Programming the Brain to Buy: Neuromarketing


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More and more companies are turning to neuromarketing—a controversial practice that involves studying the human brain and how a consumer’s neural pathways might respond to certain stimuli. It’s based on the idea that 90 percent of the choices we make happen at a subconscious level. The goal is to bypass our higher reasoning and even our emotional judgment to sell more products.

An obvious case study in neuromarketing comes from McDonald’s. They developed a perfume which was subtly diffused in restaurants to increase brand association and boost sales. Proctor & Gamble also tried a similar trick. Sales of Ariel washing powder increased by 70 percent after an artificial perfume was placed under the lid. But is exploiting the way we’re wired legitimate marketing, or is it closer to Orwellian psychological manipulation? Where do we draw the line?


Video Segments

1. Neuromarketing People think they are "liberated" and "independent," but neuromarketing controls their brains using the latest technology and science. The subject is taboo for companies; this program takes us inside their secrets.
2. Experimental Store A market study agency has an experimental store, where it asks people to pretend to shop. It tracks their eye movements with special glasses, which help researchers understand how the brain makes decisions.
3. Electromyograph Companies use the electromyograph to test ads, hooking people up and measuring their emotional responses through electrodes on their face and fingers. It shows that a subject has incorrectly stated her own emotional response.
4. Advertising to Children An experiment shows that five-year-old kids recognize and respond to the McDonald's logo. Internal McDonald's documents show that 95% of families visiting McDonalds do so because of their kids.
5. McDonald's Advertising McDonalds' former head of marketing explains why the company focused on marketing to kids, and its techniques for doing so. It creates "top of mind awareness," so when someone is hungry, he thinks "McDonald's."
6. Fight Against Happy Meals A mother whose young kids ate many meals at McDonald's is suing them for marketing to children through toys. San Francisco has banned toys in Happy Meals.
7. Influence of Branding A researcher found that kids judged french fries in McDonald's packaging as tasting better than identical fries in unmarked boxes.
8. Brain Activity and Brands MRIs show that brand information changes the pattern of brain activity, recruiting the prefrontal cortex. Researchers believe this biases more basic structures related to taste.
9. Brain's Response to Smell McDonald's tests fragrant artificial flavors on customers put inside a brain scanning machine. Smell is the only sense that bypasses the rational part of the brain, so it does not matter if the rational part recognizes manipulation.
10. Denial of Neuromarketing Is it ethical of McDonald's to manipulating our brains? McDonald's denies neuromarketing studies, but a neuromarketing company claims it as a client.
11. Reward Circuit Neuromarketers target the reward circuit. They want a dopamine release to result from use of their products. A neuromarketing official refuses to divulge details of her company's work for McDonald's.
12. Neuromarketing Techniques A professor specializing in neuromarketing talks about work he did for McDonald's using brain scans to determine what store fragrance to use.
13. Neuromarketing and Consumer Choice A consumer activist condemns neuromarketing, saying it takes away consumer choice.
14. Interview of McDonald's Official The documentary producers ambush a McDonald's official for an interview at a public forum. He denies that McDonald's uses neuromarketing; he and the interviewer debate the point.
15. McDonald's on Neuromarketing McDonald's denied neuromarketing and threatened legal action, but then granted documentary producers an interview. An official gives McDonalds' version of events.
16. Neuromarketing Company See a promo for a neuromarketing company. The filmmakers ambush a company official and seek to interview him; he briefly discusses the business but tells them he doesn't have time for them.
17. Neuromarketing Pitch At a neuromarketing company's workshop, a lecturer promises access to a button in consumers' brains. The thinking part of the brain influences, but does not make, decisions, he says; the reptilian brain makes decisions.
18. Hostility to Neuromarketing A neuromarketing company official says people unfairly criticize neuromarketing. He gives a convoluted justification for it.
19. Neuromarketing Presentation to Bankers Documentary producers sneak into a neuromarketer's pitch to a bank, then interview the bank's marketers about what they have learned.
20. Bank Official on Ethics of Neuromarketing A bank presents itself as highly ethical but uses neuromarketing. An official at the bank says people can manipulate each other by low-tech means in the same way neuromarketers can.
21. Views on Neuromarketing in France A French philosopher denounces neuromarketing, which allows the advertiser to trigger an automatic reaction. France bans marketing studies using MRIs for marketing studies,
22. Testing Website Images A neuromarketer lists his clients at a presentation caught on camera. A railway tested its online ticket sales site on customers' brains, using MRIs.
23. Reluctance to Discuss A travel agency official is hesitant to acknowledge neuromarketing, but an interviewer confronts him with evidence. He downplays the company's use of the technique.




Grade: 9-12

Programming the Brain to Buy--Neuromarketing (DVD)
© 2012
Time: 56 Minutes

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