Monday, November 28, 2011

Neuromarketing

    Brain scans tell us how individuals react to advertising.  But we must keep in mind that this a complex, expensive technology -- and, again, it is optimized for individuals, not group surveys.
    And the results involve a great deal of interpretation and extrapolation.

“In the experiments we measured the test subjects’ craving area – while they were shown packs with warnings on. Some of the subjects were indifferent to the warnings. That was one thing. But the most surprising thing was that those who actually noticed the warnings – those with most activity in the craving area – they got the most desire to smoke,” explains Gemma Calvert.
In the last three years, the number of smokers has increased by 3% worldwide – we simply smoke more. Despite the warnings and studies showing how health-damaging it is. Martin Lindstrom believes that the tobacco industry is aware that the effect of the warnings is minimal – now he wants to take up the battle with the companies.

    The brain scan tells how the brain reacts to certain stimuli on an immediate basis -- but it says nothing about longer term results -- which is important, given the irrationality of human behavior.  

    Consider:  a smoker wants to smoke but the cigarette package has a frightening graphic warning.  Logically, you would expect the smoker not to grab a cancer stick at the moment.  But human beings are not logical -- they are emotional.  Emotionally and physically, the  smoker really needs to smoke.   The urge to smoke is expressed in a vague anxiety, nervousness.  Fear makes the smoker more anxious - more nervous!  Then he or she is really going to need to smoke a lot more.  

     As a (former) smoker, I know the routine.  I would say to myself, "God smoking is bad".  And;  "Why can't I quit?"  And "It's unhealthy".  All of which made me nervous -- so I would say, "I am definitely going to quit -- this is my last cigarette".  Then I smoked two or three to calm my nerves.  

 Martin Lindstrom believes that the tobacco industry is aware that the effect of the warnings is minimal – now he wants to take up the battle with the companies.

   If the tobacco industry thought the effect of warnings were minimal, it would not be fighting them tooth and nail as they are.  The fact is that the warnings are part of public education.  "Good" propaganda if you like that makes smoking "uncool".  Cigarette packages with photos of diseased lungs create an environment, in which smoking is seen as unhealthy, unattractive, and weak.  

    Sure, smoking has increased worldwide  -- but in many the OECD countries it has fallen off hugely.  The increase is largely (I wager) among the poor and the uneducated.

Yes, a warning may cause you to reach for a cigarette.  But it may also encourage to quit -- which is a major challenge -- and not just a matter of one cigarette.  Warnings are not a magic bullet -- but they do work to some extent!

   "Neuromarketing' has its weaknesses. And its results -- like those of any kind of market research -- are too often open to the wrong interpretations.




       

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