were stimulated by commercial messages and wrote Buyology.
Lindstrom’s starting point was a hypothesis that people lie when asked about their consumer preferences while brain scans show the truth, black and white. There is the reason why companies should find out what consumer think and want by scanning their brains. It sounds simple and promising. The Promised Land for marketers that could solve and improve efficiency of marketing investments.
There are lots of proofs in the book, pulled to support the hypothesis.
Proof #1 Lindstrom tested smokers and find out that they weren’t influenced by the warnings at the cigarettes boxes at all. It appeared that those warnings had an opposite effect – made smokers crave cigarettes. Maybe, it is not surprising when we take into consideration the fact participants weren’t allowed to smoke for the 4 hours.
Proof #2 Lindstrom concluded also that strong brands like Apple, Harley Davidson, etc. activates the same areas in the brain as the religious symbols. Is there potential for co-branding wit Jesus & Co?
Proof #3 Sex doesn’t sell. I wasn’t surprised again as I grew up in catholic family and spend some time in church and religion lesson with bitter nouns trying hard to convince us that sex and religion don’t fit together. Many internalized that in fear of sinning. Back to Buyology. Martin Lindstrom inferred that people in little clothes and provoking poses don’t convince us to buy products…but hot models with naked torsos from Abercombie & Fitch do.
This is here my neo cortex began to light and blink for serious.
There are plenty of conclusions in the Buyology. From using religious symbols and rituals in advertising to create the feeling of tribe and belonging, through mirror neurons as explanation for the success of brands like iPod to the final conclusion that our behavior is driven also by unconscious motivations. Well, this is something we knew before Buyology hit the market.
One may wonder what is then the reason of Buyology's popularity.
Through many years, we’ve heard over and over that over 50% of our advertising investments were wasted, that 1 out of 10 new product launched fails, because we don’t really understand consumers and forces that drive their behavior. In order to understand consumers, it is necessary to look beyond surveys and focus groups, as people and their behavior are unpredictable and can’t be captures into questionnaire schemes. We aren’t rational as we believed and majority of our decisions happens on the subconscious level. In other words, we know that we don’t know what we know.
That knowledge makes marketing and advertising people scared and helpless. There is an urgent need to disenchant the world. Here come techno shamans in the picture with advanced, million worth devices to make the unpredictable and intangible into predictable and tangible. Neuromarketing is hot because it comes with a promise to explain the world of consumers that is difficult to control and to give the solutions. It awoke the hope for finding the buy button in human’s brain.
Lindstrom rides on this neuromarketing trend and promises to reveal the truths and lies of why we buy. For this purpose, he uses available knowledge about human brain that identifies different areas responsible for different feeling, like love, reward, fear, etc. When those areas are stimulated, they lit up but there is no explanation what kind of behavior will follow or how the environment or part experiences stimulates the reaction the scanned persons. To use that knowledge as an explanation is like looking into people’s windows from the street and trying to guess what they are talking about.
There are more questions than answers about our brains. We have no access to all processes happening there and we are not able to decode many of information we can see.
Of course, Martin Lindstrom can’t do it either. He just theorizes and jumps to vague conclusions based on a light he and his team saw on brain picture. There was not once asked a critical question towards the results or an attempt to find out what could cause the given area lit up. Like in the story of product placement in American Idol. According to brain scanning’s Coca Cola was the most successful brand and was most memorable. Ford was the worst and Lindstrom is sure they wasted 26 mil. USD and while he gives advice on how to use product placement, he forgets completely to look beyond the picture of brain he captured and consider the heritage and place in the humans life Coca Cola has.
The book seems to me one-dimensional and filled with cognitive shortcuts. It makes it difficult to perceive it as serious science.
However it is full of digressions that show Martin Lindstrom has been a long time around and knows a lot about marketing and advertising and there are also a few anecdotes that are good to tell at family parties to entertain family members as long as they don’t have the faintest idea what we do.
Martin Lindstrom’s Buyology is worth reading as an entertaining pop book, but it is not to be perceived as the revolutionary or helpful tool in marketing. There is a long way to go and discover before it can gain that status.
