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November 2009

Neuromarketing - The Next Marketing Frontier

Cover of "Buyology: Truth and Lies About ...Cover via Amazon

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.

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Chevy Cars Deserve Better Marketing

Chevrolet Motor DivisionImage via Wikipedia

New advertising for Chevy cars once again demonstrate that the General Motors marketing and advertising team have failed to learn the lessons of the past.  The feature rich campaign fails to position the cars as anything more than having better features than the competition. 

In an advertising feature fest, the cars talk miles per gallon, cargo room and many other factors that the left brain thinkers at GM think are important.  They back up these superior features with a money back guarantee.  Even worse, they may be emulating the comparative Ford advertising campaign assuming that they are solving a similar problem, which they are not.

While feature superiority is helpful, there is an opportunity here for the advertising to work harder by also positioning the cars.  The issue with GM is not that some of the features are superior, or that the quality is better, I'll give them that.  The problem is that I have no idea why I should buy one. 

As stated by Al Ries, advertising is for positioning, not for a feature fest. The issue isn't that Chevy is superior, it's that people don't want to buy them. 

Since I can't resist, here's what I would do:

1. Position Chevy as the best entry level family car in America.  If not this position, pick another, any position.  Measure the size of the audience for the positioning to ensure that sales targets can be met.

2. Identify those benefits that are important to young families - focus on those that are a price of entry into the category (safety, room, features), and those that differentiate the car.  Make the positioning primary supported by a select feature.

3. Model every program after being family friendly, from the showroom experience to service.  Features such as a purchase experience which offers babysitting on Saturday's so that parents can focus.  Or a 15 minute showroom gaurantee so that impatient kids don't get bored.  You get the idea.  Take these ideas as illustrations of what needs to be done, not as a specific prescription.

4. Offer loaner cars, so that the family is never without the car.

5. Guarantee that no future repair will be over a certain amount per year, to protect the family budget.

6. Feature real families that have customized their Chevy's to the needs of the family.

These are just a few. I'm sure with a bit of research the rest is easy.  Even better, I bet there is no leader in this space as the competition is marketed to everyone instead of anyone.  One strength of American manufacturing has always been our advanced understanding of marketing.  It's time for GM and Chevy to relearn that lesson and let the marketing and advertising team show what they can do.

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Driod Phone Marketing Ads to the Confusion - Verizon and Google Could Do Better

You have to wonder why the advertising campaign for Verizon and Google's new Droid phone seems more ordinary than extraordinary.  For the record, I like the fact that Verizon is coming out with a credible competitor to the iPhone.  I'm a Verizon customer, and would rather have Verizon's superior network over AT&T Wireless and Apple's superior phone.  Actually, I'd rather have an iPhone on the Verizon network.

The next best thing is a Droid phone.  The only thing I need to do is ignore this over produced unclear advertising campaign that is introducing the phone.  Other than "it's coming" and "it's different", this campaign appears to obscure the obvious benefits of this new offering.

For a #3 phone to compete, it has to not just equal the iPhone, but be demonstrably better.  The advertising obscures this fact with video game like graphics and intensity, but no real message.  If the iPhone is a great piece of hardware with some cool software apps, then the Droid has no choice but to be a great software platform powered by Google on an acceptable piece of hardware.  To imply that the phone is better than the iPhone, on the iPhone's terms is a fools errand and ensures that the Droid will live a long life as a distant #3 behind the iPhone and Blackberry. 

Now the left brainers at Verizon will talk about features such as the superior 3G network and Google Maps integration.  All fine and good, but this isn't about feature superiority, but category supremacy. 

Note how in this interview John Stratton from Verizon states that the "this product can stand head to head with the iPhone device." An obvious positioning mistake. The phone is either something new and different, or it is a weak iPhone imitator. With most consumer's locked into a contract by Verizon, imitation must be good enough.

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