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Minds & Measurement Marketing Lesson 101

Today’s subject, my dear students, is neuromarketing and it is the latest measurement tool that’s revolutionizing the way marketers and advertisers are measuring consumers’ likes and dislikes.  by Cheryl Pearson-McNeil
NNPA News Service

Your kids should be back in school now. So to keep you on our toes, we’re going to have a bit of class today ourselves. Today’s subject, my dear students, is neuromarketing and it is the latest measurement tool that’s revolutionizing the way marketers and advertisers are measuring consumers’ likes and dislikes.

I’ve been learning more about this remarkable technological development since Nielsen added NeuroFocus, a global leader in neurological testing for consumer research, to our roster of measurement services. Of course, I immediately thought you’d like to know more about it too (you can thank me later). Neuromarketing actually can tell what your subconscious response is to a brand, or product or packaging or in-store marketing, advertising or even entertainment content.

“Full-brain neurological testing provides a deep dive into consumers’ subconscious minds, where product trial and purchase decisions are made and where brand loyalty is formed,” says Dr. A.K. Pradeep, CEO of NeuroFocus.

I hear you. I know you are saying: “Slow down a minute Cheryl! During my high school science class, I was more focused on the student in the seat next to me that I had a crush on, than I was on the science lecture itself. So what the heck are you talking about?”

Let’s look at it another way: Neuroscience is the study of the human brain and nervous system. Neurological testing involves a combination of electroencephalography (y’all can just call it EEG) and sophisticated eye tracking equipment that records exactly where a person is looking while experiencing a stimulus. OK, remember that student you liked who sat in the seat next to you? If you were being neurologically tested at the time you were looking at he or she, the test would show your propensity toward that person versus the one sitting, say, oh, two rows away, whom you had no interest in at all. Advertisers and marketers now are doing the same thing with products.

In traditional research, any answer you or I might give as a survey participant is going to be colored by any number of very human factors – our background, culture, education level, memories, emotion and plain ole cultural bias. The ability to measure our neurological responses provides pure accurate reads of what we as consumers like or don’t like.

Now, before you think research has gone all Sci-Fi, we’re not talking about sticking any scary probes into anyone’s head. In fact, NeuroFocus recently unveiled at the 75th Advertising Research Foundation conference in New York a new innovation called Mynd, the world’s first portable, wireless EEG scanner.  It’s kind of like a little crown with dozens of sensors that rest on your head (no messy gel stuff is required). Those little sensors capture and measure brain waves in real time. NeuroFocus will soon be sending Mynds to Nielsen’s home panelists across the country to wear not only while they are watching TV, but when they are shopping or going to the movies. Hmmm. That certainly will be an interesting conversation icebreaker.

What I find most fascinating is that all of this neurological testing has confirmed that before cultural bias comes into play, we humans are much more alike than we are different. In fact, NeuroFocus analysis corroborates that the differences that do exist in the human brain universally are in gender and age (I knew it)!

The data bears out that women’s brains are wired differently. We have an enhanced ability to process information through both rational and emotional filters. Smart marketers are paying attention to these differences when crafting their messages, especially given the reality that women’s spending capacity has increased to a whopping $12 trillion annually worldwide – more than the GDPs of China and India combined.

More science: A key difference between the older and the younger brain involves the amygdala, the brain area devoted to primal emotions. NeuroFocus studies show that in young people, this area of the brain responds to both positive and negative stimuli. After age 50, the brain tends to overlook the negative and becomes less able to screen out distractions. Scientists tell us this is called “preferential processing.”

All of this means that any marketer or advertiser who wants your business is going to have to take the time to get to know you as an individual consumer on the most basic, subconscious level. Knowledge is power – now and you’ve got it! Class dismissed.

(Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com.)

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