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*A Book Review*

Buy*ology

By Martin Linstrom

by Michael C. Gray

February 4, 2013

Marketing research is a notoriously difficult process. Interview subjects, product testers, focus groups, and survey subjects may have the best intentions, but their responses are colored by unintentional biases, including trying to please the researcher.

What if there was a way to actually "look into" their brains to learn their true responses? Possibly we could reduce the number of failed product introductions. Eight out of ten product introductions in the United States fail. A notorious example is "New Coke." Coca Cola spent a fortune researching consumer preferences and released "New Coke" with fanfare, only to have it go down in flames as one of history's great marketing disasters.

Modern medical and neurological science have developed instruments to identify and measure responses in the brain. For example, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can identify these responses. Another technique called SST (steady state typography) is a special cap that measures electrical activity inside the brain, like a supercharged lie detector. SST is a more portable approach, less expensive and less claustrophobic than an MRI scan.

Marketing expert Martin Lindstrom teamed up with scientists at the Centre for NeuroImaging Sciences in London, England and scientists at Neuro-Insight to use these technologies to find out what people are really thinking.

One of the conclusions that they learned using this technology is the health warnings on cigarette packages and advertising intended to discourage smoking actually has the opposite effect. The warnings actually stimulate an area of smokers' brains known as "the craving spot."

In tests of the impact of product placement and advertising on American Idol for Coke, Cingular Wireless and Ford, it was found that with the dominant positioning of Coke throughout the show including the judges drinking Coke, Coke-shaped furniture and Coke background colors, subjects had the greatest recall of Coke and their memories of Ford commercials were actually suppressed.

There are some ethical concerns here. Are we as consumers doomed to manipulation by corporations promoting their products? Right now, these technologies are very expensive, so they are only within reach for the largest companies. Eventually, the cost will come down and the use of brain science in market research will become more widespread.

Hopefully the result will be more product offerings that consumers want and less waste in product introduction failures.

As consumers, our best defense is to be alert for when we are being manipulated and unplugging ourselves from the media. Spend more time with human beings and less time with televisions, radios, web sites and smart phones.

Both business owners and consumers can benefit from reading Buy*ology.

Purchase it on Amazon: Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy

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The 4-Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss, could help you devote more time to your family and personal relationships, even if you're an employee.


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