Playing with our senses: unveiling neuromarketing techniques
8 March 2013

I attended an IABC Belgium event in Brussels on 26 February during which Melissa Rancourt, Head of Faculty at Boston University in Brussels, talked about neuromarketing. I was very curious to hear about this topic because I am usually very critical of marketing, and even more so if its purpose is to play tricks with my unconscious.

Well, I was in for a surprise. Melissa, who is a wonderful speaker, immediately had us test products and demonstrated some of the findings of neuromarketing on us. This gave her whole presentation a different spin, and I learned a lot. Here is a summary of what she said (for the whole story, check out her presentation).

Understanding why we buy what we buy

Neuromarketing techniques
Neuromarketing: your brain under influence?

Neuromarketing isn’t just about selling. Sure, ultimately the understanding you gain about why and how people buy what they buy helps to sell better, but this still young field of research bears many findings which are not readily applicable to business. The decisions we make on buying build on conscious and unconscious moves, and they don’t always make sense, at least from a rational point of view.

According to research, the act of buying stimulates the production of dopamine, which is the brain’s pleasure chemical creating the sense of euphoria. I’m pretty sure that many women out there can relate with the feeling that shopping makes you feel good, whether that feeling’s genuine – or in my case – mixed with guilt. The key to unlocking the potential of neuromarketing is emotions.

Melissa used several case studies to demonstrate that when emotions are involved, the act of buying is more impulsive and unconscious. The Pepsi challenge started in 1975 is probably one of the strongest examples of how emotionally linked we are with some brands, thus creating brand loyalty. If you’re just going to read one book about neuromarketing, she recommends Buyology by Martin Lindstrom.

Neuromarketing techniques for advertising, retail shops, product sales and branding

It didn’t really come as a surprise that shops and marketeers use their knowledge of how our brain operates to generate more sales. In fact, ever since someone told me that the delicious smell coming out of my baker’s in Paris was fake, I have become cynical about marketing, at least from the consumer side of things.

Melissa shares great tips and incredible stories about how marketeers play with our senses, and in particular smell, which is the only sense that connects directly to our brain. No wonder smells are difficult to describe, as they go directly to our unconscious. You know that fantastic smell of new cars, the one that gets men all aroused when entering a car retailer? Well, it’s fake.

I pride myself in believing I maintain a healthy dose of free will but when I hear about the research feeding into neuromarketing I begin to doubt. Indeed, if marketeers use knowledge we have of how the brain reacts to unconscious stimuli, it’s hard for you to exercise good judgement.

The good news, however, is that we are all unique and not everyone reacts to these stimuli in the same way. Otherwise marketing would be an exact science and we’d constantly be compelled to buy things we would most probably have no need for.

Six steps for implementing neuromarketing in your business area

Melissa is currently writing a book with Belgian neurosurgeon Dr. Patrick Georges. He sums up the learnings of neuromarketing in the following 6 steps:

  1. Be irresistible. Sell to the sense of hte client. Appeal to her eyes, his ears, their hands.
  2. Be inescapable. Sell to his hormones through pleasure, sex and drugs.
  3. Be emotional. Stress and joy. Sell to the emotions of the customer.
  4. Be unforgettable. Sell to the memory of the client. Tell him stories. Make her laugh.
  5. Be incredible. Sell to the subconscious of the client. Appeal to his basic leadership instincts.
  6. Be irreproachable. Sell to their intelligence and aptitude. Help them make the right decision.

Check out the full presentation on neuromarketing for more details. If you want to join other events like these organised by IABC Belgium, check out their events programme for 2013.

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