Neuromarketing promises to change the very nature of marketing and advertising. Neuromarketing is based on an understanding of the thoughts in your brain that you are not necessarily part of your consciousness. It is not only based on observing human behavior, but on the study of how the brain is actually working using tests such as MRIs.
Instead of guessing the impact of different emotions, we can now determine with some level of certainty the areas of the brain that light up from being exposed to a piece of communication, and the relative impact on a purchase decision. We can also determine when information should be communicated by studying the interplay of the rational brain and the subconscious brain.
Science is making exponential strides in understanding the limitations of the brain in assimilating information. What great Creative Directors in Ad Agencies used to do intuitively, can now be informed by an understanding of the way brains are actually wired.
An example provided by Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy , is a study of why consumers are smoking more when health warnings are more prevelant. In fact, when health warnings are removed form the cigarette pack, people actually smoke less. Lindstrom states that the health warning makes you feel worse, and then lighting up the cigarette makes you feel better. The Pavlov effect requires that the pattern be repeated. Feeling bad from a warming sign becomes linked to feeling good.
Lindstrom states that health warnings do not work for the reason that we have tuned them out. People also have an opposite reaction to what they are told what not to do. Importantly, health warnings do not appeal to the correct dimension of the brain. For example, instead of saying "don't smoke", say "don't smoke because your child will not see you."
Here's an excerpt from the Dr. Oz Show featuring Dr. Lindstrom.
Other books on the topic include How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer and and Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely.
Ad agencies and marketers should quickly embrace these new approaches and integrate them into their thinking. Improving our understanding of how communications work can only improve the ROI of a client's communications investment. The impact on the Advertising Community promises to be as pervasive as the beginning of the account planning movement.
It's an exciting time to be a communicator.