“Marketing Matters”: Neuromarketing

Aired May 31, 2017

On this episode of Marketing Matters, WFoA Executive Director Catharine Hays welcomed leaders in science and business to discuss the confluence of neuroscience and marketing.  Dr. Carl Marci (Chief Neuroscientist, Consumer Neuroscience Division, Nielsen), Kyle Nel (Vice President of Disruptive Innovation, Lowe’s), Dr. Michael Platt (Director, Wharton Neuroscience Initiative, Wharton School of Business and James S. Riepe Professor of Marketing, Neuroscience and Psychology), Dr. Elizabeth (Zab) Johnson (Executive Director and Senior Fellow, Wharton Neuroscience Initiative, Wharton School of Business), and Kevin Randall (Brand Strategy Consultant and Writer) offered their takes on the new and developing field of neuromarketing and its implications for not only the marketing industry, but for consumer lifestyles.

Key Takeaways:

  • Neuromarketing is growing rapidly, gaining validation from top marketers and expanding on a global scale
  • Most consumer decisions occur at the subconscious level; having an understanding of neuroscience can help provide a more complete view of the consumer
  • Neuroscience exists at the intersection of multiple fields, drawing top leaders from healthcare, engineering, and business to collaborate on new technologies
  • Ethical questions regarding these new technologies exist and should be taken into consideration moving forward
Dr. Carl Marci, Chief Neuroscientist, Consumer Neuroscience Division, Nielsen

Dr. Carl Marci, a leading neuroscientist at Nielsen and a contributor to WFoA’s Advertising 2020 project, provided insight into the field of neuroscience and why it has become a growing component of research for brands.  He explained that consumer neuroscience examines non-conscious processing.  About 80% of consumer decisions are made on a subconscious level, which cannot be taken into account using the standard survey method of self-reporting.  By integrating new methodologies, such as EEG, facial recognition software, and eye-tracking technologies, Nielsen’s neuroscience unit can paint a complete picture of the consumer that incorporates attention, emotion, and memory, allowing researchers and advertisers to be in the moment of decision with the consumer.

Marci emphasized that neuromarketing is taking off, and it’s important that marketers aren’t left behind.  Neuromarketing techniques are becoming ubiquitous, consistently producing meaningful data and allowing companies to make accurate predictions.  New technologies generate diagnostics that are impossible to obtain from standard surveys, and the insights gleaned are actionable.  Marci expects that more companies will adjust their marketing based on neuromarketing findings, creating multiplatform ads, mobile-friendly campaigns, and short-form video that is more compatible with social media websites.

Kyle Nel, Vice President of Disruptive Innovation, Lowe’s

Kyle Nel, the Vice President of Disruptive Innovation at Lowe’s, was Catharine’s second guest.  Nel is a behavioral scientist that heads Lowe’s Innovation Labs, which is dedicated to continuous change in order to stay relevant and dominant in today’s constantly changing consumer environment.  He works to understand how individuals and groups make decisions and believes that neuroscience is the “metal detector of behavioral economics.”  The world around us is quickly changing, but human beings are not. He posited that it is crucial to form a better understanding of how consumers are making decisions in order to create a better future.

While the amount of data able to be collected from neuromarketing technology is growing, Nel emphasized that it is important to consider whether the company can actually utilize the data and execute change on its unique scale of operations.  It is important to be practical when applying these new technologies and techniques, distinguishing between real insights and meaningless data.

Dr. Michael Platt, Director, Wharton Neuroscience Initiative, Wharton School of Business & James S. Riepe Professor of Marketing, Neuroscience, and Psychology

Catharine interviewed Dr. Michael Platt and Dr. Elizabeth (Zab) Johnson of the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative in the show’s third segment, discussing the state of neuroscience and business in academia. Platt and Johnson emphasized that the future of business lies in neuroscience, and with that future in mind, the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative was created to elevate neuromarketing research.  The Initiative also aims to enhance the Wharton School curriculum, helping to develop the next generation of business leaders and inviting other disciplines to collaborate on research.  Catharine noted, “The essence of the initiative is grounded in helping people, understanding how we tick, why we tick, and then using the information to make sure that we tick well.”

Platt and Johnson are performing research that could have numerous applications in the marketing world.  Platt is studying interpersonal interactions, focusing on how people’s prior life experiences shape how others act toward them.  He’s asking whether certain behaviors can be promoted or diminished, such as attentiveness and listening, and is using his findings to create therapies currently being implemented at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Dr. Platt is also interested in decision-making under uncertainty and how people decide whether to continue with what they know well or to diverge and innovate. These ideas can be applied to brands by creating a better understanding of how to capture the attention of the consumer, as well as how to provoke a change in the consumer’s day-to-day life.

Dr. Elizabeth (Zab) Johnson, Executive Director and Senior Fellow, Wharton Neuroscience Initiative, Wharton School of Business

Johnson has recently studied the realm of vision and color, specifically people’s perception of color. She explains that color perception is very much “all in your head,” and related to each individual’s experiences. She also notes that people generally believe that their perception matches everyone else’s and are genuinely surprised to find that that is not the case.  There is not yet a neuroscientific explanation for this, but Johnson is researching the potential applications of color perception in a variety of industries, such as advertising and cosmetics.

Catharine also delved into the ethical implications of new neuromarketing technologies.  Dr. Platt shared that ethics are definitely a part of the conversation surrounding the research. He believes it is necessary to determine the proper applications as a scientific community to create the best possible outcomes.  In Dr. Johnson’s perspective, “If it didn’t have ethical implications, it wouldn’t be cutting edge science.”

Kevin Randall, Brand Strategy Consultant & Writer

Catharine wrapped up the show with brand strategist and New York Times writer Kevin Randall, who provided a reporter’s outlook on neuromarketing trends. Randall stressed that researchers only know about 15% of how the brain operates, and he believes that the future of all disciplines is in neuroscience.  With a plethora of new technology working on a larger scale, the field has matured and engaged leaders from diverse industries, such as healthcare and marketing, all seeking to better lives by increasing efficiency, productivity, and ease of everyday tasks.  Randall also discussed the importance of understanding emotions in the future of marketing, emphasizing that emotions play a large part in the unconscious decision process.  He is excited to see how emotions will play into artificial intelligence on top of the growth and affordability of wearable technology that can provide real-time biometric assessments.

You can listen to this show and past shows on our radio show page: http://wfoa.wharton.upenn.edu/research-initiatives/radio-show/


By Colleen Brace
Nursing ‘18