Interesting post from Neuromarketing blog about the danger of asking people what they did, why they did it. Brain isn't straightforward and linear as we would like to believe. Brain likes being mischievous.So researchers should be suspicious of answers given by people asked to explain their behavior or recall the past behavior - are we hearing the truth, or The Interpreter?
Tags: neuroscience, brain, research
I love this story. I have told it to all people I know and who believe that humans are very rational. Hell, no! We are far from being rational and this research is a good example of our irrationality. Brain can work very mysterious ways. Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology found out that people’s brains experience more pleasure when they think they are drinking a $45 wine instead of a $5 bottle when in fact it the same wine. People actually experience wine to taste better, they don't rationalize that the better taste is connected with the higher price.
"What we document is that price is not just about inferences of quality, but it can actually affect real quality," said Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing who co-authored a paper titled "Marketing Actions Can Modulate Neural Representations of Experienced Pleasantness," published online Jan. 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "So, in essence, [price] is changing people's experiences with a product and, therefore, the outcomes from consuming this product."
There are a lot of available studies showing that people value and enjoy product more, the higher the price. Of course the line is thin here and one can risk that too high price levels actually scares people instead of attracting them to buy product.
Cheers! And keep on hallucinating. Expensive wine is tasting delicious.
Via Stanford News Service
Picture by Jeff Kubina
Tags: research, neuromarketing, wine, price
People aren't irrational only when buying on eBay. We are pretty far away from being rational even when thinking about prices.
A recent paper in the Journal of Consumer Research indicates that we tend to act as the lower digits were farther apart than higher ones.
"Students who saw ads showing a $233 skate marked down to $222 thought
they were getting a larger discount than did students who saw a $199
skate marked down to $188, even though the opposite was true. The first
group of students also rated themselves about 20 percent more likely to
buy the skates than did the others."
We aren't as clever as we tend to believe. Irrationality is very important when observing and analyzing human behavior. It also makes advertising kind of difficult as it is hard to predict, control and influence irrational behavior.
Technology sneaks everywhere and allows us to do the wildest things. I have recently found out that you can create subliminal messages! All you have to do is to download the free software and begin that will brainwash yourself or your boyfriend into buying you flowers :-) by flashing "text messages, pictures, or both in the center of the display, on top of everything."
I wonder how long does it take before anyone gets an idea to make a virus out of it. If you read Gladwell's Blink, you know how powerful unconscious mind is. Scary, especially that "scientists at the University College London (UCL) have found the first physiological evidence that invisible subliminal images do attract the brain’s attention on a subconscious level. The findings challenge previous scientific assumptions that consciousness and attention go hand-in-hand. What’s interesting here is that your brain does log things that you aren’t even aware of and can’t ever become aware of,” Bahador Bahrami from the UCL said. “We show that there is a brain response in the primary visual cortex to subliminal images that attract our attention without us having the impression of having seen anything." (From Subliminal messages ‘impact on brain’)
I haven't noticed myself to experience any pain while I am shopping, but who knows what happens in my brain while I am browsing the shelves with shoes and bags. According to the latest research by George Loewenstein, high pricing causes higher activation levels in a brain areas associated with pain. But it is not just what's ever pricing we are talking about. There are a few interesting exceptions here. First of all, the pain we experience doesn't depend on the amount we are supposed to pay, but on the context of transaction. The perceived fairness or unfairness of the deal creates the painful reaction. The reaction doesn't occur when we buy the luxury goods, like cars.
The team of neuroscientists have developed a system that analyses brain activity to work out a person's intentions before they have acted on them. More advanced versions may be able to read complex thoughts and even pick them up before the person is conscious of them. It is possible with the computer that learns unique patterns of brain activity or signatures that correspond to different thought and then it scans the brain to look for these signatures and predicts what the person is thinking.
They will know you cheated on the test, they will know you want to write the hate post against Dell, they will know you are against the high taxes...
I am a huge fan of neuroscience but I guess such a findings rise the question about ethics. It is fascinating how we become better at mapping human brain but at some point we need to be clear about our freedom.
It makes me wonder where the curiosity, scientific knowledge ends and manipulation, invasion into the most private spheres begins? This is the very thin red line we are playing with. I am far away from having Orwellian thoughts, and even though we are still far away from mind-reading, we need to discuss ethics in tact with pseudoscientific discoveries. What I fear most is the misuse of such a impressive technologies to the wrong purposes.
