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The road to fool proof marketing

Is market research still necessary?



Market research is often considered to be the first natural step for any company. But is this as obvious as you think, if you take into account that the consumer does not always know what they want? So what value is there in asking them what they are looking for in a product or service?

teve Jobs was also convinced that market research is totally unnecessary. He managed Apple from the perspective of the product, the supply over the demand of the product, topped with a large dose of intuition and the development team as its own sounding board. And his success speaks for itself.

But this strategy probably only applies if you’re Steve Jobs. Unfortunately, we do not all have his charisma and extraordinary talent (and good fortune?). Moreover, it makes a great deal of difference what business or product you put on the market. Is it your goal to offer completely new and innovative products? Or jump on existing needs, or the fine-tuning of a product or service?

If we still want well researched evidence for our corporate strategy, we could think of neuromarketingand not ask the customer what they want, but rather look at how they instinctively react to a product or concept. This is ingrained in the psyche of every human being.

For instance, research has shown that you can predict exactly what will be a hit pop song. If a group of people was asked to listen to some new songs and then indicate which song they liked most, this would say nothing about whether this song was actually going to be a hit. But when they examined the brain waves while the songs were being played, the researchers were able to read exactly whether or not the music would be commercially successful, therefore the consumer does not know what they want. You might also argue that they don’t even know what their thoughts about something actually are!


All this happens because of the pleasure centre that we all have in our brains. This centre provides a pleasant feeling when stimulated by external stimuli. This centre can be activated by all stimuli passed to our brains by our senses. Think of the taste of food, musical sounds or visual stimuli like a beautiful painting.

All humans and animals are programmed to look for these stimulant incentives, and to give them priority over almost all other feelings or experiences. Although we humans, with our intellectual thinking, have learned to suppress the desire for enjoyment somehow, in practice we rarely succeed.

You can follow the brainwaves with an EEG cap or MRI scan. In the first method, the subject receives a cap with electrodes that record brain activity. The second method is a magnetic scan such as is also used in hospitals. The MRI goes deeper and is more accurate, but also more expensive than the EEG.

Measuring brain activity to see someone’s instinctive response to your advertising campaign or product, could be a powerful way to gain a competitive edge. However, there are also ethical considerations involved. Isn’t using a scan a step too far? Might it affect someone’s personal privacy? And may consumers be encouraged to purchase at this deep physical level?

For those who have ethical, practical, and financial issues and do not want to venture into this kind of brain research, neuromarketing provides a psychological perspective that works alongside the medical-biological approach. Think of the practical application of general psychological laws. For example, you can apply principles such as reciprocity, scarcity and anchoring effect on websites or marketing campaigns, to give customers an additional impulse to proceed to purchase.

Fool proof marketing doesn’t exist (yet). We will never be Steve Jobs. But research into the stimulant centre, emotional reactions, and the use of psychological knowledge, will help us to go a long way.


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