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The myth of the zombie consumer

February 26, 2015 0 Comments

zombie-consumersMuch of the fear expressed by critics of neuromarketing seems to be based on an implicit assumption that consumers need to be protected from neuromarketing because they’re weak and passive and, therefore, easy dupes of wily and clever marketers.

This is an ironic assessment, because if these critics took the time to understand the brain sciences that underlie neuromarketing (say, by reading Neuromarketing for Dummies!), they would realize that consumers are equipped with a highly evolved brain that makes them formidable players in the economic game of buyer versus seller. As we argue in Chapter 2 (“What We Know Now That We Didn’t Know Then”), consumers are not rational consumers as predicted by classic economic and marketing theory, but they are intuitive consumers whose nonconscious and conscious minds work together to help them successfully navigate and make good decisions in an extremely complex and noisy world.

If neuromarketing has one key lesson for marketers, it’s to remind them that they’d better respect the intuitive powers of the consumers they want to influence. Consumers are, in fact, not easily fooled and will seek out what’s ultimately good for them, not what’s good for the marketer. As we show throughout this book (especially in Chapters 7, “New Understandings of Consumer Goals and Motivations,” and 8, “Why We Buy the Things We Buy”), consumers in modern Western economies have developed some strong corrective responses and decision-making shortcuts that make persuasive messaging even harder to deliver, not easier.

Neuromarketing doesn’t provide a bundle of “cheap tricks” to help marketers take advantage of helpless consumers. It provides a more scientifically grounded way to understand the brains of both marketers and consumers.

Looking at the world through a marketer’s eyes

Just as it helps marketers to understand how consumers think, it also helps consumers to understand how marketers think.

Marketers basically want to understand everything about their consumers because they want to please them. Marketers really do want to satisfy consumers’ needs, not manipulate them. Any marketer will tell you that his life is made much easier when he can give consumers what they want, rather than try to convince consumers to buy something they really don’t have an interest in.

This isn’t to say that marketers won’t use every resource at their disposal to get consumers to buy their product over their competitors’ product — because they know their competitor is doing the same thing. As marketers begin to recognize and exploit the ways our brains identify and consume intangible value, it’ll become much harder for consumers to recognize the efforts that marketers are making to influence them in the marketplace.

One of the principles of neuromarketing is that nonconscious impacts on people’s judgments and choices lose their power to influence when people are made aware of them. By educating themselves — by reading books like Neuromarketing for Dummies — consumers can learn how their nonconscious minds work, as well as how their nonconscious judgments and decision processes may be influencing them as they go about their daily activities.

We believe that greater awareness of how marketers are using neuromarketing to understand and influence consumer choices and actions will help consumers to become better economic citizens, make more informed choices, and harvest more of the tangible and intangible value that is available to them in the vast global marketplace.

N4D-cover -120pxThis post is excerpted, with minor edits, from Neuromarketing for Dummies, Chapter 4, “Why Neuromarketing Matters.”

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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