Can “Neuromarketing” Make B2B Marketers Smarter?


Can Neuromarketing Make B2B Marketers Smarter
Google and Facebook are spending millions to learn how the human brain processes language—getting insights into the mind that most traditional marketers don't realize and, therefore, can't utilize.

These digital media giants are discovering ways to serve content that activates brain areas to encode memories, form judgments, make decisions, and take action.

Their research includes cognitive and brain science studies using EEG and fMRI scanners, as well as big data mining—loosely lumped together in the controversial new discipline known as "neuromarketing." 

Neuromarketing combines research in consumer behavior and cognitive neuroscience to understand judgment and decision making. It focuses on attention, memory, rewards and risk aversion. As with any new development in marketing, it has its critics. Some marketers believe it is mostly hype and question the scientific and ethical validity of using psychological research in marketing and advertising. Others believe that it is hyper effective and are willing to pay a high price tag to gain insights that will give them a competitive advantage. 

For B2B marketers, neuromarketing may appear too impractical and too costly to be relevant.

But looks can be deceiving. In his book Persuasive Advertising: Evidence-based Principles, J. Scott Armstrong, professor of marketing at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, demonstrates that behavioral and brain sciences are quite relevant to today's marketing challenges.

Armstrong observes that marketers tend to go just on gut feeling and personal experience. Instead, he urges that "understanding evidence-based principles can improve the ability of novices and experts to develop persuasive advertising … and avoid detrimental results.”

For example, many marketers are using Internet surveys to improve customer satisfaction. But studies decisively show that surveying customers while they are using a product or service actually harms satisfaction and reduces useful feedback. Why? "When consumers expect to report about their satisfaction with a product or service, they adopt a critical attitude. They search for things that are wrong. This leads them to have a less enjoyable experience."

Armstrong's program, along with Robert Cialdini's at Arizona State University, the Applied Neuromarketing Group  at Northwestern University, and others are bringing the burgeoning fields of cognitive science and linguistics to a new generation of marketers. That research is also influencing Internet usability studies—and even everyday personal communications.

In his new book Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, Harvard College psychology professor Steven Pinker applies these insights to the art of writing. Among his ideas: 

  • All people have a common “instinct” for language.
  • We don't learn language and construct communications any way we want to.
  • There are specific cognitive principles at work when communicating.

For B2B marketers, it’s worth exploring how neuromarketing and a cognitive content strategy apply to B2B—not just to flood Google and Facebook with more messages, but to influence, persuade and sell more minds.

About the Author

Steve Wissler
Senior Technical Copywriter

I've thrown my background in science, graphic design, and communications into the oven and out popped cognitive cuisine that serves the needs of today's B2B messaging menu.

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