Neuromarketing: Evolution

marketing and sales from a neuroscience angle

marketing and sales from a neuroscience angle

The Need for Neuromarketing

In the United States 8 out of every 10 new products brought to market fail within one year’s time. If we hop a flight to the other side of the world and stop in Japan we’ll come to find out that 9.7 out of every 10 products fail in the first year. These are pretty dismal numbers. Now I understand there are a lot of factors that play into the success (or lack there of) of any given good or service, but a lot of the emphasis in the launch of a product is placed on marketing.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on focus groups, trials, tests, or whatever tools researchers are using to predict the success of a product, yet 80% of the time they fail. As the market place continues to get more crowded the likelihood of success is diminishing unless we as marketers can better predict what actually appeals to potential consumers.  To achieve this goal we’re going to have to enter a new arena that few marketers dare to go; the human brain.

From the Marketplace to Our Minds

From the second you start your day you are bombarded with an assault of marketing and media: TV commercials, radio ads, banners on your favorite websites, street signs, and this list gets longer every hour. In fact, we are so heavily bombarded with marketing much of it becomes background noise to us after a while.  By the time you are 60 years old you will have seen over 2,000,000 commercial advertisements.  Astonishingly enough a recent survey from ACNielson found that the average person could only remember 2.21 commercials of those they had ever seen, ever, period (Buyology, Lindstrom 2008). This proves a point that you can flood a marketplace with advertising and marketing, but if you never penetrate the mind of a consumer you will fail.

Al Reis and Jack Trout were game changers when they came up with the idea of “positioning”.  They maintained that the only thing that mattered in marketing is not where you were at in the marketplace, but more importantly where you were in the mind of the consumer.  If your brand was present in the mind of the consumer you were exponentially more likely be purchased than someone who wasn’t and this is beyond true. If at this very moment I had you name as many brands of toothpaste as you could you would probably come up with a list of around 7 brands, if that. Those brands you came up with hold a lot of weight in your purchasing decision because they are the brands you’re most likely to purchase. And that brand you named first is probably the brand of toothpaste that is currently sitting in your cabinet at home.

From Our Minds to Our Brains

It would only be a matter of time before science would step up to the plate and start hitting some homeruns (non steroids, of course) in the marketing stadium. Science can literally map our brains through neuroimaging while we go through our purchasing process.  Neuromarketing can effectively map the entire purchasing process from our initial perceptions to our final decisions. The great thing is that we’re in it right now. Researchers are pioneering this process and learning new information every day. For example, in fMRI tests the design of The Mini Cooper triggers a part of the brain associated with faces, more specifically a baby’s face, in participants’ brains. The facial expression of a baby is a strong perception that is almost always positive and not surprisingly more so with women than men.

We are all consumers, and with every purchase we make we’re making a decision. The neuroscience of decision making, in general, is largely dominated by our emotions rather than our logic.  The question that many marketers face is how to properly blend emotional design into our products and marketing campaigns. This challenge looms over companies all over the world, and surprisingly very few have adopted the neuromarketing approach to business because they simply don’t know it even exists.

My Vision:  Neuroecology

Marketing campaigns exist to grab your attention and make you aware that a product exists. That marketing/consumer interaction is very topical and rarely goes any deeper than being present in your conscious for a brief moment in time. However people to people interactions hold a lot more weight in helping us form our perceptions and in making our decisions.  The person to person interaction is the only true way to authentically connect with another person and communicate knowledge. Neuromarketing will get your attention, social neuroscience will then communicate and understand the consumer’s needs and create a sale.

In most corporations today marketing and sales departments are distanced from one another and have little interaction. Marketing people are viewed as the creatives and sales people are often held in a negative light. However if you had your marketing department on the same page as your sales department in a streamlined brain based campaign you could effectively reach more people, and more importantly reach them authentically. Sales can learn a lot from neuroscience. Just like a marketer can tailor a promotional piece to effectively reach a desired audience, a trained sales person can effectively communicate the benefits of a product to the customer by utilizing presentation skills and strategy that are proven to help people make better decisions. I call it Neuroecology because this strategy takes into account everything that goes into a business decision from the selling environment to product perception to marketing to personal interaction and finally to the decision. More importantly Neuroecology is a dynamic process that is highly attuned to emotions, much like human nature.

A highly recomended read that detailes the emergence of neuromarketing and peers into the future of the field.

