Monday, April 7, 2008

Neuromarketing: the future of marketing?

Currently attending a very interesting presentation about the way neurosciences are being exploited for marketing purposes. The presenter is Olivier Oullier, a Professor in neurophysiology in France and also an active partner at a company called neuroeco, that does seem to be very much in stealth mode since its web site redirects to the page of Prof. Oullier.

  1. tools are too rational

  2. lack of innovation in methods and tools  used to understand and anticipate human behavior

  3. inference of future patterns from past statistics

  4. media instability, like for example the radical transformation of a the TV experience with TiVo

  5. excessive creativity in ads

Today's marketers project their own (mostly rational) thoughts as being the logical behavior of the consumer. However, the fatc is that they are not the consumer and the consumer is not only rational, which may be why the most successful marketers are those individuals who dare to use more than jusrt their rational capabilities. Intuition is important as Steve Jobs, the creators of Cirque du Soleil  or people at IDEO would most certainly agree.
Professor Oullier researches brain activity and bodily activity of humans as they are exposed to various stimuli. His quest is to establish models and correlations between activity inside the human brain and the (economic) behavior of a person. To do that they now use large magnetic resonance equipment, and I guess that their goal is to bring their methods to market. I only hope we don't end up with a world like Minority Report since theoretically attributes of people could be used to "predict" their behavior and the temptation will be there for people to try to prevent certain behaviors. The question being how much of those predictions will actually be self-fulfilling prophecies, something that is relevant not only in the field of tomorrow's marketing.
Interestingly all stimuli but smells go through the thalamus and that may actually explain why there is so muc work being done on olfactive marketing,a subset of sensory and environmental marketing. In neurosciences terms, the effect of an ad on someone paying attention is to trigger the production of dopamine in their brain, which makes them feel good and therefore create a positive association between the product and the consumer. At the end of the day, this elaborate scheme shows how Pavlovian animals we humans can be. Today consumer neuroscience is a topic of great interest in the greatest of universities.

Let's add an element. In certain circumstances and for certain stimuli (e.g. in a situation of immediate danger) the message in the brain will not go through the upper layer (neocortex), which is the part of the brain that manages those thought processes of which we are conscious. So I guess that the name of the game is to trigger stimuli that will generate an unconscious positive association with a commercial offering, such as to create strong unconscious motivation to buy a product or a service. Back to Minority Report or to Brave New World.

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