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Creating effective ads with neuromarketing

July 4, 2015 0 Comments

the-force-vw-adNeuromarketing offers a very different perspective on advertising research than is found in traditional research methodologies. This new perspective embraces new answers to what might be called the three fundamental questions of advertising research:

  • What is the purpose of advertising?
  • How does advertising achieve its purpose?
  • How can we best measure advertising effectiveness?

According to the traditional view, the purpose of advertising is to persuade a consumer to buy a product. It does this by providing a logical argument that will be remembered later when the consumer is in a store or other buying situation. The process occurs completely at the conscious level of the consumer’s brain, and is fully accessible for later recall, so the consumer can accurately convey to a researcher exactly how and why the ad’s persuasive message contributed to the consumer’s decision to buy.

The neuromarketing perspective takes a different view. According to most neuromarketers, the purpose of advertising is to create an emotional connection to a brand, which then gets translated into a sale when those brand connections get activated at the point of sale. Much of this process occurs at a nonconscious level in the consumer’s brain, and as a result the consumer can’t accurately report exactly how his or her purchase decision was influenced by the ad.

In the traditional view, advertising achieves its purpose through conscious processes of persuasion and recall, which are a function of attention, logic, and explicit learning. In the neuromarketing view, advertising achieves its purpose mostly through nonconscious processes: creating positive associations with a brand, repetitive conditioning, and implicit learning.

Each view presents a very different path to advertising effectiveness and, therefore, makes different recommendations for how to measure it. In this book, we call these two paths the direct route and the indirect route to advertising effectiveness:

  • The direct route measures effectiveness in terms of conscious attention, logical persuasion, recall, and sales.
  • The indirect route measures effectiveness in terms of nonconscious emotional connections, priming, implicit memory, brand attitudes, and sales.

Neuromarketers don’t claim that the indirect route is correct for all ads and all situations. The direct route is still best for new products that don’t have strong brand identities and need to be explained to begin capturing market share. The direct route is also good for direct solicitation or call-to-action advertising, when the purpose of the ad is to persuade the viewer to take some action, like make a donation or “call immediately” to buy the advertised product.

The direct route: Impacting the sale directly

The direct route to advertising reflects the assumptions of the rational consumer model (see Chapter 2, “What We Know Now That We Didn’t Know Then”). According to this view, consumers are rational, logical, and fully conscious decision makers. So, the best way to reach them is to grab their attention, capture their interest, trigger their desire, and prompt an action, the purchase of the advertised product. There are a number of difficulties with this model that we discuss at length in Chapter 11 (“Advertising Effectiveness”):

  • People don’t normally pay much attention to advertising.
  • When people think about advertising claims, they tend to resist them.
  • People show little evidence of thinking about an ad when shopping.
  • People are usually unable to recall specific aspects of an ad.
  • Advertising in general has very little impact on sales.

These challenges to the direct route model do not invalidate it. But they do indicate that it’s less applicable than researchers used to think it was.

The indirect route: Changing and reinforcing attitudes toward the brand

The indirect route to advertising effectiveness is more in line with the intuitive consumer model (see Chapter 2, “What We Know Now That We Didn’t Know Then”). Advertising is believed to impact sales indirectly by changing attitudes, shaping the consumer’s brand memory, and activating nonconscious goals, which then get fulfilled at the point of purchase. Essentially, advertising builds brand equity, and brand equity drives purchase behavior.

Conditioning, an implicit learning process that creates a positive emotional connection with the brand, is central to this process. Because conditioning works through repetition and low-attention processing, it’s important to expose the viewer to the ad multiple times while minimizing the amount of conscious attention directed toward the ad. After conditioning has occurred, the positive emotional connections can be activated at the point of sale, influencing the consumer’s purchasing behavior.

Research has shown that the indirect route works best for familiar brands, when the product is inexpensive and purchased frequently, and when the ad presents an emotionally engaging narrative in which the brand plays a central role.

N4D-cover -120pxThis post is excerpted, with minor edits, from Neuromarketing for Dummies, Chapter 3, “Putting Neuromarketing to Work.”

About the Author:

Steve is a pioneer in the field of neuromarketing. He founded one of the first neuromarketing research firms in 2006 and published the first comprehensive overview of the field, Neuromarketing for Dummies, in 2013. He established Intuitive Consumer Insights in 2012 to help clients, vendors, and industry associations navigate the opportunities and challenges neuromarketing presents to the marketing and market research communities.

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