Here’s something to think about the next time you get ready to pour money into an ad campaign, launch a new website, or craft a tag line:
We are all victims of a cultural myth—namely, that we are rational. That best ideas will come to the surface, that we will make decisions that are in our best interest, that good ideas and actions will triumph over bad. And that when you do a focus group or run your next quant study you will truly be able to predict how a target audience will respond.
If only it were true. When it comes to decision-making, we are primitive and emotional. In fact, 90% of our decision making is non-conscious. In general, people don’t know why they do what they do—or why they buy, attend or engage. But it doesn’t matter. They will be happy to tell you what they think they think.
Because, when decisions rise from the hidden recesses of the non-conscious mind to the conscious awareness they are immediately clothed with a personally and/or socially acceptable rationale.
In short, we are not rational but rationalizing beings. And the mechanisms that drive why we buy, click, attend, engage and even vote are non-conscious and hidden from marketers. As a result, even the best market research is often going to miss the mark.
But there are now ways to look into the black box of the human mind. It’s called neuromarketing—the application of neuroscience, behavioral economics and social psychology to marketing—and it allows you to tell what a target market really thinks of your new ad campaign (or your packaging, website etc.) and how they are likely to act once they see it.
Neuromarketing measures what’s going on in the brain directly or indirectly by asking the body and provides data that enables a skilled neuromarketer to predict behavior and give your ad (website, packaging) a thumbs up, a thumbs down, or advice on how to fix messaging that is not sufficiently engaging or motivating the target audience.
The easiest to use and most cost-effective neuromarketing tools are EEG (measures brain waves) and biometrics (measures the body’s response to media). These tools enable us to tell how hard the brain has to work to grasp a message and also tell us what someone sees, their emotional states, level of excitement, whether they are taking in your message, and their level of arousal, the primary indicator of whether they will act on the message. From these messages, combined with traditional self-report research, we can reliably predict behavior.
Just remember when you are listening to the reassuring promises that your ad campaign can’t possibly miss from people who don’t know their own minds: the body doesn’t lie.
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