Much interest in the benefits and values of neuromarketing has been shown of late, so perhaps an overview of the mechanics of this new methodology is in order for those unfamiliar. Neurologically based marketing strategies are founded on consumer behavior responses, which correlate to the neurochemical activities associated with the decisional process. The field is as yet in developmental stages, yet the possibilities proposed are highly efficacious, and its practices may present desirable outcomes in terms of financial return on the marketing investment.
The scope of the subject matter is vast, yet a basic understanding will form a scaffold for greater comprehension with further study for the motivated learner. A simplified overview of brain structure and function form the outline of this article, and a future second post will cover implications of how these factors link to pertinent and germane marketing tactics.
The human brain has evolved in a series of layers, with the primitive segments shared alongside less formed species. This is the limbic system, the subordinate portion of the brain which regulates the most basic tasks which are key to homeostasis, or continued existence. Responsibilities of the limbic include controlling breathing, heartbeat and other roles of which we are generally unaware. These actions are governed by the sympathetic, or involuntary nervous system, a set of nerves over which we have no conscious influence. The brain stem, medulla and cerebellum are all part of the limbic area, or hindbrain, which are very similar to those of the lowest of creatures, and are sometimes denoted as the reptilian brain.
Residing just above are the components of the midbrain, where the thalamus and hypothalamus are located. Basic survival instincts are managed here, including the fight or flight response. Uppermost is the forebrain, composed chiefly of the cerebrum, where actions such as thought, memory and other conscious undertakings, including decision-making, occur. This is part of the voluntary nervous system, the actions of which we are cognizant.
The brain is made up of nerve cells called neurons, which conduct electrically through chemical reactions. Nerve impulses travel from one neuron to another across small spaces which separate each cell, known as synapses. Two types of communicative chemicals, or neurotransmitters, are used to transmit these impulses, which may be inhibitory or excitatory. Excitatory neurotransmitters, e.g. norepinephrine and epinephrine, do exactly that – excite the brain. Inhibitory neurotransmitters, e.g. serotonin and GABA, hinder excitement, and have a calmative effect. Dopamine can act as both an inhibitory substance by reducing depression, and as an excitatory chemical by increasing focus.
Release of neurochemicals across the synapses form an electrical current in the nervous system throughout both the brain and the body, which is interpreted as a message. This information is then conveyed to the body in the form of commands, or responses that are translated as calls to action. We breathe, digest our food, walk, talk and so forth as a result of the data broadcast by the brain, which in turn processes the knowledge gleaned from stimuli acquired from the environment, whether internal or external, and creating consequences which are instinctive and uncontrolled or deliberately intended.
Next week on Grannelle we continue our discussion of brain function with corollaries to marketing by examining the manners in which decisions are reached by the brain. We also take a look at how we as marketers can better serve our customers by adapting neuromarketing methods to best achieve product promotion. Be sure to plan ahead now and join us then!