There are two things that usually happen when I tell people I have a degree in neuroscience:
1) What on earth is that?!
2) How on earth did you get into marketing?!
Little do they know neuroscience and marketing have a lot more in common than they might think!
Neuroscience itself is the study of the brain and nervous system; in essence, the processes underlying how and why we do what we do. Using this knowledge and applying it to the world of marketing through the aptly named field of ‘neuromarketing’ can give rise to an abundance of benefits – benefits that many big brands are paying top dollar to explore!
Neuromarketing looks at how the consumer brain responds to various forms of advertising and other brand-related activities. It makes use of various brain imaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG), to monitor brain activity while consumers are exposed to different forms of marketing stimuli. One of the most famous studies, commonly known as the ‘Pepsi Paradox’, involved blinding participants and giving them samples of either Pepsi or Coca-Cola, whilst simultaneously being monitored using fMRI. Just over half of the participants were found to prefer Pepsi. However, when the participants were made aware of what they were drinking, these figures changed significantly, and three-quarters were now found to prefer Coca-Cola. Dr Montague, who led the study, found that the association of the Coca-Cola brand with the sample being consumed activated certain ‘reward centres’ in the brain that were not found to be active when the brand was unknown. The study provided some of the first evidence of a correlation between branding and neuroscience.
A brand’s visual identity (such as colour scheme, font style, and logo) is perhaps the most important part of ensuring that the brand is seen by – and has a positive effect on – their target audience. The human brain is able to identify, analyse, and make judgement on this identity in less than a second – clearly illustrating that the correct first-impression is essential!
So what happens in our brains when we see a logo? The image is initially detected by our eyes and relayed to the fusiform gyrus, an area of the brain that plays an essential role in the recognition of objects and words, and distinguishes whether an object is foreign or familiar. The information is then transferred to the primary visual cortex, where shape, outline, and edges come into play. Studies have found that many people are predisposed to prefer certain types of shape or font-style – statistically, more people prefer those with curved edges than sharp.
Colour is then processed in the secondary visual cortex, and, interestingly, it has been found that images shown in colour appear to be more memorable than those in black and white, as well as being more eye-catching. The final stage of image perception is association. Identifying an image with a positive, or ‘rewarding’ experience largely increases the likelihood of using the brand again.
There is clearly more to image perception than just meets the eye, and understanding what goes on in the brain during brand exposure can provide many advantages to a company when it comes to campaigning and visual identification. Many high-profile brands (Google, Microsoft and HP to name a few!) have already enlisted the help of neuromarketing agencies such as NeuroFocus to help them with various aspects of their campaigns (see http://www.fastcompany.com/1769238/neurofocus-uses-neuromarketing-hack-your-brain – a very interesting read!).
Getting to the bottom of why consumers buy what they buy is perhaps the ultimate goal in the advertising and marketing industry, and neuromarketing, while still in its infancy, is sure to play an essential part in the future of marketing.