Last week Fastcompany published two articles on the use of neuromarketing during the 2010 elections. It seems by the way that the Republicans aren’t that conservative. They were the ones using it! But as usual they are not admitting they are using this technique. Too controversial, it might seem socialist…
That it is seen as controversial becomes clear when you read that political neuromarketing is used more extensively in South America and Asia. But there too it is hush hush. “I’ve met several neuroscientists who have worked with various politicians in South America on crafting political campaigns and campaign messages,” says neuromarketing guru Martin Lindstrom, author of the book Buyology. “Their work has been very hush.”
Back to the USA. In a second article Darryl Howard explains how all the measuring is done. By the way: the article itself shows different campaign videos and how they score. They (his company) measures the emotional response triggered in a scale from 1 to 1000, with 500 being the most effective. Emotions like Shame, Guilt, Apathy, Grief, Fear, Anger and Pride seem to score negative. Worse: the first 5 emotions mentioned seem to register as false and might work counterproductive. Three of the campaign ads shown in the article here score of over 500. “They bypass the linear-logic brain and register in the emotion-tied-to-decision-making part of the brain,” says Howard. It’s also known as the “red brain,” a term coined by author and consultant Drew Westen in his book The Political Brain.
Did it help? We don’t know. There is a lot of controversy about the effectiveness of neuromarketing. As Christophe Morin puts it in his reaction on the same page “Putting the political bias aside, the scale described in this article to rate commercials is neither scientific, nor anchored in any recent discoveries on the brain. As such, it should not be described as a valid neuromarketing scale. Assessing advertising on the basis of vague psychological constructs is highly speculative and rarely reliable.” Or take Jesse Kuths reaction: “This neuromarketing phenomenon is simply measuring the biological impact of an emotionally effective message, then using that information to improve the message. This practice is no different from using sample screenings and focus groups—test the message, review responses, tweak and repeat. The tools for communication are the same; imagery, language, music, etc. Only the tools for measuring response have evolved.” These are reactions from readers, but also a more scientific article on neuromarketing and its effects doubts if (at this moment) neuromarketing techniques are really generating better results than the conventional methods.
But even if it isn’t more effective (yet), what do we think about companies poking our brains to sell their products? And how do we respond to the idea, pondered by some neuroscientists, that neuroscience will in the future be able to help governments educate us as good citizens? Do we want it? Will it become the same kind of (hopeless) discussion the anti gender manipulation people are having nowadays? Motivaction has been doing a first survey about ethics and neuromarketing in preparation of the 1st neuromarketing and neurobranding congress organized by the Erasmus University coming Thursday. I look forward to the results.