I began reading a fascinating book this weekend, entitled Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, by Martin Lindstrom! We often discuss why our audiences/clients/consumers/patients do the things they do. Lindstrom, an international marketing and branding expert commissioned a three year study that goes beyond the usual qualitative, quantitative and tracking methodologies to look at how our brain architecture activates when we make behavioral decisions or respond to a marketing strategy.
Lindstrom commissioned a three year study that utilized MRI scans and SST (Steady State Typography, a kind of electroencephalography) to look at whether and how participants' brain activity changes when they are exposed to marketing stimuli. The study, overseen by a hospital ethics panel, involved 2,081 volunteers from China, England, Germany, Japan and the United States. The genesis of the study was the author's repeated observations that people would say they planned to do one thing, but actually did another--or that they stated a belief, but acted contrary to that belief. (Thus, coporations had no better understanding of why customers make buying decisions, and so continued in their customary marketing strategies, whether successful or not.)
I am only into the second chapter, but some of the amazing findings I have read thus far are that cigarette warning labels, no matter how graphic, actually stimulate the part of the brain responsible for addictive behavior; that appeals which engage our emotions trump "rational," cognitive appeals in the brain's responses; and that product placement in movies and TV shows probably do not motivate buying behavior in this day and age! The book also contains additional interesting marketing facts, such as that new product launches in Japan fail 9.7 out of 10 times, and that by age 66 we will have viewed nearly two million commercials on TV!
I will share more as I read through the book. It seems that audience research using neurological diagnostic tools provides a way to literally "get inside someone's head" and understand what motivates behavior. These methods also open up ethical questions, which Lindstom does address. Regardless of whether reading about this makes you shake with anxiety or excitement--or some of both--it is indeed fascinating. I think the results have implications for how both commercial marketers social marketers and go about supporting behaviors.
(Newsweek magazine had a review of the book in its October 27, 2008 edition.)
(Photo credit: alles-schlumpf)