Neuromarketing: How Technology Helps (Brands) Understand Why We Buy
You can probably tell from my previous articles that I’m fascinated by neuromarketing. It doesn’t only interest me because I’m an economist or a PR specialist.
It also interests me because I am, like you, a consumer.
Neuromarketing can make you buy things you don’t need — and I talk about that in my previous article, Buying Things You Don’t Need? Here is How Neuromarketing Controls You.
In that previous piece, I focused on the neuroscience behind neuromarketing. Today, I want to talk about technologies that make neuromarketing possible and whether it’s time to start to worry.
Neuromarketing Sounds Too Futuristic? Here’s Why It’s Not
First, let’s define what neuromarketing is.
It’s an application of neuroscience that studies our brain processes and the changes that occur when we are making decisions to predict our future consumer behavior.
It helps brands understand what makes us tick, and what would make us buy.
Neuroscience is not a new field either.
On the contrary — the earliest study of our nervous system dates back to ancient Egypt!
Though we began to explore neuroscience in more detail in 2002, the idea of studying the human brain and behavior was the dominant subject in the 1950s. Even then, there were marketers who wanted to get inside customers’ heads and take advantage of their findings.
Today, neuromarketing became a widely used concept, both in theory and in practice.
It can potentially transform our consumer habits, give brands a better understanding of our buying preferences, and help them drive insane sales.
What Technologies Actually Make Neuromarketing Possible?
This field relies on highly sophisticated tools that have already been developed and used for years.
While different neuromarketing technologies use different inputs to give the researchers what they need, they all have one thing in common — this field wouldn’t exist without them.
Here are 10 technologies that neuromarketing relies on:
1. Electroencephalogram (EEG)
2. Functional Magnetic Resonance (fMRI)
3. Magnetoencephalography (MEG)
4. Positron-emission tomography (PET)
5. Steady State Topography (SST)
6. Electrocardiogram (ECG)
7. Galvanic Skin Response (GSR)
8. Eye Tracking (ET)
9. Facial electromyography(fEMG)
10. Facial Coding (FC)
I’ll describe only a few that have proven to be very lucrative for marketers worldwide.
I believe we all know what EEG is. Yes, it’s the same technology used in clinics to detect electrical activities in our brains.
But it’s one of the most commonly used neuromarketing tools, because it can evaluate the response to different marketing stimuli very effectively.
Are we angry, sad, or perhaps we lack focus?
EEG can track all of these metrics (and more), and it can also tell brands what we need at any given moment.
Functional Magnetic Resonance lacks the flexibility that EEG has, but it’s still a great tool that can provide some truly valuable information.
fMRI measures our brain activity by detecting changes associated with the blood flow.
It was used for the first scholarly piece of neuromarketing research back in 2003.
This study showed that different parts of the brain are activated based on whether we’re familiar with the product we’re using.
fMRI was also used in another extraordinary study.
It showed that we are much more sensitive to losses than to equal gains when making important decisions.
Neural activity increases as the potential gains increase.
At the same time, the neural activity goes down in many crucial gain-sensitive areas of the brain as soon as we start to lose.
Chart below illustrates these findings perfectly:
Electrocardiogram (ECG) is another favorite of mine. It measures the electrical activity of our hearts.
It’s one of the most commonly used neuromarketing technologies and it’s easy to see why.
It’s cheap, reliable, and not as intrusive as some of the other techniques.
If neuromarketers want reliable information about the consumers’ emotional state (in response to different stimuli), this is an ideal tool to gather that data.
Yep — this is yet another tool that helps marketers asses how we, the consumers, feel at any given moment.
GSR is arguably the most fascinating neuromarketing tool on this list.
This technology measures our skin perspiration.
Sounds irrelevant? It isn’t.
This helps marketers track even the slightest changes in the response of skin conductance with great efficiency. What that means is…
With GSR, marketers can determine exactly how customers react to their brand, products, or anything else. Basically, it helps them understand your emotional state.
Facial Coding (FC)
Facial Coding (FC) sure has a unique and intriguing name, but don’t worry, we are not changing the source code of our biology here!
FC relies on a special camera that tracks even the slightest movements. It’s a cost-effective technology with great portability and it’s no wonder so many neuromarketers use it regularly.
It helps them detect and interpret our emotions based on our facial expressions. The whole job — both recording and analysis — is done automatically, which means marketers can get reliable data quickly and without too much hassle.
What Does the Future Hold?
After learning about all these ground-breaking technologies, you may ask yourself — what does the future look like?
Is it… terrifying?
I’ll tell you this. I believe that nanotechnology could transform our society as a whole and neuromarketing is no exception there.
Earth-wide, various researchers are already developing medical nanobots and these microscopic devices can do a lot of things, like scan our brains.
Unlike current solutions that still have some limitations and drawbacks (I’ve only touched the surface in the previous section), nanotechnology can greatly reduce installation costs and replace all of these tools with great efficiency.
From my perspective, neuromarketing will have the chance to evolve to something even greater — nanomarketing.
Another tool that has great neuromarketing potential is transdermal optical imaging technology (TOI).
This amazing technology can track our heart rate, levels of stress… it can even determine our mood based on video images alone.
We already have smartphones with integrated TOI technology that can measure our blood pressure by using the camera as an input.
Keep in mind that these are just some examples, I believe the opportunities are endless and I’m sure that the future of neuromarketing will be very exciting indeed.
(If not a bit terrifying, but you be the judge of that.)
Should We Worry about How Much Brands Know about Us?
This is a valid concern.
Though future can seem a bit bleak…
I’m confident we’ll find a way to successfully adapt to these changes. We just first have to inform ourselves, and the general public, better.
We’ve adapted to many technological trends over time, and this one won’t be an exception.
We’ve also implemented more restrictions on what data is collected and how it’s used.
Yes, we can be sceptical about these restrictions, but we should also constantly work on improving and developing them in line with emerging trends.
Also, let’s also mention that there are some positive sides to neuromarketing.
The companies will understand our consumer behavior better, yes, but they will also be able to provide better products.
Once that fit us better, that are kind of custom-made for us…
Neuromarketing is a fascinating subject which we absolutely need to learn more about, so that we can understand the world of tomorrow better.