Friday, 22 September 2017

Neuromarketing: Where Science Meets Art

When we think of brands, if they are well positioned, the first thing that comes to mind is a logo or a unique message. Strong brands occupy a single place in our minds and their message is always consistent. Even more so, they evoke a feeling. Sounds pretty simple right? But in fact it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Without much effort, most people are able to identify a brand’s logo, idea or message. Things like design, colour, and communication all focus on the consciousness. If we look at brands in a deeper way, we can see than they are actually a collection of messy associations. The challenge for marketers is then to tap into the functional and emotional benefits of a product or brand and convey that to a target audience.

Source: Creative Bloq. How many of these logos do you recognise?

Have you heard of the brand seduction?
In Daryl Weber’s Brand Seduction, he speaks about how neuroscience techniques can be used to build stronger brands. This statement could be somewhat daunting for many marketers who believe that ‘brand building is an art and as science is its nemesis.’ But with a little understanding of how the mind works, it’s easy to get a grasp of the decision making process.

In Research and Decision Making, we learn that there are two types of thinking; low involvement (system 1) and high involvement (system 2). System 1 thinking operates below conscious awareness. Decisions in this mode are spontaneous, fast, effortless, and intuitive.

Conversely, System 2 thinking is conscious, calculated and highly rational.

The link between the unconscious mind and nature of brands is described in Weber’s words as the Brand Fantasy. He writes, ‘’The brand fantasy is the unconscious web of associations that together form a mental representation of a brand.’’ While they are interpreted differently by different people, these emotional connections are often messy, irrational and abstract. But whether intentional or unintentional, they form a unique ‘essence’ or ‘personality’ of a brand and should be something that people want to aspire towards. 

How does neuroscience in marketing work?

Market research that uses neuroscience methods can help marketers gain a deeper understanding of human motivations. Using a variety of data types, such as demographic and psychographic information, along with with behavioral economics and psychology principles, marketers are able to better understand, predict and even influence consumer decision-making behavior.

This type of research reveals the thoughts, emotions, and motives below our conscious awareness that affect judgment and decision-making. These insights are then used for a range of reasons like building better brands, positioning, identifying a target audience, designing better customer experiences and creating narratives that resonate with customers on an emotional level.

Source: Merchant Mechanics. How emotions influence behaviour. 

Brands that have a good understanding of these principles employ tactics to appeal to consumers’ subconscious. Neuromarketing principles can be used to:
  • Optimise product characteristics
  • Create brands with strong emotional connections
  • Stimulate senses with packaging and colour 
  • Leverage ambience in store
  • Align communications
  • Tailor solutions for a specific need 

Source: Merchant Mechanics

When does it become unethical?
At the mention of ethics, alarm bells start sounding for some people. And yes, while there are some minor ethical concerns concerning the application of neuroscience to marketing practices, most of these fears are irrational. That’s why rules and regulations are in place to ensure companies are following ethical practices to provide consumers with as much control as possible. 

Using neuromarketing techniques is not about deception, or even manipulation. It’s about creating a ‘hook’ or an appeal that is clearly articulated. And while most people might think they aren’t susceptible to manipulation, countless psychological studies prove that humans are in fact influenced by factors outside their awareness. 

That’s why it’s more important than ever to build a strong brand identity with rich ‘brand fantasies’. Every piece of the brand must be aligned to the same fantasy and ingrained into the core of the company culture as a whole. In this way, there is the opportunity to add real value for consumers. 

Just as we get get more enjoyment out of something that cost more money, like an expensive car or pair of shoes, brands with strong associations and equity are also more attractive and enjoyable. This mutually beneficial arrangement gives something to both sides. Consumers get to live their fantasy and connect more with a brand and brands can charge more for their product or service. Even if these are perceived differences, to the mind, perception is reality. And that is all that really counts.

Alyce Brierley 
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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