Research Scholar (UGC-NET), Faculty of Management Studies Gurukul Kangri University, Haridwar
Ph.D. in Management and Economics, Faculty of Management and Economics, Tomas Bata University, Czech Republic;
MBA, Webster University, Missouri, USA; B.S. in Business Administration, University of Missouri-Saint Louis, USA.
Research Scholar (UGC-JRF), Faculty of Management Studies Gurukul Kangri University, Haridwar
ABSTRACT: In today’s dynamic business environment, it is no longer feasible to keep on practicing the same marketing tools to acquire an edge over the competitors. It is thus necessary to integrate other disciplines along with marketing to take a leap forward to understand customers better.
Neuroscience shows us that the decision to purchase something is often formed deep within the subconscious. Resultantly, perception technologists of the market are very tempted to learn the techniques of effective manipulation of the subconscious brain activity. Their objective is to inspire the desired reaction in person’s perception as deeply as possible.
Thus in light of such tremendous potentiality of Neuroscience integrated with marketing, this paper is an attempt to understand the efficiency and scope of Neuromarketing as a marketing tool.
Keywords: Neuroscience, Neuromarketing, Consumer Perception, Perception Technology.
Whether it‟s cute and everyone‟s favourite egg head look-alike Zoozoo, a catchy jingle for gel based tooth paste or an anti-smoking advertisement showing a very ill cancer-patient Mukesh Harane, they stay in our consciousness for a very long time and many of times affect our decision to buy or not to buy a particular brand of product. The question is whether these ads are popular by destiny or there is some underlying scientific approach? Considering the rate of rising competition within industries, increased ambitions of young and innovative entrepreneurs who cannot afford to fail and urge of proving themselves by developing and underdeveloped nations, it is highly unlikely that advertising firms and marketers will leave anything to chance or destiny. There is indeed a marketing conspiracy floating on the surface of contemporary marketing moves to attract as well as clinging to the mind of existing and potential customers.
This paper will travel through history of this highly productive and appreciative consumer perception technique to its present and future scope and will also let know the dark side of this science-marketing duo
approach/technique known as Neuromarketing. Neuromarketing is widely known as a new field of marketing that studies consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli.
ORIGINATION OF NEUROMARKETING FROM NEUROSCIENCE:
To understand the human mind has always been a fantasy to philosopher‟s mind but the things start spinning when scientists begun to take interest in the brain anatomy. Born in 1846, Angelo Mosso, an Italian physiologist performed a strange and widely criticized experiment on human brain in which the subject of the experiment was lying on a balancing table which could be inclined only if the feet or the head of the subject become heavier. When the subject met an intellectual or emotional activity, the balance was inclined towards the head, as a result of the blood redistribution into the body (Marcel, P.C., 2009). Only years later this strange experiment was appreciated and honoured as the first neuroimaging technique ever invented and marked as the birth of neuroscience in the scientific history. However, even if only briefly mentioned by William James in 1890, the details and precise workings of this balance and the experiments Mosso performed with it have remained largely unknown until the recent discovery of the original instrument as well as of Mosso‟s reports by Stefano Sandrone and colleagues (Sandrone, S., 2013).
Due to the fact that a major portion of brain is composed of soft tissues, it remain undetected to normal or plain X-ray examination and hence for a very long period imaging was depended on structural radiographic techniques and ventriculography introduced by William Dandy in 1918. But these techniques at times carried significant risks to the patient under investigation, such as haemorrhage, infection, and dangerous changes in intracranial pressure.
Soon after the introduction of angiography, neuroimaging witnessed a remarkable growth with advent of new and better techniques every day such Computerized Axial Topography (CAT or CT scanning), Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET). Functional imaging took a large step forward with the development of oxygen-15 labelled water (H2 O, or H20-15) imaging. H20-15 emits positrons and creates images based on regional blood flow within the brain.
Talking about today‟s scenario, market researchers make increasing use of brain imaging. Researchers use technologies such as Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain, electroencephalography (EEG) and Magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure activity in specific regional spectra of the brain response, and/or sensors to measure changes in one’s physiological state (heart rate, respiratory rate, galvanic skin response) to learn why consumers make the decisions they do, and what part of the brain is telling them to do it (Karmarkar, Uma R., 2011).
Of the three brain-imaging techniques currently used in Neuromarketing – fMRI (Functional magnetic resonance imaging), QEEG (Quantitative electroencephalography) and MEG (magnetoencephalography) – it is fMRI which has captured the greatest interest among market researchers and enjoyed the widest publicity in the general and marketing trade press. scientists use fMRI to observe areas of the brain that respond to consumer-based stimuli, such as particular brands, price ranges, and even taste preferences (Bridger, D., 2005).
While the first use of fMRI as a marketing tool was reported by Gerry Zaltman of Harvard towards the end of the 1990‟s the term „Neuromarketing‟ was only coined by Erasmus University‟s Professor Ale Smidts (father of Neuromarketing) in 2002 the same year when BrightHouse Neurostrategies, an Atlanta based marketing firm claimed to be world‟s first Neuromarketing firm and it was not until 2004 that the first ever Neuromarketing conference was held at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston (Bridger, D., 2005).
