Last Updated 10 Mar 2020

The Effects of Neuromarketing in Consumer Behavior

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Neuromarketing helps many companies and academics to understand how the neurons in our brains behave in such a way that stimulates and influences our desire to consume products from a particular brand. The purpose of my research was to find out what influences my buying decisions referencing the book Buy-ology by Martin Lindstrom, which talks a about a Neuromarketing study that used 2,000 volunteers from around the world and related to the concepts learned in Consumer Behavior class.

A personal consumption Journal is an excellent source of information that describes in detail my personal consumption experiences helping me to be more attentive of my consumer habits when marketers try to influence my judgment towards a product. The journal of Stephen J Gould states that “introspection involves the provision of verbal data about one’s own experiences that are consciously available only to oneself”. The data I collected with my journal was important and useful because it gave me the opportunity to compare the findings of Lindstrom with my personal experiences as an active consumer of a capitalist society.

The journal was a challenging task for me because it took me a long time to be adapted to maintain up to date the log, eventually it became a routine. My consumer journal revealed that I was constantly seduced by companies to buy more products of their brand using my sensory receptors to attract my attention. An example was Victoria secret, my favorite lingerie and beauty store that seduce me to enter the store with an appealing smell and a mannequin wearing beautiful lingerie. Once you walk into the store there is a feeling of privacy and comfort.

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A quote from my Journal says “the lovely smell and texture of the Victoria secret cream increase my desire to come back and buy more products”. I immediately related my experience with the concept learned in class about sensation which is the instant reaction of the sensory organs to a stimulus. Companies try to create unique scents for their products in order to remain in the mind of the shoppers.

One example is the Johnson and Johnson’s baby cream that just by a quick smell of the product; you will be immediately transported to your childhood memories. Lindstrom states that these kinds of associations are why companies use the mell of vanilla which is found in breast milk. An experiment carried out by a clothing store revealed that when the vanilla scents were sprayed across the women’s department, sales of the female merchandising increase in high numbers. Today companies are more frequently adopting the Sensory branding because if the consumer perceives a enjoyable scent with an attractive and seductive product, we are more likely to remember the product making it easy to the company to stay in your subconscious. Many companies around the world are using Neuromarketing to meet success in launching their new product.

One example is Christian Dior, which scanned its new perfume J’adore to a series of FMRI studies to determine its ad placements in the market. As a result, they gathered a great success in selling their perfume J’adore and coincidentally having me as one of their loyal consumer. Neuroscience is so powerful that can even determine by brain scans how much a consumer is willing to pay for a good or service. Lindstrom conducted a series of studies on how a consumer perceives prices and if it had an influence on the decision of buying the product.

He says “When subjects view luxury products such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci being sold at full price, both the nucleus accumbens and the anterior cingulated light up, showing the pleasure of anticipatory reward mixed with the conflict about buying such an expensive doodad. But when consumers are shown the same products at a significant discount, the “conflict” signal decreases as the reward activation simultaneously goes up” (Lindstrom, 2008, 197). In my log, I wrote my experience when buying a dress for a special dinner I had in October.

I went to the Guess store to try to find the perfect outfit for my special occasion, all the merchandise I liked was at retail price so I decided to go to Macys and look in the guess section for my surprise the dress I wanted in guess was priced at 25% off at Macys. In my mind the price of the dress persuade me to buy the item thinking that I was getting a good deal. The study of Lindstrom and my personal experience was a clearly example of reference prices which is the price a consumer utilize as a source for comparison in judging another price.

Lindstrom recalls an interesting study in his book performed by researches from Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology in which they asked twenty volunteers to position their pleasure and delight of different priced wines under an FMRI. The trap was that two of the wines were presented twice, one with a high price and the other with a low price. The findings of the researches state “When the expensive wine was presented, there was a flurry of activity in subjects’ medial orbitofrontal cortices, where they perceive pleasantness-indicating that the higher price of a product enhances our enjoyment of it”.

In my opinion, the use an expensive product makes us feel pleased because in our minds we relate quality with expensive prices which is not always true. In Colombia the prices of low quality clothing are very high compared with the income of the population. Every time I go back home I complain about the market and their prices, entrepreneurs tend to take advantage of the people by buying merchandise at a low price in the U. S and china and selling in Colombia for five times the wholesale price.

I understand that is a business and profit need to be made but an extremely high price in products limits the consumer capacity to consume. The book Buy-ology by Martin Lindstrom explains how his recent research in Neuroscience reveals revolutionary concepts about how people are influence by various advertisements strategies. Lindstrom through a detail study of the brain evaluates the effectiveness of the subconscious ads and is able to determine that they are actually more effective than the traditional advertisement logos.

