May 30, 2013

Neuromarketing: You don’t know what you don’t know

Neuromarketing, an upcoming discipline, is directed towards a detailed attempt in understanding the consumer decision making process. Unlike traditional market research methodologies, which are dependent on a respondents’ ability to accurately describe their thought process, neuromarketing is a process that analyzes a person’s sensorimotor, cognitive and affective response to marketing stimuli. By monitoring parts of the brain during the consumer decision making process, researchers are able to identify which parts of the brain are responsible for what.


The idea of monitoring brain waves to understand the decision making process was first brought forth by economists – coining the term, neuroeconomics. In recent years, marketers have taken to this research to understand the decision making process against marketing stimuli. Most commonly, researchers work with advertising pieces and analyze how various manners effect memory. Ultimately though, analyzing the connection between neuro activity and brands is what brought neuromarketing to the main stage.


In 2004, functional brain waves (fMRI) were monitored during a Coke vs. Pepsi taste test. This study, from the group of Read Montague published in 2004, conducted two tests, one blind and another labeled. During both, researchers monitored two areas of the brain — the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), which processes information on sensory information, and the hippocampus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that uses sensory and cultural influence when processing information. Researchers believed the cultural consideration would bias Coke and its stronger brand history. After both studies were done, the blinded and labeled taste test, researchers concluded a preference for a brand is easily changed based on stimuli presented. During the blind test, respondents utilized the VMPFC and based solely on sensory information (taste), the two sodas tested relatively similar. However, once the label was presented, Coke benefited from the hippocampus and the strong brand presence Coke had achieved. This combination helped push Coke into the winner’s circle.


Today, neuromarketing is all about understanding how the hippocampus develops within each one of our brains, something that is commonly referred to as a meme. A meme is a value, understanding, emotional trait, etc.., passed throughout a culture, brought to existence by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. Fashion trends, musical hits, and charitable involvement are all examples of memes. Various industry leaders have taken to this technology, with Google, CBS, and Frito-Lay having submitted their ads and products for analysis. These companies are eager to progress this science because they know the vast majority of decision variables are weighed sub-consciously. Therefore, being able to get a clear picture into which stimuli trigger what, will form a race to understand what it means. From there, an even greater race will follow — The race to apply this knowledge.


Contributed by: Chris Rupp

1 Karmarkar, Uma R. (2011). “Note on Neuromarketing”. Harvard Business School (9-512-031).
2 David Lewis & Darren Brigder (July/August 2005).”Market Researchers make Increasing use of Brain Imaging”. Advances in Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation 5 (3): 35
3 Blackmore, Dr. Susan (Feb. 2008/June 2008): Susan Blackmore: Memes and ‘temes’. TED2008.
4McClure SM, Li J, Tomlin D, Cypert KS, Montague LM, Montague PR
(2004) Neural correlates of behavioral preference for culturally familiar drinks. Neuron, 44: 379-387.
5 Zineb Ouazzani Touhami1,2*, Larbi Benlafkih1, Mohamed Jiddane3,5, Yahya Cherrah5, Hadj
Omar EL Malki2,5,6 and Ali Benomar2,4,5,6; Neuromarketing: Where marketing and neuroscience meet. November 2010.

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