Monday, February 22, 2010

Neural Marketing [Mind Control]

Marketing and neuroscience converge at "neuromarketing," which uses scientific instruments to measure people's unconscious reactions to advertisement, and neuromarketers use that data to build better commercials.

Lindstrom is a practitioner of neuromarketing research, in which consumers are exposed to ads while hooked up to machines that monitor brain activity, pupil dilation, sweat responses and flickers in facial muscles, all of which are markers of emotion. According to his studies, 83% of all forms of advertising principally engage only one of our senses: sight. Hearing, however, can be just as powerful, though advertisers have taken only limited advantage of it. Historically, ads have relied on jingles and slogans to catch our ear, largely ignoring everyday sounds--a steak sizzling, a baby laughing and other noises our bodies can't help paying attention to. Weave this stuff into an ad campaign, and we may be powerless to resist it.

To figure out what most appeals to our ear, Lindstrom wired up his volunteers, then played them recordings of dozens of familiar sounds, from McDonald's ubiquitous "I'm Lovin' It" jingle to birds chirping and cigarettes being lit. The sound that blew the doors off all the rest--both in terms of interest and positive feelings--was a baby giggling. The other high-ranking sounds were less primal but still powerful. The hum of a vibrating cell phone was Lindstrom's second-place finisher. Others that followed were an ATM dispensing cash, a steak sizzling on a grill and a soda being popped and poured.

In all of these cases, it didn't take a Mad Man to invent the sounds, infuse them with meaning and then play them over and over until the subjects internalized them. Rather, the sounds already had meaning and thus triggered a cascade of reactions: hunger, thirst, happy anticipation.

While it might be scary to think that companies can control you using your own preconceived predilictions, it is just following the natural evolution of marketing.

What I find most appealing is that this creates a strong economic incentive for neuroscience research, which will benefit all of us.

Let's just hope this technology doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

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