This Is Your Brain On Marketing

    September 21, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

There are things people like and things they don’t, but 80 percent of that information is buried deep within the brain.

Marketers have long wanted to get inside the heads of their customers. The Globe and Mail recently reported on how a CalTech researcher did just that, by using brain-imaging technology.

Steve Quartz, director of Caltech’s social cognitive neuroscience laboratory, and an assistant watched field magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brains of people in a focus group as they were shown an array of product images. The idea was to detect which parts of a brain responded to items perceived as “cool” and “not cool.”

That detection showed the flow of blood to parts of the brain, where scientists think 80 percent of what goes on stays in the subconscious, the report cited. Those areas of the brain govern concepts like “identity, memory, fear, disgust and reward.” That’s the kind of information marketers never get to see, until now.

The concept of neuromarketing has its critics. A group called Commercial Alert asked Congress to look into the practice last year. The group’s leader sees some serious problems with the potential abuse of neuromarketing, as the Globe and Mail noted:

“What would happen in this country if corporate marketers and political consultants could literally peer inside our brains, and chart the neural activity that leads to our selections in the supermarket and the voting booth? What if they then could trigger this neural activity by various means, so as to modify our behaviour to serve their own ends?” Gary Ruskin, the group’s executive director, wrote in a letter to a U.S. Senate committee. “We Americans may find out sooner than we think.”

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.