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Going online: Something new for the old brain

August 16, 2015 0 Comments

the-internetThe Internet is something new (at least for our brains, which evolved in a world of physical reality). Neuromarketing is something new. You’d think that these two new things would’ve gotten together, but so far, neuromarketing hasn’t been applied to online topics nearly as much as it has been applied to more traditional topics, like TV advertising and in-store shopping. We suspect that this is beginning to change, as neuromarketing methods become more tuned to the unique features of the online world.

The human brain has absorbed many new communication technologies over the millennia: language itself, writing and reading, photography, film, and TV, to name a few. But the Internet includes and goes beyond these revolutionary modes of communication in three important ways that have profound effects on marketing:

The Internet has greater interactivity and enables greater control

Traditional media experiences tend to be passive, while online experiences typically are more active and goal directed. When you watch TV, listen to the radio, or leaf through a magazine, you’re usually doing so to relax and unwind by immersing yourself in an imagined world in which you’re not the active player. However, when you go online, it’s usually to get something done: to find some piece of information, to interact with somebody, or to buy something.

In most online activities, specific goals are activated, and the extent to which these goals are easily achieved can have a big impact on whether the activity is perceived as a success or a failure. For example, when shopping online, people judge the experience as much by the ease of navigation and searching as by the eventual outcome of making a purchase or not.

Interactivity and control are two aspects of online experiences that
can have a big impact on overall satisfaction and likely future behavior (such as returning to a website or not). Researchers have found that interactivity doesn’t operate in a simple “more is better” manner. Too little interactivity does, indeed, cause a website to appear boring and static, but too much interactivity can also have a negative effect if it’s too taxing on the viewer’s cognitive resources. A similar result has been found for control features. Both too little and too much control can be off-putting.

The Internet allows unprecedented alignment of advertising with tasks and goals

The ability to align advertising with a person’s wants and needs at a precise moment is something that has eluded advertisers in more passive media. But in the online world, with so much information passing back and forth between the user and the website, and complex content selection algorithms churning away in the background, placing aligned ads on the website in real time becomes very feasible.

In Chapter 13 (“When Consumers’ Brains Go Online”), we discuss how this new capability changes ideas about advertising effectiveness for online ads.

The value of aligned online advertising is supported by the fact that the most aligned type of online advertising — those little search ads that show up on a search results page based on what you type into the search box — are the most popular form of online advertising, consistently accounting for almost half of all expenditures advertisers make online.

The Internet eliminates the delay between marketing and buying.

The Internet enables companies to turn an ad into an immediate sale, with no time delay in between. One key implication for marketing and neuromarketing is that creating a lasting memory is no longer such an important purpose for an ad. Also, as online marketing experiences become full-blown sales experiences, testing of online marketing needs to encompass choice and action outcomes, as well as attention and emotional responses.

There are some risks for consumers in this development. Nonconscious goal activation may become an even more prominent source of buying motivation, and impulsive buying may become harder to resist when the old “cooling-off period” between offer and sale has vanished.

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

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About the Author:

Steve is a writer, speaker, researcher, and marketing consultant. He is author of Intuitive Marketing (2019), a study of persuasion and influence in marketing theory and practice, and co-author of Neuromarketing for Dummies (2013), a comprehensive overview of neuromarketing science, applications, methodologies, and ethics. He is Managing Partner at Intuitive Consumer Insights, where he focuses on marketing education and consulting.

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