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Dr. Laurent Hermoye
Functional MRI (fMRI), is gaining more and more interest among advertisers. How does our brain react to an advertisement?
The application of recent neuroscience techniques to marketing (neuromarketing) may give insights into the unconscious purchasing behaviours of the consumer. These unconscious behaviours may represent a large part of the decision-making process, while the visible tip of the iceberg (the conscious processes), which have been studied by classical marketing research (market studies, product tests, pre- and post-advertising tests) may only represent only a minor role.
The founding article for neuromarketing by functional MRI was published in the prestigious scientific journal Neuron (McClure et al. Neuron 2004). A team of researchers studied the Coke-Pepsi paradox: during blind taste tests, the majority of testers preferred the taste of Pepsi, despite the fact that they buy more Coke. Functional MRI permitted demonstrating an astonishing fact: invoking the Coke trademark activates large areas of the brain, linked to memory, which shows that consumers are more influenced by their memory of the trademark than they are by the taste of the product.
During a neuromarketing test, the volunteer is stretched out in an MRI scanner. Audiovisual stimuli are presented to him or her while images of the brain are acquired every few seconds. Statistical analysis of the signal variations of these images permits identifying the cerebral areas activated during the presentation of a given stimulus (advertisement, product test, etc.).
Neuromarketing developments could assist advertisers and trademark or product managers to improve the effectiveness of their communications and the quality of their products to best satisfy the conscious and unconscious needs of the consumer. Optimizing the memorability of a trademark, choice of advertising formats, assistance in creation, etc., the applications are broad and are only beginning.
Manipulation? That an ad seeks to influence our choice cannot be denied, that is its purpose. Neuromarketing is only one of the increasing number of tools in the arsenal of advertisers. In any case, it does not permit changing the choice of the consumer or manipulating his or her brain unwittingly. The miracle "buy button" does not exist, but the lovely top-model on the advertising probably still has a bright future!
Imagilys is a company specializing in cerebral imaging, more specifically in functional magnetic resonance imaging. It has joined forces with Brain Impact, a neuromarketing company, in order to propose targeted neuroimaging services applied to marketing in Europe.
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