Consumers don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say. – David Ogilvy

Summary of Brain Sells by Gemma Calvert, Director of Neurosense, RSA Journal Winter 2011

Neuroscientific research shows us that a vast amount of our decision making is governed by processes outside of our conscious awareness (see also Damasio).  Much of these are influenced by our emotional brain: “by how [we] implicitly feel, rather than how we think.”  This coupled with our unnerving ability to post-rationalise decisions makes it very difficult for manufacturers and marketers to really know what drives consumer choice.

Enter neuromarketing – the emerging science of what happens in the brain to understand consumer behaviour.  Neurosense is pioneering this technology to help manufacturers measure unconscious responses to a vast range of new products:

This, in turn, helps them understand how to communicate the products emotional benefits most effectively to consumers…. this information helps design better products that meet consumer’s underlying needs.

For example, we don’t buy toothpaste because it provides 30% more whitening (feature) but because we believe this will make us feel better about ourselves and more confident.

Over the past ten years, extensive research has found that implicit responses are often better at predicting our subsequent behaviour than explicit attitudes.

This science can now measure how well frames in a commercial are absorbed and whether some of these changes can stimulate the brain’s reward areas.  The range of emotions that they can measure include: trust, anticipation (of price), empathy and brand loyalty, to name a few.

These marketers are measuring things like the “right” amount of sound to be heard in a car.  Consumers want quietness – except when they accelerate, they like to hear the “roar”.  They also look at people’s response to touch and smell, both highly stimulating of emotional brain areas, though often processed unconsciously.  I will leave you with this interesting example:

The French government commissioned some research to assess the impact of anti smoking campaigns.  They found that the “Smoking Kills” logos offered no further deterrent because they stimulated the brains guilt response that is highly correlated to the area that craves nicotine.  (I think the cigarette companies probably already knew that…) So next time you think you are making a rational decision, you may be wise to think again.