Our Subconscious Mind Cannot Just Be Switched Off…

Corona: a nice cold beer on the beach in summer. This is what we all had in mind two years ago. Now it is completely different. Covid-19 has changed our lives and, even when I look at myself, we no longer have positive thoughts about the word Corona. Despite all the misery surrounding this epidemic, there are also small benefits for some companies or people. The sales figures of supermarkets have increased enormously. The fact shopping carts are an obligation now, makes people buy a lot more. People put more products in a mandatory shopping cart, instead of having a basket or nothing with them. This is an example of how our subconscious mind is affected without even realizing it. Neuromarketing has everything to do with that.


Our subconscious mind has more influence than you might think

Understanding the customer is the most important thing in marketing. Originally, neuromarketing is a research method. Investigators look at the brain to see the activation of a certain part when you offer something to people. With this method you identify the subconscious processes of consumers, companies can respond to consumer behavior. Through neuromarketing people are unconsciously influenced in
making choices.

How does this work in our brain? Motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, has established the Golden Circle and explains in his Tedtalk how the brain works. The youngest part of our brain, neocortex, is responsible for rational and analytical thinking. Our limbic, emotional, brain is responsible for all human behavior such as decision making, and feelings such as trust. This is where the gut feeling comes from. Through neuro- marketing this part of the brain is influenced in a way we do not even notice. That feeling is being played, to convince you to take action and make the right choices.

Every day, people make around 500 million conscious and unconscious choices. The subconscious brain has much more influence than the conscious brain. About 95% of our choices are made in the subcon- scious mind. During the same time medical studies have shown that without emotions we simply cannot make decisions. The trick is to respond to this as a company, that happens with neuromarketing. But why is neuromarketing also called ‘evil’ marketing? And if you can influence human behavior through neuromarketing, could it be a useful tool in the times of Covid-19?

Several processes influence the subconscious mind

Before we can answer these questions, it is useful to know what exactly can be measured in neuromarketing. In general, three components of brain activity are measured: emotional bonding, attention and memory. You can measure whether someone experience a positive or negative emotion, whether there is attention for the message and whether the message is stored in the brain. As a result, consumer behavior can be predicted much better. Several processes, like priming, prompting, the ‘rules of thumb’ and nudging, within neuromarketing influence the subconscious mind. In a nutshell;
Priming: atmosphere, smell and taste are used to obtain a reaction through the subconscious mind. A good example of priming is the smell of freshly baked bread, which increases sales in a bakery.
Prompting: to provoke certain behavior by hints or cues. For instance, a trash can that makes noise, which leads to less waste on the streets. Like Holle Bolle Gijs in the Efteling.
‘Rules of thumb’: appointed by the American psychologist Cialdini. For example, the rule of scarcity. If something is scarce, consumers desire usually increases.
Nudging: a method to promote positive behavior with "a little push". It focuses on the behavior of personal and general interest, such as healthy, safe and sustainable behavior. For instance in traffic, zigzag lines on dangerous traffic points that slow drivers down.

Neuromarketing in times of Covid-19

I want to make a link between neuromarketing and Covid-19. Neuromarketing could, in my opinion, certainly be a useful tool in this period. Using nudging, people are unconsciously sent to make better and healthier choices, while positive choices are put forward. To get rid of this epidemic as quickly as possible, everyone must disinfect their hands often. Children will unconsciously wash their hands more often when there is soap with bright colors hanging at school. And footsteps, in an office building, towards the disinfection pump can increase the number of users. These kinds of small adjustments can ensure that people unconsciously make the right choices, which leads to major positive results concerning the Coronavirus.


So why does neuromarketing matter? Neuromarketing expert Terry Wu explains it in a Tedtalk. Every year 9 out of 10 new products fail and billions of dollars wasted. The main reason traditional marketing doesn’t work, is the fail in paying attention to consumers unconsciously emotional experiences. So, I think, neuromarketing is a lifesaver because of focusing on the subconscious mind. Companies can respond on these unconscious needs of the consumer, resulting in many product improvements. Besides that, neuromarketing gives people a push in the "right" direction. This can ensure that a choice is made with a positive result. For example, it could have positive effects on the environment. For instance, the talking trash can: less waste on the streets. Small things can have a big impact, in my opinion, a lot of disaster can be avoided because of neuromarketing.


However, not everyone is enthusiastic about this subject and it has been criticized. Neuromarketing has even been called "evil marketing". It would not be ethically responsible. It has seen as manipulation and it would encourage consumers to make the wrong choices. Marketers can find out what exactly drives consumers in their purchasing decisions, because of this they can manipulate them to buy particular products. When these products have bad consequences or negatively affect anything, I think the name "evilmarketing" is appropriate. For example, products that are harmful to the health of children are made attractive, I understand a discussion arises and people start thinking negatively about neuromarketing.


I wonder, to what extent does the choice lie with the consumer. Chantal van den Berg, neuromarketing expert, fully agrees with this proposition: “Neuromarketing does not endanger anyone, the choice still lies with the consumer.” She admits that it will not always be easy to arm yourself against various marketing tools, and sometimes has difficulty with it as well. Chantal: “If you have chosen to put your brain in a good state, by buying something unhealthy, it’s not the manufacturer’s fault anymore.” I agree, but companies play a major role in making this choice.

Any argument against neuromarketing is one against marketing in general. It does not depend on the marketing technique, but on the purpose of that technique. In other words: we don’t know ‘evil marketing’, only ‘evil marketers’.

Besides that, there is no marketing technique that make consumers buy something they do not want, it only increases the probability of buying something they already need or feel positive about.

I think, it is good to realize that we, consumers, are being influenced without even realizing it in everyday life. We become more clear and hopefully we no longer just fall for everything. Everyone knows that you have to take some statements with a grain of salt. However, we cannot be prepared for everything and we continue to be affected. Our subconscious mind cannot just be switched off …

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