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talismanic power. While Nike was planting thoughts in the minds of the public, the image
4461 W. Alexis Rd. that accompanied them was always the Nike Swoosh. Plant an association, show the
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Swoosh. Over and over again, until the Swoosh became a trigger for all of those stored
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impressions. The company name isn t even used much in advertising anymore. It s just the
P.O. Box 816 Swoosh. It s just like Pavlov ringing the bell for his dogs, recalling all that Nike has already
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sown in the consumer s mind.
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An imperfect science
Neuromarketing is not without controversy. Even some scientists involved admit that
while there is a lot of data from MRI and EEG studies, it doesn t necessarily prove anything
concrete. The brain is still very much of an enigma even to neuroscientists, and just
because a certain area of the brain is active does not mean that anyone really knows what
it is doing. There are also those who feel that neuromarketing is a bit too Orwellian for
their tastes. Reacting to this sort of concern, scientists say that they only wish they had that
kind of insight or control. Like any marketing tool, MRI research is not an end-all be-all. It
provides data, to be analyzed in context.
Still, the prospects are exciting. Controversial or no, MRI studies promise to help those
with large enough budgets to hone their efforts, playing into department store magnate
John Wannamaker s quip that he knew that half of his advertising costs were wasted, but
that he didn t know which half. If neuromarketing can at least narrow down what works
and what doesn t, it may help to illuminate which of Wannamaker s halves is which, saving
money and increasing effectiveness at the same time.
While far from imperfect, the one thing that neuromarketing unquestionably has going
for it is that it s objective  something that most traditional marketing effectiveness
assessment tools cannot claim. Focus groups, for instance, are plagued by certain aspects
of human nature that cannot be divorced from the process. Sometimes a strong personality
in the group will sway the group s opinions. Often, groups tell those leading it what they
want to hear instead of what they really think. For better or for worse, you can t lie to an
MRI machine. The truth is there  and the real question is just how well, and to what
extent, neuromarketers will be able to read it. l
- Thompson, Clive,  There s a Sucker Born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex,
The New York Times, October 26, 2003
- http://www.cognitiveliberty.org
- http://www.economist.com
Marcia Hoeck is president and CEO of Hoeck Associates, Inc.
For more interesting marketing communication articles and reports,
Visual Strategic Branding
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visit the Marketing Tips section of www.hoeck.net
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Hoeck Associates specializes in visual strategic branding.
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ph: 419.472.8808
We concentrate on the translation of intangible company, product,
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or service assets into tangible, meaningful communications.
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