We are running all of the time all the time. Sometimes we wish the days to be longer then 24 hours. We sleep for 1/3 of our lives, it leaves us only 2/3 to make all those things we wish and want to do. I can tell, it is not enough. We try artificially to extend the time we have: we drink coffee, lots of coffee, we reduce the time we sleep, we cut on some "unnecessary" social activities, like family dinners, and we multitask.We multitask because we believe that less can be turned out into more. Yes, I do multitask myself, hmm...even now. Stereo is on and I write to the sound of Mahler's V Symphony, the gmail notifier is active, so I can check out if there is anything new in my inbox and of course my mobile is in my pocket, so I can feel it when someone calls me up or sends me a message. Besides I am also ON, to say it straight around 90% of the time I am up. Sometimes I don't even turn out my laptop or phone when I do yoga or meditate at home (I know that's very bad habit! Shame on me!). I read those words, look around me and I think it is pretty scary. I feel constant lack of time and I think that if I do four or more things at the same time I stretch the time I have or manage to do more things within the shorter period of time. Unfortunately, this is not true.
The truth is that the brain can't handle multitasking. What really happens when we are trying to kill two (or more) birds with one stone is that our brain switches among tasks instead of processing them. We can talk and wash dishes or walk at the same time without a problem, but these activities are "highly practiced skills" and we don't think have to think while doing them. Other, not practiced skills need concentration and effort from our side. That's why it is more likely that we make mistakes while both writing e-mail to the client and using messenger to chat with the colleague from other agency . In fact multitasking doubles or triples the time or more to get the tasks finished than if we were done them sequentially, one after another. Our brain has its limitations for processing information while we multitask.
Another interesting finding is that brain stimulation is bell shaped. Just think about all those times while you were sitting with the important presentation, that should be finished tomorrow before lunch. The more coffee you drink the more stressed you get and in the end you lose it. It can be your presentation is done but this will not be the best job you ever done. The less stimulation can boost performance of the brain but too much of it can be too stressful to it.
Multitasking isn't healthy for our brain and sooner or later it will say stop. We take our brain for granted. When we strain the muscles too much they will ache, the brain won't make us feel the pain in such a direct way.
We should never forget that the brain also needs time for relaxation and doing nothing (actually doing nothing is important for memory processing).
So be more friendly for your brain Guys! And if you would like to learn more about that fantastic organ we have, watch the movie :-)
Inspired by Time's article Multitasking Generation
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Consumer insights are not easy tasks, especially when we use the set of assumptions about how the world works and looks like. Assumptions can work as stereotypes; they narrow our sight and prevent us from understanding the consumers and from connecting with them effectively. Another mistake we commit is the artificial disconnection of body, brain and society (G. Zaltman). Such an approach to consumer insights results, to express it figuratively, with the picture of the consumer without the head. The media planner job gets even more complicated when we realize that we don't have any obvious evidence that advertising can increase sales. We are talking a lot about ROI models, but while making them, we forget about the most important part of this chain – the consumer. Unfortunately consumer’s actions can’t be put in any model, simply because people are unpredictable!
The world and people are changing constantly nowadays, but our methods of understanding people are still the same. The world seems to be faster then our mind. And we are too often, too eager to change the world before understanding in the first place, how the world is built.
The key element of the communication chain – understanding the Consumer
The core of media planning process is the understanding the consumer. The primary goal of media planning is to communicate effectively and connect with the consumers and to achieve this goal we need to know, who the consumers are and what are they thinking. The thinking part is the trickiest one; we can’t understand thinking without taking a closer look at the cognitive neuroscience. Why neuroscience should be interesting for media planners? Neuroscience is the biological study of the human brain, which goal is to understand how the brain produces behavior, and how humans choose and how such choice is inescapably biological process (according to researchers, the act of deciding whether to make a purchase lasts 2.5 seconds).
