Neuromarketing

In the senior Psychology seminar a topic that consistently came up was Neuromarketing. Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers’ cognitive and affective response to marketing stimuli. Will we ever fully understand the brain? Will we eventually understand the brain to an extent that we can effectively target certain areas? I’ll admit that I know very little about the brain and I cannot even begin to answer those questions. There is a small, but growing amount of literature that addresses the intersection between neuroscience and business. The notorious Coke vs. Pepsi challenge in 2004 was the first example (that I could find) of neuromarketing in practice. 67 subjects had their brains scanned while doing a blind taste test of both Pepsi and Coke. While drinking Pepsi participants had a stronger response in their brain’s ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with reward. Therefore, Pepsi should have more market share than Coke. We know that is not the case, so why does Coke dominate the market if Pepsi is more rewarding to drink? When participants were told they were drinking Coke then 75% preferred Coke to Pepsi. Their brain activity also changed when they knew they were drinking Coke. The most active areas of the brain were now the lateral prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. These areas are associated with higher level cognitive processing and memory respectively. This suggests that consumers are recalling memories and impressions when drinking Coke. The Coke preference is an experience, not a taste difference. This has defined Coke’s marketing scheme in the years following the study. Coke markets happiness, the experience of drinking Coke (much like McDonalds), and nostalgia. I don’t know if we will fully understand the brain, but the increasing accuracy and understanding of the different areas has the potential to slowly redefine business to consumer relations. 

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