Neuromarketing, its possibilities and risks

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GIVEN a lot of bargains and cool deals in the market, it seems that shoppers won’t run out of choices even at a tight budget, which clever producers benefit much from.

Thanks to scientific selling strategies such as neuromarketing, Christmas won’t be the same this year for consumers.

Neuromarketing is a field of study which employs the use of modern diagnostic procedures such as the functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG), to see how people’s brains respond to advertising and other marketing strategies, a highly advantageous way for corporations to test the convincing power of their ad campaigns and commercial tactics.

It was started in the late 1990s by Gerry Zaltman, a researcher from Harvard University. Since then, marketing scientists have utilized neuromarketing strategies to accurately measure consumer preferences and applied the knowledge to help sellers create better products and do more effective marketing strategies.

Mind over money

To strengthen the validity of the study, various principles coming from the fields of psychology and marketing are intertwined and converged. Even the brain’s anatomy and physiology is interjected in neuromarketing.

According to Dr. Rosalito de Guzman, chair of the Department of Psychology of the College of Science, all human activities are governed by his behavior, which is further controlled by the brain. The brain acts as the control center of the body and sophisticated technologies such as the fMRI and EEG are used to visualize its form and function.

“In advertising, the product presented must be perceptible enough to the person to stimulate the auditory and visual areas of the brain so as to provide a greater stimulus and impact on the person,” de Guzman said.

Also, de Guzman says that if the product is something that the person really wants or enjoys, there will be a sudden change in the orientation of neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers of the brain. “If the person is fond of the product being presented to him, there is a rush of dopamine, a neurohormone that is involved mainly in cognition, motor activity, and mood, attention, motivation, and learning,” he said.

De Guzman even cited an experiment wherein a microelectrode was implanted in a mouse’s brain. As a lever was pressed beside the mouse, the microelectrode monitor suggested positive activity in the mouse’s brain and stimulation of its reward center.

After a minute, the mouse was observed pressing the lever and was continuously delighted by the positive results. According to de Guzman, this experiment explains why continuous stimulation of the brain’s reward centers enables an individual to repeatedly long for the sensation.

Marketing mores

According to Asst. Prof. Edwin Suson of the Marketing Department of the College of Commerce, several neuromarketing factors may influence the way consumers buy products. The first is conditioning, represented in the experiment of the mouse. Upon repeated exposure to a pleasant emotion brought by the product, the consumer habitually buys the product.

The second is by using the concept of benefit positioning. “Benefit positioning is done by fully highlighting the advantages of a particular good. This is the one usually done in television advertisements,” he said.

The third is by using the product priority value (PPV). Suson said that in PPV, the product must be able to satisfy the consumer’s priorities. The fourth factor is the “identity” technique. According to Suson, a product must be able to identify and differentiate itself from other products of its kind.

But according to de Guzman, several consumer-related factors are yet to be addressed such as a consumer’s suggestibility. “Suggestible persons are those who are easily influenced by the things that they hear or see. They lack conviction that is why they are easily swayed by the advertisements they see or hear.”

Rampant risks

In spite of marketing innovation through neuromarketing, recent movements plead to stop neuromarketing experiments. Protests claim that these experiments are unethical because they are not only used in revealing how a consumer evaluates a product that will enhance profit for corporations, but they could also cause illness.

In an article by David Emberton published last December 2003, a letter from Dr. V. Susan Villani contested that fMRI and related neuromarketing devices are only used for the benefit of selling, which defeats the purpose of using medical science to improve the health status of individuals. Besides sheer monetary benefits, objections to further neuromarketing researches were continuously emphasized because of the disease-causing effects that the procedures bring. Recurrent use of the MRI on human subjects may produce strong magnets that can harm the persons as manifested by periods of nausea and vomiting, dizziness, and abnormal brain reactions.

Despite the increasing movements to eliminate neuromarketing procedures, Suson said there is a need to keep a mutual relationship between producers and consumers. “We must establish a market wherein there is equal proportion between the marketers and the buyers. On one hand, sellers should get their fair share of profit, and on the other hand, consumers must have the quality of the product they paid for and chose themselves,” he said.

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