Cognitive neuroscience uses two main form of analyzing the brain activity; both reveal how specific brain structures are used when processing different tasks:
1) FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imagining) tracks blood flow as people perform mental tasks, specific regions lit up, showing increased blood flow. This is very advanced tool, however has many disadvantages: high costs, immobility, long time, only one person at a time can be tested, no place for spontaneity for respondent, due to clinical conditions
2) QEEG (quantified electroencephalography) dates from the 1920's and measures electrical potential from the brain. It can also measure the time taken to process stimuli. It is more advantageous than fMRI, due to its practicality, small size, cost-effectiveness, convenience and mobility. It gives opportunity to make research in the real life, while shopping, watching TV, etc., as it is equipped with a hard disk drive that can record up to 30 hours of brain activity.
Why is there such focus and interest on neuroscience? The newest research discovers that most of things happening in our heads happen on the unconscious level. In fact we are talking about 90% of all process taking place in our brain, which we actually don't have a clue they are happening.
“Most of our thought is unconscious – that is fundamentally inaccessible to our direct, conscious introspection. Most everyday thinking occurs too fast and at too low level in the mind to be accessible. Most cognition happens backstage” (Lakoff & Nunez, 2000).
What people say is not what people do, as we are not thinking in words. We usually don't know our own mind. Hence the urge for understanding and finding the reasons lying beneath humans’ actions, decisions and behavior occurs.
Without any doubt, neuroscience has an ability to open windows on human mind. And gets us closer to consumers and the ways they think.
The Core – The Brain
The brain is an enigmatic, still undiscovered biological computer, with seemingly simple brain structure. Brain consists of three major parts: outer brain, so called cortex or neocortex. It was developed recently due to evolution; neocortex embodies higher intelligence, has cognitive character, is responsible for learning, logic and language and has ability to distinguish between smart decisions and stupid ones. Second part is a middle brain, known as limbic system. This part consists of amygdala, hippocampus, and other structures associated with emotions. The limbic system is a room for emotions and feelings. This part of the brain is in the major part non-cognitive and controls mood, memory and hormones. The third part of the brain, the oldest and deepest one is called R complex or reptilian brain (brain stem and cellebrum). Here all primary instincts are controlled: hunger, temperature, etc. R complex is the survival brain. It doesn't use words, it communicates through images. All three parts are inseparable and communicate with each other:
You hear the baby crying. complex registers it, tells limbic system about it. The limbic system registers emotions like compassion, concern, love. Those feelings are communicated to cortex, which says – ‘go and see what happened to the baby, ‘feed the baby’, or ‘change the diaper’ etc. These are logic conclusions drawn from the seen or heard happenings.
This seems very simple, but when we look deeper inside human’s brain, we can see around 100 billions neurons and 1.000 trillions different connections between them. It leaves not a shadow of a doubt that brain is very complicated machine and proves the fact that people are unpredictable, as the number of possible connections is endless.
Home Sapiens vs. Homo Economicus
Over many years we have believed to be rational individuals. In 1600s Descartes believed that humans are very rational and emotions create only irrationality - Cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) illustrates his theory on humans rationality and superiority of thought over emotions. 20th century brought major paradigm shift and claims that emotions guide rationality and cause attention, to paraphrase Plato: mind is a carriage driving two horses: reason and emotion, the reason seems only to be a pony. Thoughts are never separate from emotions, and emotions are never separate from thoughts. (A. Damasio) Apart from emotions, the most potent part of brain is R complex. It has the leading voice, even over the logical and intelligent cortex. People then, can be influenced by reaching and triggering the instincts in the reptilian brain.
The fact that humans are everything but Homo Economicus, and are using emotions in decisions making process, has a crucial impact on the communication and media planning. We communicate no longer to rational, reasonable person, who makes only wise decisions, based on common sense. Our target group is in fact unpredictable, and their actions, choices they made are based on emotions, and instincts. On top of this, nowadays consumers have more power than ever, and marketers have to compete for their attention in increasingly crowded media space. The situation requires the paradigm shift in communication planning.
From Neuroscience to Neuromarketing
Neuromarketing, the new discipline using neuroscience in advertising and marketing industry is very popular nowadays. There are many new companies specializing in the neuroscience of ‘advertising mind’, just to mention the few: BrightHouse, Neuroco, and Neurosense. Despite different public reactions to the neuromarketing phenomenon, more and more international companies reach for neuromarketing methods to improve their communication planning (amongst them are P&G, General Motor Company, Virgin, Coca – Cola). And more and more tests are conducted.
