10 September 2007

Deciphering the human mind

One of the biggest challenges in my line of business (which is strategic marketing) is to understand what makes people buy the things they buy and consume. My clients – i.e. advertisers and marketers of various sizes – are on my back every day to find that magic formula for making people buy their brands.

So far, this magic formula has been elusive, ensuring that I have a tough time with my clients. Not because I’m bad at what I do, but alas, such is life in this business. No one can predict with any certainty that consumers will buy the products and brands that my clients – or any other marketers across the globe – produce and sell.

That’s because the decision to buy (anything) happens inside our minds – and neither creative directors in ad agencies nor marketing strategists have been able to decipher the human mind yet.

Research is conducted every day to assess consumer response to advertising messages and other stimuli (for instance colour, design, texture of materials, music), consumer habits and buying patterns, and consumer behaviour in general, but a look inside a consumer’s mind to determine a brand choice is giving the best of us the runaround.

So, advertisers and marketers abroad (to my knowledge, this hasn’t happened in India yet) have turned to medicine, science and technology for an answer. They have, specifically speaking, turned to ‘neuromarketing’ – a science which is supposed to look inside a consumer’s mind and check for responses to specific advertising messages and other marketing stimuli.

Neuromarketers (as that’s what they are called) rely on functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which scans and maps the human brain when the (concerned) human is exposed to specific, or collective, stimuli created by advertisers and marketers. It is expected that a study of the brain’s internal behaviour will lead us to understand how the human being behaves as a consumer, preferring certain advertising messages, products and brands over others.

Apparently, organisations like Unilever, DaimlerChrysler and MTV Networks, among many others, have used neuromarketing in their research already, though it is reported that most organisations prefer to keep their neuromarketing initiatives a secret.


Neuromarketing said...

I'd like to see more emphasis on using neuromarketing techniques to improve product design, select the features consumers really want, etc. Traditional survey methods do poorly in this area, and it's more productive to come up with better products vs. better marketing for products consumers don't want.

I don't limit neuromarketing to fMRI studies. Various techniques are evolving, like EEG and even facial coding, to get at what consumers are really thinking.


runawaysun said...


Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting on it.

I agree with you on the point that it’s more productive to come up with better products than better marketing for products consumers don’t want. Better products, I suppose, would mean ‘better’ in terms of convenience, usefulness, application and overall need satisfaction. These attributes are difficult to test through neuromarketing studies as neuromarketing normally tests instant emotional responses to stimuli, while consumer feedback on, say, the usefulness of a product is likely to be a logical response arrived at after much deliberation… including the influence of friends, family and peer groups.

Yes, design is a neglected area in neuromarketing. Perhaps because neuromarketing focuses more on branding and marketing-communication issues, and less on the product.