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Thu 16
Sep
2004

Marketers Probe Squishy Bits

What Max Reckons The secret object of women's desireI stumbled across an article in New Scientist magazine on a remarkable new development: neuromarketing. The idea, apparently, is that if you study what happens to people’s brains when they’re making a buying decision or watching an ad, you get all kinds of insights, such as that despite their protests, women really do find grossly over-muscled men like The Rock attractive (I knew it!).

Joey Reiman, CEO of a marketing consultancy firm—and may I just say how sad it is that you so rarely see a CEO named Joey outside of a marketing consultancy firm—explains the reasons behind neuromarketing:

What if you could, for example, show a company that their moral and ethical behaviour has a bigger influence on consumer preference than the color of their packaging or their tag line?

Bwahahahahaha! If you could—hahahahaha! Ethical behaviour! Ohhhh, that’s funny. No, now I see it: I was thinking marketers would mainly be interested in working out how to trigger the synapses that make you open your wallet, but as Joey says it’s really a noble scheme to improve the moral behavior of corporations by… showing them there’s a buck in it. Now I feel all warm and snuggly!

This is just another example of marketing bravely going where genuine scientists went a long time ago, only this time for profit. For example, 17th century physiologist E.H. Weber was the first to develop a way to measure how small a difference you could make to an object before anybody noticed, but it was marketers who applied that knowledge to shrink candy bars. Yet who gets the Nobel Prize, hmm?

Neuromarketing experiments suggest that a particular part of the brain is related to product affection—that is, it gets busy when people look at products they like. So if marketers can find a way to stimulate that part of the brain, consumers will start drooling and fumbling for their credit cards no matter what crappy product they’re being offered—the Holy Grail of marketing! No doubt there is money being poured into research on lasers or special chemicals. In the meantime, though, I think we should all be on the lookout for sales assistants with small drills and sticky fingers.