Dr. P. Read Montague, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston carried independent Coca Cola vs. Pepsi study. The study showed that some people did not choose a drink based on a taste alone. Blind tests winner was Pepsi, due to its better taste. But knowing the brand more people (4 out of 5) tend to choose Coca Cola over Pepsi. Researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles looked at how Democrats and Republicans differ in their responses to images of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The research showed that Democrats were mere fearful.
Daimler Chrysler Corporation tested male brain reactions to the images of the sport cars; they activated the reward centers (the same centers are activated by drugs and alcohol). Another finding was that sport cars cause reaction in the areas responsible for face recognition, which indicates that men anthropomorphize their cars. And the latest research conducted at London hospital for Viacom Brand Solutions, measuring brain activity amongst people aged 18-34, while TV ads were screened. It discovered that the more advertising content is relevant to the program environment in which it appears the higher probability to generate brain activity in the areas of the brain commonly associated with advertising effectiveness. Moreover researcher has found out that advertising generates more brain activity than the programming in which it appears, if it is relevant.
Despite those exciting discoveries, public opinions are divided. Some perceive neuromarketing as hype, which is coming to fail soon, without achieving any significant success in the field, or as Orwellian, or Burgess’ Clockwork Orange style tool, which goal is to find out ‘buy button’ in the consumers’ heads and reduce their free will and tool that is a serious infringement of personal freedom (see Commercial Alert website). Others are very optimistic and believe neuromarketing will bring the breakthrough in communication planning. The truth is that there is no absolute truth and there are more questions than answers. The brain is still an unexplored organ; we still don't have its map and don't know how neurons travel, what’s happening between decision making and action and what the implications of activity in brain to behavior are.
Another obstacle for neuromarketing is that there are no people who are experienced in both marketing and neuroscience, what makes linkage between those two disciplines difficult. Having that picture of neuromarketing as quite new and developing discipline, that operates with assumptions rather than conclusions, finding the ‘buy button’ sounds like a pure science fiction. We don't even know if such button exists!
The current knowledge of human brain makes impossible reply Spielberg’s ‘Minority Report’ in the real life.
Neuromarketing Meets Media Planning
The psychology and neuroscience has the huge value for the media planning. It allows us to get under the skin of the consumer and gives us the base for building the framework for advanced media planning with the new Zaltman’s paradigm in the center.
“The figure depicts the interconnectedness of brain, body, mind and society as a three-dimensional pyramid with four corners. For every individual (whether marketer or consumer), each of the four components occupies a corner of the pyramid and influence every other component. Whenever one component changes, the others do as well, below our awareness in the cognitive unconscious. Occasionally, the results of these interactions enter our conscious thoughts” (Gerald Zaltman, How Customers Think, HBS Press, 2003, pages 28-29)
We need the holistic model and genuine curiosity in order to understand the consumers fully and build effective communication. We have already acknowledged that integrated communication is a must. Furthermore we must accept that the consumer (also media planners) is not a rational being, the emotions damp reason, and the consumer doesn't think in linear or hierarchical ways. We are lacking only to implement that into our everyday work, put forth the complete consumer experience, and avoid ignoring any of 4 elements: body, mind, brain and society. We have lots of knowledge already but there are gaps, the biggest gap concerns the human’s brain. Therefore I do believe the neuroscience has an ability to be helpful in media planning. It can provide us with a lot basic information about consumer’s thinking. We don't know the emotional drivers for the decisions making and the traditional research can’t capture those emotional factors, as we are not able to articulate our feelings fully and real drivers lies deep. We need profound knowledge to understand why people behave the way they do and why they choose the products, they do. Neuroscience should be a complementary tool for consumer research. It is not strong enough to exist as a stand alone method, but it can complement standard consumer research. It is a question about knowing that vs. knowing why.
Media planners should be driven by curiosity and perceptiveness should be our main goal. We can achieve that but it demands moving the focus from ROI, rational theories, and demographics to comprehending how the mental activity occurs. We can do this through researching the biological process, taking place in the brain, and all kinds of psychological, social and cultural process people experience in their life. This is very compound process, requiring the engagement from media planners and marketers side. We need to learn more about consumer needs, understand their triggers and respect them.
We should never again forget that the real power is in psychology and neuroscience – the TV and other media are scarcely simple tools designed to bear messages.