In his book he explains the effectiveness of subliminal advertisement campaigns and depicts real life scenarios of the marketing world. Lindstrom in his three year study, with a cost of seven million, engaged some of the top Neuroscientists - Dr Gemma Calvert current chair in applied Neuroimaging at the University of Warwick, England and founder of Neurosense in Oxford was in charge of overseeing the research team for this study. One of the conducted case studies was to discover if subliminal messages would produce cravings similar to the ones generated by the traditional logos.

They picked the tobacco industry for this experiment since it is one of the industries which have been forced to adopt new marketing strategies due to the global tobacco advertisement ban effort. Tobacco companies such as Marlboro and Camel have implemented subliminal messages in response to this ban which have now, after this research, proven to be more effective. Lindstrom writes “ More fascinating still, when Dr Calvert compared the brains’ responses to the two different types of images, she found even more activity in the reward and craving centers when ubjects viewed the subliminal images than when they viewed the overt images. In other words, the logo-free images associated with cigarettes, like Ferrari and the sunset, triggered more cravings among smokers than the logos or images of the cigarette pack themselves” ( Lindstrom, 2008,84). Formula one being one of the top most watched sports in the world created an association between the competing teams and tobacco brands. Prior to the tobacco bans Formula one teams’ were sponsored primarily by cigarette companies such as Marlboro, Camel, Lucky Brand, etc and their logos were decaled all over the cars.

For all those who were acquainted with the sport, this long-lasting relationship between teams and tobacco brands created an association in people’s perceptions that still exist today even when the tobacco logos have been removed form the cars. A clear example of this is Ferrari with Marlboro, their cars, drivers and mechanics jumpsuits are red just like the Marlboro original brand logo, but more interesting that this long lasting partnership with Phillip Morris was the barcode logo that they had been using up until the beginning of this year, which according to the experts, resembles the bottom of a Marlboro cigarette pack.

John Britton, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and director of its tobacco advisory group, states, “according to the Times: "The bar code looks like the bottom half of a packet of Marlboro cigarettes. I was stunned when I saw it. This is pushing at the limits. If you look at how the bar code has evolved over the last four years, it looks like creeping branding. " (Pitpass. com). As being a Formula One fan myself, I experienced similar results to those conducted by Lindstrom.

In my Journal, I noticed that my friends and I were always purchasing Marlboro cigarettes after watching a race. Unconsciously, I was having a desire to smoke without having being exposed to a Marlboro logo but instead having watched a red Ferrari car race around a circuit for two hours. This indicates that Marlboro has used subliminal message campaigns effectively through their partners creating a greater desire in consumers to purchase their product. This notion contradicts some of the findings of the effectiveness of subliminal persuasion in the book Consumer behavior (chapter 6).

The book consumer behavior says “There is no evidence that subliminal advertising persuades people to buy goods and services. A comprehensive review of the literature indicates that subliminal perception has no effects on attitudes toward products and consumption behavior and that most of its effects were discovered in highly artificial situations”. In my research, I learned a lot about the mirror neurons which are accountable for why we imitate other individual’s behavior. The mirror neurons are responsible for when we try to lower our voices when someone is whispering.

In terms of consumer behavior we can relate this concept to when we go to the mall and see a mannequin with an amazing dress with the matching shoes and purse that make her look elegant and slim. The consumer immediately buys the dress thinking that we as consumers are going to look the same if we acquiring the style and image that the store wants to sell us. In my journal, I found many scenarios where the mirror neurons influenced my rational thinking and caused me to unconsciously purchase what the store was displaying.

In my visit to Hollister, one of the top 10 US clothing brands, I saw a female model at the entrance of the store wearing ultra casual red sweeter that immediately caught my attention because the color was perfect for the Christmas season, which then lead me to go inside the store to purchase the sweeter. The mirror neurons triggered my desire to buy the cool-looking sweeter I saw at Hollister. In conclusion, I was overwhelmed by the responsibility that our neurons and subconscious plays in our consumer behavior and how we attach to certain brands.

In my opinion, Neuromarketing will soon be an essential source of information for marketers in terms of predicting the future of a new product in the market. The book Buy-ology explains the latest findings involving brains scans and successfully related to sales and purchases. Overall, Buy-ology gave me the opportunity to compare the statements of the book consumer behavior with the findings of Lindstrom and Dr. Calvert. After the consumer behavior class, I have come to acknowledge my consumer habits and be aware of the marketing strategies that influence my decision-making process.

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