What do behavioral economics, psychology, behavior research, and neuroscience have in common? They all point to the reality that consumers make decisions about products and services as much through their unconscious mental processes as they do through deliberate consideration of the properties, attributes, and benefits of those products and services.
What Is Neuromarketing?
The new science of neuromarketing explores the dynamics of consumer purchase decisions, customer brand affinity, and customer brand engagement. Neuroscience research is increasingly clear that many of the decisions people make about what products they will buy or what services they will use are a result of intuition and unconscious mental processes rather than analysis or reasoning. Consumers have emotional responses and logical responses to marketing and advertising. And in both types of responses can occur on a conscious basis or an unconscious basis.
Experts at NeuroFocus suggest that approximately 11 million bits of sensory information is processed by the human brain every second. But only 40 bits of sensory information is processed consciously - this is all the conscious mind can handle - and all the rest of the information is processed unconsciously. Advertising and marketing efforts are part of the universe of sensory information that the brain processes every day in a typical environment in the developed world. Images used in advertising, colors and designs used in packaging, music and fragrances associated with services, and the rich attribute sets of products themselves are all subject to the conscious and unconscious sorting that happens in the marketplace.
Brand Engagement Begins at Birth
American children are exposed to an enormous amount of advertisement. The marketplace is very good at schooling children in brand awareness. According to a research conducted by Nickelodeon,the time children turn about 10 years old, they know about 400 brands. Child psychologists at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, a private college offering masters and doctoral programs in clinical psychology and counseling psychology, say this figure is up from an average of 100 brand logos at the tender age of three. That is an increase of 300 percent in just three short years. As market researchers, we might ask how this level of brand awareness is developed.
Survey research conducted by SIS International Research indicates that people tend to use brands that they have vague memories about which extend back to their childhood. This is true for 53 percent of the adults and 56 percent of the teenagers who were surveyed. The survey data indicates that this most true for household good, beverages, and food - all brands that tend to be passed down from generation to generation. A review of when Proctor and Gamble introduced some of their brands gives a good picture of how this takes place. The age of some brands can come as a big surprise to consumers.
About 20 years ago, little children were as familiar with the Joe Camel character on a pack of cigarettes as they were with the cartoon drawing of Mickey Mouse. Most people would agree that children are knowledge sponges and that they soak up much more information than can adequately be measured. Some of the information that children process is subconscious, just as it is for adults. But a good share of brand-related knowledge acquired by children is consciously acquired, tied as it is to social status. In fact, some market research firms that focus on learning about what children think about products and services relevant to their lives.
DID YOU KNOW? - Girls Intelligence Agency
A market research firm known as the Girls Intelligence Agency enlists the help of as many as 40,000 girls across America who function like guerrilla marketers to promote products. The girls, some of whom are as young as eight years, are asked to give free products to friends and are encouraged to "be slick and find out some sly scoop on your friends" regarding preferences and conceptions of what is trendy and desirable to have or use. Girls Intelligence Agency organizes overnight events for which they supply all the fun-making ideas and props. These events are called Slumber Parties in a Box. The company touts their ability to reach 600,000 girlfriends through word-of-mouth by holding 500 slumber party events.
Brand affinity and even brand loyalty can be developed by presenting brands in contexts that are pleasant and associated with feelings of competence and collegiality. There are many versions of Slumber Parties in a Box for grown-ups. Market researchers are exploring how context influences physiological responses of consumers through neuromarketing.