It is the ultimate ad man's dream. To have the ability to get inside their potential customer's head and understand what is going on in their brains.
And, by extension, how they can monitor customers' brain activity in order to develop better advertising campaigns to sell their products to them.
At South By Southwest Interactive this month, a panel of scientists and ad executives outlined the latest research on "neuromarketing" – a rather chilling term, that conjures up images of a Gibson-esque dystopian future, in which we are all helpless slaves to the mega-corps…
Campbell Soup recently launched a new packaging redesign based on its research into consumers' "neurological and bodily responses" to various mockups, with a sample of target customers hooked up up to EEG or MRI machines to show the company what happens in their brains when they see the new packaging.
Firms performing neuromarketing research have ad budgets in the range of $30 million to $100 million, Dr. A.K. Pradeep, CEO of neuromarketing firm Neurofocus, told CNN Money.
"Increasingly, companies with less than that have been using this technology," Dr Pradeep added.
George Loewenstein, a Carnegie Mellon professor in the social and decision sciences department, has researched "the pain of paying" and concluded that when we are ripped off by a company it causes physical pain, with subjects' pain centers lighting up in the research lab when they think they are buying overpriced products.
But isn't that obvious? That your customers don't want to buy things they believe are overpriced?
Roger Dooley, of the journal Neuromarketing cites a recent study for a company that makes chips and salsa, noting that the moment a snacker lifts a salsa-covered chip to his mouth: "that moment is extremely evocative for the brain. Your brain just goes nuts."
Dooley adds that: "Too chunky won't work, and too runny won't work…Why do you need complex science to design the liquidity of a salsa? That's what Steve Jobs does. Every little thing counts to create a phenomenal experience."
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