There are a lot of big claims about neuroscience being the next frontier in marketing; one of the giants of the marketing world, Nielsen, just completed its acquisition of neuroscience firm Innerscope Research and last year Marketing Sciences acquired consumer neuroscience consultancy, Walnut Group.
In fact, neuroscience has become a marketing tool for the marketing companies themselves, as they announce their latest acquisitions in the field of neuromarketing and snag clients believing that they will be better able to target buyers.
What is the purpose of all this? How exactly is neuroscience being used in marketing? Is all neuromarketing based on the same approach?
The purpose of neuromarketing
Then main aim of neuromarketing, in its most basic sense, is the same as for all marketing: to help companies more effectively sell their products and services.
Neuromarketing professes to tap into the unconscious desires of buyer, as revealed by measuring brain activity. This not only more effectively speaks to the target audience but it can be done in a more exact, scientific manner.
But it’s not as simple as all that. There are actually several ways that neuroscience and marketing are coming together in campaigns…
1. Market research into buyer behaviour
Underpinning neuromarketing is the study of how we make decisions. Cognitive neuroscience studies this and how it translates into human behaviour. In the case of neuromarketing, it is the way that buyers make decisions, and how this translates into buying behaviour that is of interest.
Neuromarketing is an emerging field, where measurements are taken of subjects’ exposures to certain stimuli – generally different aspects of a company’s offerings, like specific products, logos or branding. The effects on the electrical activity of different parts of the brain and eye activity (though that’s got nothing to do with neuroscience) can be measured using advanced imaging and computing, providing a ‘window’ into buyer responses to these stimuli. This enables companies to better target advertisements that capture buyer attention, or to develop their branding more in line with customer expectations and demand.
2. Applying findings to improve customer relationships
This is a growing area, where the findings of neuroscience are built into frameworks that help organisations look after their customers better and improve the ‘customer experience’.
It is a specialist field that requires understanding of both the science and the marketing elements of the relationship to be effective. In truth, there are few companies doing it well. When applied successfully it can help organisations more effectively engage not only their external customers, but internal customers (the workforce) too.
3. Raising credibility of a product or service
Thirdly, we are starting to see neuroscience being used simply as a ‘placement’ in advertisements in an attempt to raise the credibility of a product or service. In much the same way that a leading watch company will use Roger Federer to promote their watches, some brands use ‘neuroscience’ as a positive association with what they stand for. They might show labs, neuroscience experiments, and people wired up to all sorts of devices. This is a rather shallow use of neuroscience – but it exists nevertheless.
Your ability to distinguish those that understand the complexities of the neuroscience-marketing relationship from those that are just along for the ride will probably decide the success you derive from any neuromarketing activities you attempt; if you cannot, then you might as well stick to less expensive, more established marketing methods.