A highly recomended read that details the emergence of neuromarketing and peers into the future of the field.

Neuromarketing Threats

Some government groups are attacking neuromarketing claiming that it is unethical and want a ban on research. These people simply have a lack of understanding for what neuromarketing can actually accomplish. Images of subliminal advertising come to mind at the mention of brains and marketing, but these images are simply not true and they’re rooted in folklore. There is no magic buy button in the human brain. There are only complex processes that lead to a single decision. Neuromarketing provides us with the opportunity to improve the quality of business by better understanding ourselves and each other in order to better serve our potential consumers. Neuromarketing is scientific, ethical, and it is the future of business.

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Differently

men and women

Men’s Brains, Women’s Brains, Whatever

 

It would seem that our society is finally starting to shake free the bonds of our outdated sexist ideology that has long dominated the culture in this country. A century ago women weren’t even allowed to vote. Today women are boldly going where men feared they would eventually go if given the chance: the boardroom, the corner office with windows, the high bench, and this list goes on as women are performing in positions that were long held for their male counterparts. Yet, this assimilation into female leadership has not been easy. Look no further than the democratic primaries from this past election and you can recall CNN making a stink about Hillary Clinton being the focus of sexism in politics, and SNL portraying Senator Clinton as a stern, somewhat butch, woman who was rigid to say the least.

 

Although women have broken down the equality barrier, the perceptual barrier stands tall for those who wish to be leaders and contributors to success in this country. In a study conducted with four test groups made up of equal men and women, the groups were given the job description of a vice president of the company as well as a description of personal attributes. The only factor that changed between the groups was the gender of the VP. Interestingly enough the gender change was enough to change the perceptions from group to group. Though both VPs were considered to be competent what differed between the man and woman was rather they were considered “likeable” or not. In the words of researcher and biologist John Medina, “The man was a hotdog. The woman was a bitch.” Upon reading this my mind drifted back to the primary elections of 2008 and I recall so many people saying Hillary was qualified but she wasn’t really relatable, which in mind is like saying, “she’s not that likeable.” So here we stand welcoming new players to the game yet we’re still playing by the same old rules. Something has to change.

 

Senator Clinton would have been a good President, but it was difficult for her to over come perceptions from being too stern and not relateable.

Senator Clinton would have been a good President, but it was difficult for her to over come perceptions from being too stern and not relateable.

Wait, You Mean To Tell Me Boys and Girls are Different?!?!

 

Amidst all this equality talk we forgot that men and women are different. For the sake of keeping with the theme of this amazing website let’s hone in on our brains. Men’s and Women’s brains differ in a variety of ways: anatomical architecture, memory formation and processing, emotions, language, vision and all that manifests itself in our behaviors. Men and women perceive differently and as a result we both operate differently. Now here is the important thing to remember, because our society gets this backwards all the time: the differences in men’s and women’s brains do NOT equate one sex performing better in general. Understanding and attuning to these differences will go along way in setting ourselves up for success in the long run.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Most people are actually unaware that the natural genetic default for creating a human life is female. This means that the blueprint for human life is a woman. So ladies, you can go tell Adam to shove it because Eve is where it’s really at and while you’re at it you can tell him to stop eating all the fruit from sacred trees, too.  In primates like chimpanzees (our genetic cousins) the female chimps are often the ones that exhibit tool use and innovation in their troops.

 

There are anatomical differences in men’s and women’s brain in every one of the four lobes of the brain. Here are some areas where women differ for men: Women on average have a thicker (thicker is good) frontal and prefrontal cortex of the brain, an area that is associated with decision making and higher level thought. Women also have a thicker corpus callosum than men which is the bridge of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. The amygdala, an area of the brain that is related to stress and emotional response, is larger in women than in men as well.

 

Now it’s wrong to justify personal behaviors through neuroanatomy. However, it is right to justify the behaviors of a population of women through neuroanatomy. Relatively speaking women in general tend to have a wider range of emotions, which can be linked back to the amygdala. Looking at the corpus callosum we can also begin to see that improved conductivity between the hemispheres allows for better multitasking, something that women tend to be better at then men. Women also tend to out perform men in language ability as well, and we can link that to our prefrontal cortex. Now ladies, before you start dishing out high fives and chest bumping each other we remember the theory of balance, and for balance every positive has to have a negative.