NEUROMARKETING: AMALGAM OF BUSINESS AND SCIENCE:
The definition of Neuromarketing is being extensively debated in the recent past and researchers are divided into two segments one considering it as a pure science field while others considering it as a business activity (Lee et al., 2006). While there is no doubt that it is a little bit of both and i.e. it is more likely a real business world practical implication of extensively researched scientific brain imaging techniques. There is also an argument regarding whether it should be considered as an academic field or it more or less confined to a business activity (Fisher et al., 2010). The most generalised definition of Neuromarketing till date is probably as follows: “Neuromarketing is widely defined as the science that uses MRI, EEG, TMS, MEG, fMRI, and other brain wave tools to view the human brain‟s responses to marketing stimuli to figure out what customers‟ thoughts are toward a product, service, advertisement, or even packaging to perfectly construct marketing campaigns that are based on the human brain‟s response” (Hammou, K.A. et al., 2013).
Speaking conceptually, Neuromarketing research considers both qualitative and quantitative aspects of research methodology (figure 1). Qualitative aspects covers issues like the content, medium and mode of delivery of contents to customers and quantitative research stresses issues like duration of exposure of advertisement to the consumers etc.
Conceptual Framework of Neuromarketing
RISING ON A HIGH TIDE:
McClure et al. (2004) performed an infamous experiment on Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola which sought to study the motivation behind brand preferences. This experiment clearly shows that two almost identically favoured drinks were not equally preferred by the consumers. Making use of fMRI, this brain stimulation was studied for the two tests one blind and other in which the person knows the beverage he/she was in taking. The results were surprising, readings proved that most of the subjects liked the taste of Pepsi but they were subconsciously believed that they preferred Coca-Cola ahead of Pepsi. Researchers claimed that “a preference for Coke is more influenced by the brand image than by the taste itself” (Bridger D., 2005). This experiment demonstrates the strong influence of ads on the behaviour of consumers. Other studies have used brain-imaging to evaluate video clips and TV advertisements, study decision making among shoppers and even to investigate the likely impact of political advertising during the time of election.
Neuromarketing is thus simple and logical that when one understands more about how the human brain works and how potential consumer‟s brain works, then firms can more effectively drive the decision-making process of the brain.
Typically, the brain itself is not aware of these cognitive processes: the so-called “reason” for choosing one product over other bubbling up instead from the dark, reflexive sediment of the brain and rationalized by the more evolved, higher-function part of the brain.
While, Neuroscience is constantly evolving in the realization that there is possibly more than one part of the brain that provokes specific feelings, while some another influences thought. Both parts of the brain can shake hands during the process of making a critical decision, Neuromarketing holds out the promise of dissecting these processes and moulding marketing messages into a shape that appeals to the different parts of the brain of the consumers and motivates a decision in favour of marketers.
Neuromarketing assist companies to improvise in terms of the quality of their products and services through making use of techniques like fMRI (Adhami, 2013). Companies will be better equipped through Neuromarketing and they can choose the products labelled as winners without any clutters (Eser, Isin & Tolon, 2011). By using this technology, companies are motivated to take more jeopardy to engage more boldly with their consumers and hence this in turn will captivate their consumers (Green & Holbert, 2012).
In another study, a company found out something that can was very useful to enhance their advertising strategies (Pilelienė, 2012). The study found out that the left hemisphere activates before the right hemisphere of the brain (Pilelienė, 2012). Hence, the price of the product has to be emphasized before the creative features of the product (Pilelienė, 2012). This is because price is associated with the left hemisphere while the creative components are associated with the right hemisphere (Pilelienė, 2012).
According to NeuroFocus (2011) as cited in “Brain Whisperers: Cutting through the Clutter with Neuromarketing” (Andrejevic, 2012) with Neuromarketing, marketers now can dig deeper into the brain and know how the brain of a consumer really respond to a certain product or advertisement.
Companies like Motorola, Delta Airlines, Proctor & Gamble and Buick are some of the biggest reapers of fruitful Neuromarketing outcomes (Boricean, V., 2009). While Buick claimed increased sales from 9% to 40% for every dealer, Febreze has proved the biggest success for the Proctor & Gamble (Boricean, V., 2009). Neuromarketing has successfully established this fact that a consumer cling to a certain product not only because of its features, cost or the advertising message but mainly on the basis of an intuitional relation with the product‟s brand. Consumer perceptions about brands are built gradually not suddenly with time and enriched experiences that help extract evaluations in the customer‟s mind. This explains why, for example, certain people go to McDonald‟s or Pizza Hut or wear fashionable sneakers; it is not because of the way the product looks, tastes, or fits but rather because of the way the product or the service perfectly matches their lifestyle (Hammou, Galib and Melloul, 2013). Researchers subsequently hypothesized that the main motive behind the outstanding sales of BMW‟s Mini Cooper was, at least subconsciously, its adorable design (Hammou, Galib and Melloul, 2013). The study‟s findings have also demonstrated that pictures of high- performance cars such as the Ferrari 360 Modena and the BMW Z8 have stimulated some specific brain areas related to the concepts of wealth and social power. Such findings have provided the companies with pure and absolute emotional responses that no focus group or survey could ever possibly reveal (Hunt, 2008).
