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.
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:
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:
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.
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