What Is Brain-Wave Marketing?
Scientists, in conjunctin with marketers, have been attaching
electrodes to people's head to track what's happening in their
brains as they look at products, or at commercials for products.
The information gleaned in this way is then supposed to make
it easier to design effective marketing campaigns. For example,
Hyundai Motor America had 15 men and 15 women look at various
parts of a 2011 car model for an hour total, recording what happened
in their brains when they stared at each part. They plan to alter
the exterior after reviewing the results of the electroencephalographs.
Forbes magazine recently reported that among the companies
using this brain wave technology are Pepsi, Microsoft, Yahoo,
and Ebay's PayPal. There are now at least eight companies that
offer these services to help companies design there commercials
and marketing campaigns. They use both EEG and MRI testing machines
for the research.
Do they work? It seems that they can definitely see which
parts of the brain light up with electrical activity when the
subject is looking at various things. It also seems likely that
there's some information to be discovered from this.
On the other hand, it is not a perfect technology. According
to the article in Forbes (November 16, 2009), University of California
(Santa Barbara) neuroscientist Craig Bennett put a dead fish
through an MRI machine and it showed brain activity that looked
suspiciously like that of subjects tested while watching commercials.
Neuromarketers probably didn't want to hear that, or at least
don't want their potential clients to hear about it.
The odds are good that this kind of research and subsequent
marketing will continue. Their is already a new title for those
who run brain-wave marketing testing: neuromarketers. It seems
likely that despite the dead fish, who apparently preferred this
or that brand of popcorn, there is some valid data to be found
in the testing.
But even if we see that a person gets excited in the brain
when looking at one style of packaging versus another, it isn't
clear if this will translate into better sales. That's something
that is harder to measure. Also, much of the information gained
might be available much more simply and at lower cost.
For example, PayPal planned to sell potential customers on
the speed of their online payment service, after seeing the results
of neuromarketing tests. Apparently brain-wave marketing research
showed that people were more excited by speed than additional
security measures. But there was a simpler and much cheaper way
to learn this: Talk to a few customers. They don't need to watch
my brainwaves to know that I want more speed online. I'll tell
that to any company that asks.
This kind of marketing based on brainwave patterns is almost
certainly a fad at this point. Still, it will be interesting
to see how it develops in the future (and I'll report any new
information in the Brainpower Newsletter).