 

Women are more likely to have anxiety related problems. Most anorexics are women, and women are also more likely than men to develop bouts of depression. On the other side of the coin men have a greater chance of being antisocial, developing schizophrenia, drug abuse problems, and mental retardation. You see there is just as much good stuff as potential bad stuff going on in both of our brains.  The only thing that might dictate success is that task at hand.

 

Gender Memory

 

This is extremely interesting. Two groups of men and women were shown a video of a particularly horrifying accident involving a little boy getting hit by a car. While the men and women watched the video their brain activity was

How do you remember this incident? It'll differ depending if you're male or female.

How do you remember this incident? It'll differ depending if you're male or female.

monitored by fMRI. The very sight of someone getting hit by a car is emotionally salient, yet in this study men and women showed different brain activity in their amygdala regions of the brain. The right side of the amygdala in men lit up and in women their left side of the amygdala lit up. Two weeks later the groups were asked to recall the video of the boy getting hit by the car. The men better recalled the “gist” of the video and the women better recalled the details of the video, such as the boy was holding a soccer ball. The same video produced two different perceptions and two different recollections. Put those recollections together and you have a complete memory in tact. This holds true for emotionally heightened memories like a first date or a recent argument.

 

Gender Communication

 

Researcher Deborah Tannen did some really amazing research relating to how little boys and little girls verbally communicate with each other and how that shapes our communication patterns into adulthood. She spent a lot of time observing how kids communicate and form bonds of friendship and trust. No surprises here; boys and girls communicate very differently and girls tend to be better at it. To crudely summarize her 30 years of work girls use language and conversation to cement friendship and bonds. Along with conversation girls are great at utilizing the nonverbal aspects of conversation as well, like maintaining eye contact and physical cues. Boys on the other hand rarely make eye contact and prefer to use physicality and commotion to cement bonds of friendship and trust. The female approach to communication is “let’s do this together.” The male approach is “I can do this better than you.” This really doesn’t change all that much as we get older.

 

Bringing it on Home Social Intelligence Style

 

In regards to success social intelligence is the key determining factor. We know that there are differences in men and women and we must respect those differences. Socially intelligent people understand and realize how to get the most out of every individual. If you’re a manager and you have a team of both and women working underneath you it makes no sense to treat every person the same. We’re all different, so treat us differently, but in a way that fosters our success and harmonizes the groups’ effort. If you’re a leader, man or woman, you’re going to run into some opposition – be it a work style conflict or difference of opinion – you can better prepare yourself by understanding these differences and gaming planning proactively. Attuning to differences allows you to tailor your message and communication pattern into one that will successfully be understood by whomever it is you’re speaking with or reaching out to. In general our brains may be pretty different, but together two brains are always better than one.

What’s the Deal with Emotions?

I turned on EPSN this morning and the anchors were talking about the upcoming BCS National Champtionship Game and one anchor, Kirk Herbstreet, was talking about the role emotion will play in the game and how it could be the difference for victory.  Watch any sports show regarding a big game and the importance of emotion always comes up. This holds true far beyond the realm of sports. Emotions play a vital role in our day to day actions and often times they play a much larger role than we give them credit for.

As humans we are emotional beings.  With each living moment we wade in a sea of emotion. Sometimes the waters are calm, sometimes the waters toss about, and every so often the waters rise up like a tsunami wave and overtake you. However, one thing remains: there will always be water – there will always be emotion. I submit that most people can feel their emotions, but very few actually understand them, and even fewer understand the emotions of others. In most cases we cannot stop ourselves from feeling emotions, they just come. It’s what a person does once they’ve felt an emotion that can make all the difference.

In my last post I introduced the three very general parts of the brain: The old brain, the middle brain, and the new brain. These brains, respectively, were responsible for making decisions, emotion, and thought. Any time we are confronted with a stimuli these three brains work in concert to lead us to an action. The flow of this interaction often looks like this:

 Emotion –> Thought –> Action

Once you’ve felt  and acknowledge the emotion you’re feeling it is crucial that you take time to think. Most people fail to do this, and it can be the source of difficulties in their social interactions. You might think about why did I feel that emotion? What action should I take? How will my potential reaction affect me, how will it affect others? The truth is there are a million different questions you can ask yourself in relation to any given scenario, all that matters is that you think. Once you’ve thought and used the input of your emotions you can make a decision as to what you action may be. Pretty easy huh? This is a baby step into a much larger world.

