As a science geek, I’ve always been interested in the research part of marketing. This is why I was immediately drawn to Ana Reyes-Menendez in the lineup of the upcoming Innovation Explorer conference.
She started her career in communications some 10 years ago and then went into the world of science to search for marketing answers. She took up neuromarketing. She has authored and co-authored 11 articles in scientific journals, has completed her Ph.D. and has done a post-doc at Harvard University.
Neuromarketing is the closest marketing can get to becoming a true science. And Ana came to the field because she couldn’t explain why consumers did what they did: “I have been working in marketing and communication for the last 10 years with companies such as HBO, Sony or Skoda. […] Even if we tried, there were aspects of consumer behavior that had no answer. Why in a survey or focus group consumers said they were going to buy a red dress and finally bought a black one? Why is the estimated budget of one client for a camera is 250 euros and finally spends 390 euros?“
So she started to look for these answers – the ones that “explain the ultimate frontiers of the irrational behavior of consumers, their decision making, the influence of emotion in a purchase or how to reduce the pains and exceed the expectations of the Customer Experience.” Now, this does sound like an exciting field!
Technology evolves, but our brain doesn’t
Exploring the human brain in a scientific environment seems like a vastly different way of doing marketing from what we’re used to. We usually either focus on the quantifiable results that give us the “what” of customer behavior or we venture into the touchy-feely bits of consumer research that are supposed to give us the “why”. This second type of studies usually involves methods not much more sophisticated than a phone interview or focus group.
But neuromarketing is different. So I’d assume there are a lot of surprising facts one can learn from studies. But Ana brought my expectations back down to earth: “What surprised me the most is that everything makes sense.” Technology is developing at a lightning speed, society has advanced, but our brain doesn’t move forward as quickly. “That is why humans need heuristic shortcuts or cognitive biases to be able to face the complex world around us,” says Ana.
So this is where cognitive biases come in. Driven by our need to understand the world, we’re looking for mechanisms that ease decision-making. “Cognitive biases are shortcuts that the brain has developed to face the evolution of society and the multitude of decisions that are presented to it daily.” They are especially evident in online environments, where 5 or 6 can be used on the same website homepage. I asked Ana which is her favorite bias when it comes to online marketing:
“One of the most striking and easy to understand cognitive biases is what is known as the
The consumer has the last word
Whenever we start discussing biases, the marketer’s work starts to feel exceedingly manipulative. So is there a place for ethics in this whole thing? I was curious to hear Ana’s opinion on this, but, as a scientist, she was looking at external factors that naturally limit bad practices – word of mouth and consumer feedback.
If we deceive customers, they will notice, sooner rather than later. “The manipulation of customers may work in the short term but consumers are not stupid and will realize that we have directed them towards an option that does not add value to them.”
Then they will be sure to tell others – as Ana points out, “consumers have much more power due to the ubiquity of Social Networks to share their experiences.” They will share their experience, not only with their friends and close ones but with the Internet at large. “For example, in fashion, 99.4% of online content is generated by users,” says Ana. So even if neuromarketing is used in unethical ways, this will be done at the expense of long-term brand image.
First steps in neuromarketing
Whenever I talk to a niche specialist, I try to get some recommendations on resources that will help others understand their field. Ana was ready to oblige with some “beginner neuromarketing” directions.
To get the foundations, start with some good books
- Martin Lindström – Buyology, Brandwashed and more
- Dan Ariely – Predictably Irrational and a bunch of others
- Roger Dooley – Brainfluence or The Persuasion Slide
- Andy Stalman –
- Thomas Zoega
Ramsoy– Introduction to Neuromarketing
And if you want to get into neuromarketing in practice? Ana recommends buddying up with a science researcher: “It is very important that Neuromarketing experiments are designed by researchers since they are scientific experiments […] For this reason digital professionals who want to make Neuromarketing work should look for a Neuromarketing professional that has a blended profile with research experience and consulting experience from his or her lab.“
Ready to do some science, then?