It is not that only marketers reap the benefits of Neuromarketing rather it can be said that both parties are mutually benefitted. According to Fugate (2008) as cited in “The Contributions of Neuromarketing in Marketing Research”, (Hammou, Galib and Melloul, 2013) Neuromarketing helps companies understand the consumer‟s buying decisions by looking into their cognitive processes. There are many experiments done to be used as evidence that Neuromarketing does contribute to know what consumers require.
NOT ENTIRELY WIN-WIN:
Neuromarketing has raised some eyebrows when it comes to ethical concerns. Some researchers have raised serious concerns that Neuromarketing will not only extract marketing and consumer behaviour related information from consumers but also it may hinder their freedom at emotional, intellectual and personal level (Appleyard, 2011). Lovell (2008) argued that Neuromarketing will enable big firms to monitor customers‟ freedom and treat them as laboratory rats if used offensively and impertinently. In fact that a series of ads
could actually cause your brain to believe something that contradicts what the rest of your body thinks is unnerving, to say the least.
Another debatable concern was raised by Tallis (2011), who argued that the human mind is much more than the sum of the neural activity which can be currently measured. He also identified a phenomenon called neuromania, by which he means the belief that what we can learn from neuro-imaging explains virtually all mental phenomena. He draws attention to a “gap”, which cannot be closed, between experience and what neuroscience observes (Tallis, 2011). Therefore, it would not be completely unwise to say that Neuromarketing may at certain level push consumers to think or act in a certain way. Commercial Alert, an organization protesting the development of Neuromarketing, has expressed concern over the use of medical technology for advertising purposes, claiming that brain scans can subjugate the mind and use it for commercial gain (Lindstrom, M.B., 2008). The group has also exaggerated that any power-hungry neuroscientist could possibly use these studies in near or distant future to manipulate the public‟s desire for specific products, or that the research could be used in the realm of politics and propaganda, dragging us down a slippery slope toward totalitarianism and war (Lindstrom, M.B., 2008).
Some researchers have also shown concerned by coining the term “buy button” which means that in future consumers may turn into some buying robots which will triggered on will by marketers (Lee, N. et al., 2007). Though a majority of researchers have completely rejected the possibility of any situation like “buy button” by arguing that the Neuromarketing aims to study the brain not to influence it. Still there is a growing consensus amongst the researchers for increasing the level of trust in Neuromarketing activities going around the world. according to the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) as cited in the journal “The Marketing of Neuromarketing: Brand Differentiation Strategies Employed by Prominent” (McDowell & Dick, 2013) more amount of transparency is needed in the Neuromarketing field. Apart from that, studies regarding the marketing activity cannot be done on children and minorities as well as ill and disabled folks because many authorities have argued that they need special protection against Neuromarketing (Javor, Koller, Lee, Chamberlain and Ransmayr, 2013).
To solve some of the above discussed ethical issues bounding the integration of fMRI technologies in marketing, Naish (2009) proposed that the technology has to be developed further from the pessimistic “brainwashing machine” that meticulously examines people‟s intentions and feelings. Naish suggested that researchers and marketers need to seize the mainstream issues and then apply the appropriate methods to study those issues, such as green marketing and name it “neurogreen.” Professor Tracey, director of the Oxford University Centre for fMRI in the United Kingdom, assumed that researchers and scientists will eventually be able to electronically capture the essence of whatever makes a person if fMRI techniques have been improved and overcome all of its limitations (Rudall & Mann, 2009).
Neuromarketing indeed is a need of hour, with its limitless scope and applicability it helps in drawing immediate and accurate feedback on consumer‟s preferences and behaviour when compared to traditional marketing strategies and hence, it is no longer viable for large organizations and conglomerates to keep on glued to conventional practices any more. Neuromarketing is able to provide key insights into issues concerning business sustainability and its relationships with other business environment elements. The organizations are in better position to foresee the future of their products and observe pre-alarms to any cautious situations. Future of Neuromarketing is without any doubt very promising and it would be too early to predict the extent of success that can be achieved by it in near and distant future.
Although the grass is not green on every side and there are certain privacy and ethical concerns rising above the shoulder of this adolescent marketing tools. There is a felt need of transparency in the process and consumers and individual rights are needed to be protected.
In nut-shell, Neuromarketing is phenomena that cannot and will not remain unnoticed with the rate of increasing competitiveness with in the global organizations. Though, it is advisable to researchers and practitioners to hold an umbrella above the head of consumer rights and interest before we face this grand sunshine of marketing success.
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