Generally it is easy to keep track of purchase actions of consumers but it is fairly difficult to find out why they buy. Tools from neuromarketing, such as eye tracking, and physiological measurement methods can provide great insight into consumers’ decision processes, product preferences and emotional effects in shopping experiences and advertisement.
Companies invest more than 400 billion dollar every year on marketing and advertising campaigns. This is a significant number, which makes it even more unfortunate that it is difficult to examine the effectiveness of its impact. Conventional methods for testing and predicting the success of a campaign highly depend on the willingness of consumers to participate and on their competency in understanding and conveying their feelings towards a certain advertisement. This is where neuromarketing comes into play. Cutting-edge methods and technologies for directly monitoring the consumer’s cognitive states and emotional exposure when confronted with stimuli are scientifically approved to be effective. Traditional methods become much more efficient combined with these physiological measures (neuroscientific methods).
The best way to understand what neuromarketing really means is probably to look at the classic Pepsi versus Coca-Cola challenge. Both brands are very strong and have been marketed for over 100 years. Yet, they have used tremendous amounts of resources the last decades fighting for marginal market shares. In 1975 Pepsi sponsored an event where respondents could taste both brands and then determine a winner. Pepsi claimed to be the winner of this study and used this advantage in its marketing strategy. So if Pepsi is the better tasting beverage, why is Coca-Cola beating its sales? The answer can be found in neuromarketing research and brain imaging.
We usually associate neuromarketing with brain research, hence neuroscience. With cutting edge technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), galvanic skin response (GSR), eye tracking and facial expression analysis researchers estimate respondent’s cognitive load, motivation, arousal, attention and emotional response to certain marketing stimuli.
A few years after this test and with the new cutting-edge technologies in mind, a scientist, Read Montague, performed the same test while scanning the brains of the respondents with an fMRI scanner. When tested “blind”, the respondents preferred the taste of Pepsi to the taste of Coca-Cola. Here the ventral putamen, or also called the reward center of the brain, exposed a way greater preference. However, when the respondents were aware of the brand they tasted, Coca-Cola was preferred. In this case a different brain region, the medial prefrontal cortex, was activated and favored Coca-Cola. This specific brain region is associated with cognitive functions like judging, preferring, thinking and self-imaging. The outcome of this study clearly proves that Pepsi is the better tasting brand but Coca-Cola has more effective marketing efforts that lead to positive associations in the consumer’s mind. It shows once more that brand image influences consumer choice tremendously.
The aim of neuromarketing is to understand consumer’s buying behavior. Decision-making is mostly unconscious, the idea of “the homo economicus” absolete and willingness to buy proven to be an emotional process. Therefore, observing and interpreting human emotions is the new way to go. When knowing which emotions are relevant for consumers to make a purchase decision, marketing efforts can easier be addressed and suppliers can try to match consumer’s needs even better. In general, this knowledge is mostly used for promotions and advertising, product design, pricing, store design and the overall consumer experience.