Selling to the brain

On March 2, 2012

Neuroscience is currently one of the fastest moving academic disciplines, as the outcomes of research and innovation in this field have a massive impact into our lives: the more we learn about how the brain is structured and how it functions, the more our world is changed.
The aim of neuroscience research has broadened to include different approaches, and a very recent article of Research Live affirms that neurological knowledge is reshaping standards and operations in organizations around the world, as Dr. A. K. Pradeep (CEO at NeuroFocus and author of The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind) presents how neuroscience can help automotive and retail design appeal to consumers’ unconscious minds. Dr. A. K. Pradeep defines this phenomenon as Neurodesign, drawning upon the remarkable advances that neuroscience is bringing to our understanding of how humans perceive and respond to the world around them. Its potential resides in the fact that we process only a small amount on the information we are exposed to, the rest being registered below our conscious state. Diving into the subconscious level, researchers locate the areas where stimuli are initially registered and provide consumer insights. Dr. Pradeep focused the applicability of this research on automotive industry and the retail sector.

Neuroscience insights and automotive design
Buying a car involves a lot of emotional decision-making, besides rational thinking. In order to engage the emotional level, automotive design is the factor of success and profitability in this business. Relying on aesthetics, functionality and affordability among other factors, designing a car proves to be an expensive process. The following principles should be followed in order to engage the customer in automotive industry:

  • The brain prefers curves. In nature, straight edges represent risk and sharply pointed objects can even kill, so humans have learned to steer clear of them. Pradeep advices car makers and retailers to opt for curvilinear shapes instead of sharp edges.
  • Keep things clear and simple. Our short-term memory capacity is surprisingly limited, so if we overwhelm the brain with too much information or too many tasks, the prefrontal cortex will kick in and select which to keep and which to ignore.
  • The brain likes natural textures. Although we are often far removed from nature in our daily lives, our modern brains are 100,000 years old (reptilian brain) and still prefer surroundings that seem familiar and comforting. The material itself need not be real, but if the trim pieces in a car interior, for instance, resemble real wood closely enough to convince the subconscious mind, our brains will respond positively.

Neuroscience insights and retail design
Shopping is a highly stimulating experience for the brain, and store design is a combination of art and science, with the added element of imminent purchase. To test what the subconscious mind responds to in a store setting, NeuroFocus created N-Matrix 3D, a virtual reality in-store testing system designed according to what we know about how the brain works in the retail environment.
Neurodesign in the retail sector will be a critical factor in the near and long-term future, driven not just by competition for shoppers’ attention and share-of-purse, but also by technology, according to Dr. Pradeep. As the importance of mobile devices and services in our lives increases, the environments in which we encounter and interact with brands and products will alter accordingly. We are already seeing the appearance of location-based services, QR codes, electronic coupons, and in-store touchscreen technology.
Dr. Pradeep shares several principles that retailers should keep in mind as they consider how products, digital technology and architecture work together.

  • We are designed to register and respond to motion in our environment. This is what keeps us safe, and the reptilian brain is the one that focuses our attention into immediate danger and solution. Stores that integrate motion into their physical settings will capture shoppers’ attention and engage them more effectively. This can be done through in-store video, lighting, revolving displays, and other motion-based attractors.
  • The brain relentlessly seeks what is new, making novelty a prime asset in the retail industry through visual settings and services that surprise, engage and satisfy the brain. Product displays are an avenue where the unexpected can pay dividends.
  • Ambiguity. Marketers can create puzzles for the mind to solve through the use of ambiguity and error, applicable in fields like advertising and package design. By including deliberate aspects of error or ambiguity in their product offerings at the point of sale, companies can grab consumers’ attention, engage with them emotionally and create memories.
  • Incorporate mirrors in store designs. The brain is powerfully drawn to faces. The subconscious will respond well to this fundamentally compelling stimulus.

Dr. Pradeep believes that Neurodesign in the retail sector will manifest itself in 7 key points that form what he calls the shopper experience framework:

  1. Key information about the store, products, and services – information that enables the shopper to fully enjoy the experience from the outset.
  2. The ability to interact with brands, products, and services throughout the store, through as many of the five senses as possible.
  3. Shopping as a means of entertainment. As younger audiences weaned on full-immersion experiences like video games enter the adult consumer arena, they will come to expect the same general sense of heightened sensory rewards when they’re out shopping.
  4. Education and awareness raising that keeps the buyer informed. Driven by the exponential growth in digital information sources readily available at their fingertips, consumers will set this bar as the price for their patronage.
  5. Simplicity. The brain is structured to process stimuli as easily and quickly as possible. This has powerful implications for store design. Retailers who construct store layouts to make the shopping process as smooth as possible will be rewarded by the brain’s engagement and subconscious satisfaction.
  6. Reinforcing the consumer’s sense of self worth, which stimulates the subconscious to assign higher value to the experience.
  7. A sense of community. Adding the element of a shared shopping experience that encourages a sense of belonging to a larger social group or contributing to the greater good, resonates deeply within the subconscious.

The principles that Dr. A.K. Pradeep states are convergent with recent neuroscience studies and include valuable insights that could be able to further develop any business.

As the reptilian brain is the decision maker, the neocortex is just the decision influencer (SalesBrain Neuromarketing Model), neuromarketing studies are more reliable than surveys when it comes to research on car designs or retail industry, in order to engage the consumer. As Patrick Renvoise stated at Neuromarketing World Forum last month in Amsterdam, contrast is the one that allow making a decision, so adding contrast to the product or setting would also add value to the profit.

So in order to sell a product or a service in a profitable manner, marketers should  always have a strategy in the early stages of development in order to create designs (of products or stores) that would engage consumer’s brain.

3 Responses to “Selling to the brain”

  • We are professionals so lets have a reality check and tell the truth. The application of any brain research to anything practical at this point is a hoax and lie. Unfortunately neuromarketers are telling the biggest whoppers right now.

    Pradeep is simply lying to sell his stuff. Remember a con man tells you only what you want to hear. That is a brain trait.

    We don’t even have theories to test let alone any way to even start thinking about practical applications of any kind even in mental health and medicine.

    Eventually, we will because the brain controls all behavior and thus business activity – duh. But it is likely decades away — at best.

    We know, effectively, nothing about human brain activity and behavior. But that’s to be expected. Neurocog work is only a few years old and a “newborn.”

    Anything we say now about it is likely to be wrong at best and manipulatively misleading. Daniel Kahanmen’s latest book and all the Behavioral Econ nonsense is an example. It’s all silly.

    We have very little idea how to engage rats brains. Gonna be a long time before we get to humans, even longer consumers in the act of engaging with marketing stuff, even longer consumers buying stuff.

  • I respect your opinion. Still, you can’t generalize and say “ANY brain research to anything practical at this point is a hoax and lie”.

    Neuroscientists have made a great step in this direction and I am sure in the following years we will witness new developments, as technology also evolves. Also, there professionals that apply this knowledge and have great business results.

    I can recommend some research papers for you to understand how these results can be used to our benefit, to improve the way we live and to promote a healthier life.

    Our emotions drive our behavior, and beyond neuromarketing, I think it is important to understand ourselves, in order to also understand people around us. Although we are a long way to understand how exactly we make decisions, this is not an excuse to not continue to investigate the missing pieces of this puzzle – this is evolution.

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