Why neuromarketing cannot offer simple answers—just more questions

Marketing is considered as a highly creative profession. Yet, nobody tried to define what "creative" really means. It appears that the best scenario might be living without rules or limitation at all. Let the "creative guys" do what they want. Only if the things were really working out. But they are not—more than 80% of any creative work usually ends up with zero effect.

The reason is very simple—the "creative guys" do not respect laws concerned with the real world we all live in. Therefore it is essential to start applying scientific approach in marketing. Neuromarketing was supposed to become the pilot project for navigating traditional marketing onto scientific trajectory. Yet, high hope are very often left unfulfilled.

What is the mission of neuromarketing?

Neuromarketing explores how human brain works when it is exposed to buying or other marketing stimuli. Scientific research reveals that only 10% of our purchase decisions are controlled rationally. The remaining 90% of reasons why we decide in some situations the way we do is conditioned irrationally—automatically, instinctively and completely without chance to consciously influence such a process. These neuronal superfast highways guarantee in our brains remarkable operational efficacy, safety and stability.

Neuromarketing is using scientific methods to map brain’s active spots that take part in decision making during shopping. Expert teams can then more precisely measure consumer preferences to determine what we really like and what we do not. This is objective data about what human brain truly thinks or feels. As a result, we can adjust our marketing strategies to get better outcomes.

Brain of your target consumer is not affected with ineffective ad. But confusing or incorrectly focused communication might in brain totally block off a promoted product or even replace it with a competitive one. If an ad agency is supplied with such data before product launch the manufacturer could still stop or change the ad campaign.

Understanding human brain is the first step

Human brain contains around 100 billion of neurons. With its structure and organized character brain resembles the proverbial "web of webs" where all is interconnected. This unprecedented biological computer is in its complexity the very foundation of human intelligence.

Evolutionary, human brain consists of three very different parts:

  1. the old brain,
  2. the midbrain,
  3. the new brain.

In the old brain are located all vital centres that process, control and drive basic human vitals, instincts and needs. This part of our brains fundamentally participates in almost every decision we make in life.

The midbrain is responsible mainly for our emotions, feelings, empathy and intuition. The new brain is evolutionary the youngest, but still the most complex biological structure in the universe. It processes all incoming data from every part of brain, including sensory and system data from the whole organism. The new brain—neocortex—is also responsible for development of human consciousness and intelligence.

Over decades neuroscientists have collected plenty of evidence that the old brain works as the main decision-making switchboard. The old brain selects which sensory information passes on to the new brain and what decision is finally made. Emotions, feelings and vital biological regulations are always present as the key factors of decision-making process. It is the obvious proof for emotional dominance of the old brain over the neocortex.

How to connect with 450 million years old brain?

You better be starting with something strong if you really want to draw its attention. The old brain should be willing to engage. Its communication software is actually totally different from spoken words or written text. In fact, the old brain does not process abstract terms like words, numbers or equations at all.

We know that human brains process most of their sensory data subconsciously. Based on research studies, we assume that almost every human decision is influenced by the old brain and its emotional inputs. Subsequently, neocortex becomes aware of these actions and rationalizes them consciously. This is the time when "the magic" happens—both processes just merge into one. At the end it looks like we always have everything under control.

Research have revealed a few interesting features about human old brain:

  1. it is very selfish, egocentric and focused only on itself (just "me"),
  2. it functions on processing of contrast information (yes—no, slow—fast, light—dark), which makes every decision fast, accurate and secure,
  3. it creates "the safety net" of tried-and-approved algorithms and safe stereotypes,
  4. it remembers the beginnings and the ends of any interaction, but not the content,
  5. it is driven by all senses and other sensory inputs,
  6. it responds to emotions (it is emotionally-driven).

If you respect all these old brain characteristics, you can efficiently "code" any message to engage with it. Then your message could be "decoded" properly. It means first to automatically set "the traffic lights" on green (or red). How fast and where exactly "the train" is heading is not really up to "the train driver"—it is programmed in advance. And if "the train driver" believes that it’s him who actually runs "the train"—well then it is purely his own illusion. But that is exactly the purpose of any illusion, is it not?

By Dr. Jan Knap on May 7, 2018

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