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Why We Buy One Product and Not The Other: The Science of Neuromarketing

Why do we happily buy one product and indifferently pass by a similar one in price and quality? Well, this could be explained by neuromarketing, which explains how we behave in stores and who studies us.

What is neuromarketing, and how are we being studied?

For one product, buyers almost fight, and the other, similar in price and quality, is gathering dust in a warehouse. Why is it that in one cafe there is no end in customers, and the other, standing right next door, is virtually empty all the time?

Neuromarketing specialists are confident that the answers to these questions lie in the structure of our brain, in how it reacts to different types of stimuli. In order to increase interest in a product or service, they propose to process it, taking into account our sensual and instinctive reactions. The same part of the brain that makes decisions whether to buy from a certain person or brand is the same which helps animals avoid danger, hide from their predators and grab the prey. Likewise, high-quality advertising is trying to influence our instincts, and not our rationality.

For the first time the word “neuromarketing” was uttered in 2002 by a professor at Erasmus University of Rotterdam, Eyl Smidts, when he was talking about the practical application of neurobiology. Later the term was picked up by other scientists. Research neuromarketing mark biological reactions to advertising and to the type of product, which fix eye movement, pulse rate, facial expressions, and brain neurons.

Traditionally, the effectiveness of advertising is determined using the method of focus groups. The selected group is shown a commercial or a new brand. After the show, the interviewer asks questions and offers to evaluate what he saw.

Unlike this method, neuromarketing allows you to understand the underling psychological reactions. Pavel Mikhailov, a senior project manager at NeuroBrands, says: “Neuromarketing is a more advanced version of the study of the reaction of the audience. The focus group allows you to form a conscious, rational assessment, whereas we usually make purchases under the action of stimuli that lie beyond the threshold of human consciousness. As a result, often the results of research in a focus group differ greatly from neuromarketing research. ”

What are the studies?

Neuromarketing research is similar to the usual tests in focus groups – the selected audience is shown an advertisement that they plan to launch to the masses, and they collect feedback. But while in the traditional focus group they are encouraged to describe their impressions and experiences on their own, the participants in neuromarketing research do not speak about anything at all – the equipment will say everything for them.

An i-tracking is one of the oldest neuromarketing tools, which determines which areas of the image a person focuses on. There are two types of I-trackers – worn and remote.

Wearing i-trackers are like glasses or a cap with small devices located near the eyes. The remotes look like palm-width devices and are located opposite the respondent.

During the display of advertising, the i-tracker records where the research participant is looking: at certain areas of the video or to the side, at the characters or at the company logo.

The results are formed in the form of a heat map: hot zones – those on which the participant kept his eyes cool, those that he noticed but did not consider. Areas that are not at all in the zone of attention remain empty.

So, in the early 2000s, they found out that children’s faces in advertising attract attention,  in modern advertising, children look to the side, and their gaze is most often directed at the name of the product.

Image: Words By A Pro
Polygraphs or “lie detectors” – are used not only when applying for a job, but also for marketing purposes – a complex of devices captures the pulse, sweat discharge, and breathing. The more sensitive the device is used, the more data the neuromarketologist receives.

In combination with an i-tracker, the polygraph gives information about why the respondent was attracted by the image: he looked at it by chance, became interested, or, on the contrary, found it unpleasant.

The camcorder is another neuromarketing specialist tool. Facial expressions and involuntary gestures often say much more than words: according to psychological research, non-verbal signals account for 60% of the information, and speech only 40%.

EEG is probably the most interesting device in the arsenal of a neuromarketologist. An encephalograph records brain impulses. The headset in the form of a helmet with electrodes is put on the respondent’s head and determines the slightest fluctuations of electrical impulses.

What is neuromarketing criticized for?

Neuromarketing has a flurry of criticism from the early days of experimentation. There are several arguments against:

  • Relevance. Most often, the effectiveness of advertising is measured on a small focus group, which is not necessarily exactly the same as the actual composition of the audience.
  • Ethical. Companies that use the results of neuromarketing research are aimed primarily not at making a useful product, but at increasing profit. Accordingly, advertising is done in such a way that it deceives our brain, misleads and forces us to make a purchase.
  • Scientific. Neuromarketing is developing rapidly and does not have a broad scientific base. Often it hides under its name very dubious, unexplored theories. Moreover, even scientific research is conducted by different companies according to different standards, and the same EEG results can be interpreted differently.

A number of neuromarketing specialists point out that it’s a big mistake to separate neuromarketing from marketing in general. “In fact, marketing is neuromarketing. After all, everything that marketers create, whether packaging, advertising, or a brand concept, appeals to people through their perception system: neurons in the eyes, ears, fingers, nose, and most importantly through neurons that form the consciousness of a person in his brain. ” – explains Pavel Mikhailov, “Neurobrand” .

Others, on the contrary, believe that neuromarketing is for the time being, only a tool which cannot be effective without traditional marketing. However, this tool is gradually developing through new techniques and technology.

In the future neuromarketing tools should become easier and more accessible. Gradually, they will take less time and become easier to integrate into traditional research, including through the use of new technologies: for example, data analysis from mobile fitness bracelets, Apple Watch or Google Glass.

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