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Neuromarketing: In the Mind of the Consumer, Literally!


Neuromarketing is a brand new field of marketing research that employs the principles of neuroscience and the medical technology of brain imaging to learn about how consumers unconsciously respond to advertisements and branding elements. This field is still emerging, and thus, students in a contemporary university setting are not yet being educated about the ins-and-outs of this type of modern marketing research. Neuromarketing is a prime example of the value of interdisciplinary study both at the university level, and in the professional realm. Neuroscientists, psychologists, and market researchers have come together to identify all-new connections between their respective disciplines. These connections are what define neuromarketing.

Researchers use technology including fMRI and EEG scans to evaluate how the human brain responds to elements of a company or organization’s brand. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) technology measures blood flow to specific regions of the brain. When a research participant views a product or piece of advertising, the brain centers associated with specific emotions are flooded with blood. Analyzing these unconscious responses allow researchers to determine how consumers feel about branding. Researchers can also isolate certain elements that differentiate emotional responses. For example, by changing the color of a product’s packaging and evaluating the consumer response, marketers can discern what color packaging elicits the desired response in potential customers. Electroencephalography (EEG) technology is used to measure electrical firings in regions of the brain. It is similar to the fMRI in that it measures brain activity, however, it is less directly interpretable and cannot reach the parts of the brain that provide researchers with the most valuable information.

One of the primary reasons that neuromarketing techniques such as these have not yet been accepted in mainstream market research is the price of conducting these analyses. The price of one fMRI machine lies in the ballpark of 5 million dollars. For most organizations this price tag is very hefty, and thus, fMRI analysis is not practical for every project, as the use of a medical facility’s machine is often preferred. Companies like Google, Microsoft, and The Weather Channel have conducted neuromarketing research to better tailor their marketing mix to their target consumers.

This new field allows marketers to, quite literally, get inside the minds of their targeted demographic. This has prompted controversy among consumers, who believe that the data garnered from neuromarketing research hits too close to home, and makes way for marketers to “manipulate” consumers into making purchases.

What’s your opinion on neuromarketing? Below are some links to intriguing articles delineating, in detail, the benefits and challenges of neuromarketing, as well as the ethics regarding the application of these techniques.

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