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Device Plays Personalized Advertisements

Device Plays Personalized Advertisements

Jennifer Wang, Entrepreneur

A Look Inside

While Sharma and Salzman are decoding consumer behavior by observation, neuromarketing expert Martin Lindstrom is doing so by reading shoppers’ minds – literally.

In his book Buyology, Lindstrom describes the findings of a three-year, $7 million study that examined subconscious shopping behavior using brain-mapping techniques.

“We know that 85 percent of every purchasing decision… is made in the unconscious part of the brain,” he says. “Now we can access this using fMRI and EEG scans [of the brain].”

One aspect of his research measured how different regions in the brain reacted (or didn’t) to certain advertising-related stimuli, including sound, smells and visuals.

Turns out, the sense of sound makes the biggest emotional impact, followed by smell and then sight. “If you expose people to sound, all five sensory regions are activated, which means that sound has much more influence on our mood, on our choice of brands and our emotional engagement than visuals.”

These findings have several practical applications. First, Lindstrom says, companies should leverage the internet’s sound capabilities. Less than one percent of business home pages use sound. He suggests that even something simple – like a short tune when a credit card is processing, or an introductory theme at log-on – works to get people into a certain mindset when thinking about a brand.

It’s also important to make sure advertisements are placed in the right context.

“If you’re watching or listening to a dramatic, fast-paced program, a commercial break featuring Dove beauty soap will be forgotten,” Lindstrom says. “If the brain can’t figure out how it fits with the storyline, it will literally delete it.”

So even if you’re using a great advertising medium, an ad appearing at the wrong moment negates all the benefits.

Another interesting discovery was that people subconsciously purchase more expensive brands when others are around. “If they’re totally alone, people are more likely to buy generics,” Lindstrom says, adding that designing a more open space with lower aisles can also deter theft.

Now we know that store design can influence what people buy, he says. And as brain-scanning technologies become increasingly portable, with studies done in real shopping environments, the results will yield further insights.

Reading Ahead

Given the trajectory, Guy Hagen, president of technology consulting firm Innovation Insight, reflects that as these technologies are refined, the pool from which to extract market intelligence will grow enormously.

“The demographic data we can get right now is important, but if we could access data on expressions and attitudes, that takes things to the next level,” he says, which could open up all consumer-generated video and photographic footage to piece together a larger picture. “We would have richer information, and more of it.”

And although privacy issues will certainly arise, Hagen thinks that is also part of the natural process. “Research has shown that in general, people will put up with privacy invasions if they get enough benefits from it.”

One thing, however, is clear: With next-generation advertising technology, you may not be able to read your customers’ minds, but you can get pretty close.

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