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Neuromarketing and new product innovation

June 21, 2015 0 Comments

new-productWhy do so many new products fail? Neuromarketing tells us there are two underlying problems:

  • People are terrible at predicting what they’ll do in the future.
  • People are attracted to the novelty of new products, but they’re a little bit uncomfortable with that novelty.

Behavioral economics, one of the disciplines underlying neuromarketing, has addressed the first problem. The conclusion of the behavioral economists has to do with the idea of accessibility (see Chapter 2, “What We Know Now That We Didn’t Know Then”). When we imagine what we might do in the future, we pick things that are easily accessible in our minds. Unfortunately, this is often a poor basis for a prediction, and we often end up being hopelessly wrong. And those bad predictions get passed on to market researchers in focus groups, surveys, and interviews.

The second problem takes us back to the idea of novelty, and in particular the question of how our brains typically respond to novelty: We’re attracted to it, but we tend to distrust it. The reason for this is often explained in evolutionary terms.

Imagine our ancestors, wandering around in a hostile environment full of dangers. Anything that aided survival in that environment would get passed down from one generation to the next. One thing that clearly aided survival was noticing new things in the environment. But new things often tended to be threatening, like a predator lurking in the tall grass. So, we learned to be vigilant about any changes in our environment, and to direct our attention toward novelty, but also to be on alert and a little bit edgy when we encountered it.

Those propensities appear to have been passed down to our modern brains, even though we operate in a vastly different environment. They show up as a natural inclination to react negatively to new things, despite being attracted to them in the first place.

When you combine poor predictability and a tendency to dislike new things, you get a high likelihood that people aren’t going to be able to tell you what they’ll like in the future.

What are product innovators to do? Neuromarketing says the best approach is to combine moderate levels of innovation with recognizable elements of familiarity. Take the Apple iPad, for example. It’s a novel product in many ways, but it also has familiar features. It’s similar to a computer, so anyone familiar with a computer will find it familiar. It also incorporates elements of other familiar processes, such as the ability to turn pages on the screen with the same gesture we use to turn pages in a magazine.

Marketing and advertising can play an important role in helping consumers make sense of a new product, highlighting how it can be used and how it can satisfy the consumer’s needs and goals, including nonconscious goals the consumer may not even be aware he or she has. The challenge is not only to position the product as a true novelty but also to create a familiar context and establish connections with pre-existing needs and goals.

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

Filed in: Practices • Tags: ,

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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