Corante has a tasty, daily blog-piece called Brain Waves: neurons, bits, and genes. The author, "an evolutionary biologist, enterprise software marketer, and economic geographer," today discusses Neuromarketing to Your Mind.

    As neurotechnology advances and brain imaging technology becomes more precise, all aspects of business, including the art of marketing, will be reinvented.

    This week's NYTimes Magazine article There's a Sucker Born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex highlights how one neuromarketing firm, BrightHouse, is pushing the boundaries of understanding how and why people buy different products. As the article explains, "marketers in the United States spent more than $1 billion last year on focus groups, the results of which guided about $120 billion in advertising. But focus groups are plagued by a basic flaw of human psychology: people often do not know their own minds."

    Neuromarketing has a long road to travel though as neuroeconomist Kevin McCabe wisely suggests, "While the first step is to look for reward processing in the brain, it is not the last step since demand itself is an emergent mental construct involving cognition, emotion, and motivation."

The Sunday New York Times told of a neuroscientist who used brainscans to study the "Pepsi Challenge," where people prefer Pepsi in blind tastings but much prefer Coke when told what they're drinking. The scientist "demonstrated, with a fair degree of neuroscientific precision, the special power of Coke's brand to override our taste buds."

The Times describes the work of the BrightHouse Instittute, which is studying consumer reactions to products with cerebral MRIs:

    whenever a subject saw a product he had identified as one he truly loved -- something that might prompt him to say, ''That's just so me!'' -- his brain would show increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex.

    Kilts was excited, for he knew that this region of the brain is commonly associated with our sense of self. Patients with damage in this area of the brain, for instance, often undergo drastic changes in personality; in one famous case, a mild-mannered 19th-century railworker named Phineas Gage abruptly became belligerent after an accident that destroyed his medial prefrontal cortex. More recently, M.R.I. studies have found increased activity in this region when people are asked if adjectives like ''trustworthy'' or ''courageous'' apply to them. When the medial prefrontal cortex fires, your brain seems to be engaging, in some manner, with what sort of person you are. If it fires when you see a particular product, Kilts argues, it's most likely to be because the product clicks with your self-image.

In other words, we identify with our product choices:

    ''If you like Chevy trucks, it's because that has become the larger gestalt of who you self-attribute as,'' Kilts said, using psychology-speak. ''You're a Chevy guy.'' With the help of neuromarketers, he claims, companies can now know with certainty whether their products are making that special connection.

Big brother is not quite ready to come out of the closet on this stuff. The Times article, There's a Sucker Born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex, concludes that "The brain, critics point out, is still mostly an enigma; just because we can see neurons firing doesn't mean we always know what the mind is doing. For all their admirable successes, neuroscientists do not yet have an agreed-upon map of the brain."

There are lessons here for those of us who are trying to improve learning in organizations. Emotion trumps reason. Build your internal brand. If you have Pepsi-quality training, repackage it in Coke bottles. (It never hurts to improve the taste, too. Just don't call it "New Coke".)

Market your training. That's a central message of Lance Dublin's and my book.

A year after publication, people are still downloading our free Template for Developing an eLearning Implementation Action Plan, which walks you through the basic steps of creating an in-house eLearning marketing plan.

Learners are customers.

Posted by Jay Cross at October 31, 2003 09:10 AM | TrackBack

NeuroMarketing 2004.

The Human Neuroimaging Lab at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX) is hosting a novel symposium April 16-18 to introduce any and all interested parties to the fundamentals of neuroimaging and its range of applications in different markets.

Posted by: Mark Ross at December 1, 2003 02:24 PM

Here is a piece on neuromarketing in the auto industry:

Automotive News Europe reports that DaimlerChrysler, Ford of Europe
and other carmakers are using medical research tools to probe the
consumer brain to better sell cars.

Among the provocative, early results from electrodes-on-the-scalp and
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner research: images of sports
cars affect the pleasure centre of the male brain the same way as sex,
chocolate and cocaine.

The field of neuromarketing is still in its infancy, but already
consumer advocates including Ralph Nader are objecting, saying it is
manipulation or even a form of mind reading.

For carmakers, the ultimate goals are insights into designing cars
that are easier to use, sculpting cars with greater consumer appeal
and creating advertisements that build strong emotional bonds with the

Ford, for example, says it hopes neuromarketing techniques will help
it understand how consumers make emotional connections to brands.

"By no means do we want to give consumers the impression that we are
trying to read minds," said Ford of Europe manager of marketing,
communications and training, Matthias Kunst.

Several European academics are working with carmakers on basic
neuromarketing research. Some US researchers have established
consultancies that are already advising carmakers and other consumer
product companies about marketing.

In Germany, the DaimlerChrysler Research Centre has been at the
forefront of neuromarketing, funding several research projects in the
Psychiatry and Diagnostics Radiology departments at University Clinic

Initially DC approached Ulm, asking it to study how consumers evaluate
vehicle interiors. The academics said their techniques weren't suited
to do that, but they agreed to conduct research on car exteriors.

In the Ulm study, 12 men who were highly interested in cars were
placed in a MRI scanner, a medical device doctors normally use to look
for tumours.

Researchers showed the volunteers 66 pictures of sports cars, sedans
and small cars, and asked them to rate the cars on attractiveness.

Unsurprisingly, the men said sports cars were significantly more
attractive than sedans or small cars. But what interested researchers
were the specific brain areas that showed activity when viewing a
sports car. The part of the brain associated with rewards was more
active for sports cars than for sedans and small cars.

"A sports car is a symbolic character because it indicates social
dominance," says study senior author Henrik Walter. "It's a very
expensive car."

Sports cars are an impractical means of transport: expensive, small
and sometimes dangerous. But it appears sports cars serve a social
function by demonstrating wealth and social dominance.

"It's similar to the peacock's tail," Walter says. "It doesn't have
any use for fighting or gathering food. In evolutionary terms, why
should it play part in attracting females? Because if [a male] can
afford to invest so much energy in a useless thing, he must be

In December, US consumer group Commercial Alert demanded the US Office
for Human Research Protection investigate whether Emory researchers
violated federal human-research guidelines.

Automotive News Europe noted that motor industry critic Ralph Nader is
chairman of the group's advisory board.

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Posted by: Zack Lynch at January 13, 2004 10:27 AM

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