I was having a discussion with a neurosurgeon last week about neuromarketing – the combination of marketing and neuroscience to generate response – and he brought up an interesting point, which was that once neural pathways have been established – you are simply seeing a map of the road (but, in the brain, obviously).
If you put an MRI on my brain and ask me to think of racing – you will see certain parts of my brain fire up. The thing is, my brain may fire up differently than yours. I used to race, so my memories will react differently. Asked to experience those memories (or having them triggered) is going to adjust my physiology (heightened visual cortex awareness, fast-twitch response activation), etc. Your experience with racing may be completely different. It’s not that I’m right and you’re wrong, it’s just that my brain got wired differently.
Then I started thinking about how my brain got wired – not just for racing, but for other skills – and that made me wonder about how / if a marketing campaign could help wire brains. I’m going to acknowledge – and then ignore – the arguments that kids are already targeted by smoking ads – food ads – etc., and focus on this from a science perspective – specifically, mirror neurons.
Mirror neurons were first discovered in macaques in the 1990s, and brain scans using functional MRI had hinted that they exist in humans too. But it wasn’t until May this year that researchers measured the firing of mirror neurons in humans directly, using electrodes implanted in the brains of epileptic patients awaiting surgery.
The theory is that the saying, “monkey see, monkey do” couldn’t be more true, thanks to mirror neurons that fire not only when we perform an action ourselves, but also when we see others perform it, out primary brains subconsciously mimic every behavior they ever witness. While proponents of the power of mirror neurons claim they explain everything from empathy and compassion to a penchant for porn, their exact significance remains controversial. Scientists have indicated that the next few years will see us homing in on what exactly they can and cannot explain about human cognition.
I, therefore, proclaim myself to be on the cutting edge of mirror neuromarketing, and an expert in using this exciting new field in advertising.
My plan is simple – we will generate content that maximizes movement-selective mirror neutrons in the human cortex and deliver it via an engaging delivery device (such as digital signage). The sequential delivery of this content over time will generate a neural response in consumers that becomes a learned experience – or at least it creates the pathways toward predisposition of a specific idea. Mirror neuromarketing will enable the creation of pathways that are maximized by engaging campaigns as determined by neuromarketing.
I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but just a little. The process is really the same as an integrated campaign – but the timeline is longer with mirror neuromarketing (since this is still a new field of research). With an integrated campaign, we try to catch a consumer’s attention at some point of the anticipated buying cycle. Since the cycle changes, and we can’t be sure at what point we are reaching the person, we spread out the campaign and the message and hope that, over time, we hit the person at every stage of the buying cycle. In advertising, it’s only at the point of relevance (purchase) when we need to have the right message. In mirror neuromarketing, we create the pathway for the cycle and then campaign to trigger the response. We wouldn’t be worried about the consumer’s stage in the buying cycle, because it is only when we trigger the campaign that the consumer enters the point of relevance.
We’re probably ahead of our time – and there is a certain Huxley feel to all of this, but there’s really something to embracing the integration of science and marketing to generate campaigns that assure success.
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