Neuromarketing: the final frontier

Neuromarketing is a new, and growing, field of market research that studies consumers’ sensorimeter, cognitive and affective response to marketing stimuli. The basis of neuromarketing is the principle that the major thinking part of human activity including emotion, takes place in the subconscious area that is below the levels of controlled awareness: the bit that marketers would kill to influence.

Consumer behaviour is a much-studied and analysed area for marketers as they strive for the holy grail of securing brand loyalty from consumers. Neuromarketing says that consumer decision-making process is driven by subconscious emotions rather than conscious reasoning. These two states are referred to as system 1: thinking as intuitive, unconscious, effortless, fast and emotional, and system 2: deliberate, conscious reasoning, slow and effortful. Make sense? Think about it this way, in a normal day you are in control of your choices, you are operating in system 2, but at the end of the day you are on your way home from work and against your better judgement to nip into the corner store and buy a diet cherry coke and a twirl. This is you operating in system 1.

So what does this mean for marketers? Well through the use of neuroscience in their marketing research they can ascertain what consumers unconscious reaction is to their campaigns. What engages them, what don’t they like, which specific image is more influential than another and ultimately, what will get them to buy that twirl.

Neuromarketing has the potential to have a huge impact on the marketing industry. The level of detail and insight practioners can gain about consumer preference is huge. But it also raises an important ethical question; how far is too far? At its worst neuromarketing is influencing consumer behaviour that consumers are not even aware of, getting them to make purchase decisions that could turn out to be detrimental to their wellbeing. At its best however it gives marketers and new and fresh layer of insight into consumer behaviour to bring them closer to their customers and help them better serve their needs. There is a code of ethics for the application of neuroscience in business so let’s hope that the industry fully embraces this as it surges forwards with its pursuit of consumer knowledge.