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SpirE-Journal 2014 Q2

Side Click: Selling to the subconscious mind

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Side Click: Selling to the subconscious mind

The mind has been compared to an iceberg. Many decisions are made in its unconscious recesses, beyond the reach of reason and consciousness. Will neuroscience help marketers and businesses connect with the subconscious mind of their audience? Should it?

Though consumers are fairly conscious of their likes and dislikes, most of us do not know the factors influencing our decisions. With that in mind, neuroeconomics seeks to unlock the mystery and comprehend the hidden elements during decision-making.

Marketers are now exploring this nascent field to measure subconscious cerebral data and use it to predict how consumers make choices. Neuro techniques can even help corporations better understand the dynamics of employee performance and nurture employee engagement.

Entering the subconscious mind and taking a peek at the factors that influence our choices is not an easy feat. Two techniques have emerged:

Electroencephalography (EEG)

Neuroscientists are using EEG to evaluate the electrical patterns of brain waves by attaching electrodes to subjects’ heads. This could aid in tracking the intensity of instinctive responses such as anger, lust, disgust, and excitement.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

This is a functional neuro-imaging procedure which uses MRI machines to measure blood flow to areas of the brain responsible for decision-making; providing more insights into the reaction of a subject to the content that he or she is exposed to. The more desirable a product appears to be, the more significant would be the visible blood flow.

How can marketers make use of such insights in their campaigns?

Persuasion through words

The use of phrases such as, “But you are free to make a choice” can prove to be very effective. The technique called “But You Are Free” (BYAF) was formulated after conducting 42 psychological studies on 22,000 people in 2013. The key lies in making consumers feel that they are free to make a choice. It was found that a face-to-face interaction would increase the effectiveness of this technique.

Image influence

This technique works on the principle of cognitive fluency, which means that the brain prefers content that is easy to process. A 2013 advertising campaign for Advanced Hair Studio (AHS) – a company based in India for hair regrowth and transplants – displayed photographs of former Australian cricketer Shane Warne prior to and after a hair transplant treatment with credible results. This proved very successful.

Facial coding

Facial coding refers to capturing and interpreting a range of emotions with the help of a camera. It is an advanced computer-based technology which detects facial features and movements on video.

This technology can be used in advertising testing. Marketers should invite test audiences and record their reactions towards advertisements and products prior to the actual campaign, especially if the campaign is to be targeted at a global audience. According to a 2013 study, Chinese participants express more through their eyes, while Western participants rely more on their eyebrows and mouth.

What lies ahead?

Where should society draw the line between legitimate marketing and dangerous social manipulation? This question is endlessly debatable.

In the meantime, marketers would do well to ensure that their usage of such techniques is not too visible to the consumers who are the ultimate audience for their campaigns. Marketing can never become a laboratory-like science because human beings will always be subjects rather than objects.

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