When Your Emotions Get the Best of You…

I walked out of lunch at one of my favorite sushi restaurants and noticed a man holding package and ringing the doorbell to the UPS Store that was located next door. He was about 40 and looked like any suburban father would. He continued ringing the bell until it was quite clear that no one was going to answer. The UPS Store was closed and accidently left their “open” sign lit in the window. Then something happened. He slapped the side of the package he was holding and cursed out loud. I decided to slow my pace as I walked and watch this scene play out. Clearly this guy was feeling the emotion of anger, I mean he was really cheesed, and it was because he couldn’t mail his package. My guess he was so angry because it was important that it get mailed that day. I’ll never know, I was in no position to ask him, he might choke me.

He started his car and hit his steering wheel cursing up a storm, he was still very angry. The emotional flood gates were open. He then began reving up his engine. It was clear to me at this point his emotions were in control of his actions. He backed up really fast and began speeding down the street still cursing. He failed to notice that a woman was backing her car out of her parking spot down the way. Blinded by his emotions he realized this too late, slammed his breaks, and rear-ended her car. Luckily it wasn’t that bad. However he got out and started screaming at the lady. I felt privledged and somewhat sad to watch this entire situation play out. I noticed one thing though, as the emotions started to rush in he failed to think and figure out what action would be best to take give the changing circumstances of his situation. He went right from emotion to action, skipping thought, and he is paying for it now (more than likely in the form of his insurance).

I’ll end with this. Oprah said this to Liz Lemon on an episode of 30 Rock, “We’re not always in control of the emotions we feel, but we are always in control of the actions we can take.”

Three Brains are Better than One

To begin to understand how the human brain processes information during our daily interactions you have to break down the human brain so it’s nice and simple to understand.  I remember the first time I saw an actual human brain,  and the thing I remember most is that it looked nothing like the clean images and drawings from the text books. It actually looked like a grayish mess, but once we got to slicing and dicing it began to make sense of what was what. Our lesson today is nowhere near as complex, hopefully it’s more intriguing.

breaking down the brain

breaking down the brain

The Reptilian Brain

The reptilian brain is a very primitive organ. It’s called the reptilian brain because it has been around for over 450 million years and is actually still present in reptiles today. This is the first part of your brain to develop. The reptilian brain or the “old brain” is responsible for you unconscious processes. It controls things like heartbeat and breathing. Think about it, have you ever had to focus to make your heart beat, or to make yourself breath (assuming you’re not having a panic attack). Of course not, these things just happen and that’s thanks to your old brain. It’s been said that the old brain is primarily concerned with your survival. The most recent research has shown that the old brain plays a major roll decision making. The old brain actually decides “yes” or “no” in response to a situation or stimuli. Pretty neat stuff huh? We’ll expand more on the old brain at a later time.

The Middle Brain

Through human evolution we developed a brain on top of our first brain. This brain, the middle brain, is a little more complex than the first brain. From a social neuroscience perspective the middle brain is primarily concerned with emotional processing. Emotions are vital to understanding and communicating in social interactions and play a crucial role in our behaviors and actions.

The New Brain

The new brain is what makes our species so unique. No other animal has a brain like ours and that’s because of our new brain, also commonly referred to as the neo cortex. This brain is responsible for higher level thinking. It allows us to think in abstract and hypothetically as well as perform rational thought. Studies have shown that this part of the brain continues to grow and develop until the age of 24. This is what separates us from other animals and makes humans so unique.

Three Brains Become One

So lets tie this all together. The reptilian brain decides, the middle brain processes emotions, and the new brain thinks. When confronted with a stimuli all of these processes from your three brains work in concert to achieve an end result.  This is the process that your brain works when confronted with almost any situation. Of course you’re largely unaware of what’s going on, but social neuroscience aims to give you the understanding of how you perceive and communicate. The knowledge of the social perception process can make a big difference in understanding your actions and emotions. Now that we’ve laid something of a base I hope we can begin to really explore this dynamic process through some example interactions.

If this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about I recomend picking up the book NEUROMARKETING written by Patrick Revoise & Christopher Morin. This book looks at how the brain makes decisions and the best way to communicate to the old brain. It’s a terrific read and much of this post was inspired by the book’s breakdown of the brain. Check out more at:http://www.salesbrain.net/users/folder.asp?FolderID=5622&gclid=CNzi8O-M6pcCFRlRagodkEOCDA Continue reading