November 15, 2010

Neuromarketing.

Making advertising as insidious as possible through neuroscience:
Neuromarketing’s raison d’├¬tre derives from the fact that the brain expends only 2 percent of its energy on conscious activity, with the rest devoted largely to unconscious processing. Thus, neuromarketers believe, traditional market research methods — like consumer surveys and focus groups — are inherently inaccurate because the participants can never articulate the unconscious impressions that whet their appetites for certain products.

If pitches are to succeed, they need to reach the subconscious level of the brain, the place where consumers develop initial interest in products, inclinations to buy them and brand loyalty...

But should we worry that a technique that probes subconscious brain patterns might be used to unduly influence consumers, turning them into shopping robots without their knowledge and consent?
And, obviously, the same methods would work in political advertising, ending democracy as we know it. On the plus side: We won't know it. It already happened, right? I mean... #1: Look at who's President. And #2: We're seeing crazy-ass commercials like this:

95 comments:

Joe said...

How is this crazy-ass? It's just another well made feel good commercial that goes way, way back.

(And if the new Odyssey is anywhere as good as mine, it's a damn good car.)

Ann Althouse said...

@Joe It didn't make me feel good. I thought the woman seemed like some sort of supernatural creature that was leading the man toward his death. The candles... the casket-like car.... the guy feared his fate, but he was helpless!

Ann Althouse said...

Yes, I know, that's a vision of marriage, but it didn't seem like a good idea.

yes said...

On the plus side: We won't know it. It already happened, right? I mean... #1: Look at who's President.

Hey Ann. Some of us didn't vote for him.

wv: faubmi once, shame on me.

Ann Althouse said...

Not just death either: hell. Note the flames that burst up on the video screen.

Ann Althouse said...

@yes I didn't vote for him. I voted against McCain. Talk about crazy-ass!

Youngblood said...

"It didn't make me feel good. I thought the woman seemed like some sort of supernatural creature that was leading the man toward his death. The candles... the casket-like car.... the guy feared his fate, but he was helpless!"

I suspect that your tongue is planted firmly in your cheek, but maybe that's something in your own head that you have to deal with?

New "Hussein" Ham said...

I just came.

(Smoking, now).

New "Hussein" Ham said...

Is it wrong that I want to fuck this minivan?

If it is, then I don't want to be right.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

It has just what I want in a minivan ... an ultrawide rear entertainment system.

Baby got back!

woof said...

Note the flames that burst up on the video screen.

That was a romantic fireplace !

traditionalguy said...

The Japs are telling us what they plan to do to us and then they are doing it to us. The Honda enchants people. The "Unconscious mind"...i know Freud translation like to call it subconscious mind...is indeed unmeasurable. We use jargon of science, as if we do measure it, but we only see some effects. Jesus said that the Spirit is unseen but His acts are visible, like a wind blowing trees where it will. Somebody alert Crack Emcee.

Youngblood said...

On topic, I'll point out that people have been formally looking for ways to penetrate people's brains to influence their decisions for decades (and informally for millennia).

This latest attempt will result in a new conventional wisdom, which will be discarded as people rediscover (yet again) that associating your brand or product with good feelings is as good as it gets.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"I didn't vote for him. I voted against McCain."

Ok ... this is complete horseshit.

You were not required to vote for Barack Obama in order to not vote for John McCain.

You had the choice of not voting at all. Of sitting out in protest. Many Americans refused to vote for either man and that choice is a reasoned and acceptable choice.

You should not have, Ann, in good conscience, voted for Barack Obama, knowing what you knew about him at the time you voted for him. You knew him to be a seriously flawed person who consorted with known domestic terrorists.

And yet, you rewarded him with your vote.

You need to come to grips with this flaw in your character and stop minimizing what you did.

Denial was step 1. Your anger at being questioned about your actions is Step 2.

It's time to bargain, Ann.

Metamorf said...

@Joe It didn't make me feel good.

Well, so much for those silly "neuromarketers", then, right?

Actually, this sort of scare is antique -- probably no one remembers "The Hidden Persuaders", but you could look it up.

Ann Althouse said...

"I suspect that your tongue is planted firmly in your cheek, but maybe that's something in your own head that you have to deal with?"

This commercial is trying to deal with the negative attitude people have toward minivans and it's taking a strange route, actually showing the fear -- which is psychically related to being bound into a marriage. You get married and you become the kind of guy who has to have a minivan. Now all the riches of marriage are combined with the car -- the fire, the vulva-shaped fruit, the vulva-shaped shells that open up to reveal the clitoris/pearl. You're lured into the very trap you have feared. The man has a stupefied look on his face. Does he want this minivan? No! But he will be led to it.

Ann Althouse said...

"You had the choice of not voting at all."

But voting for the other guy is twice as effective. Why would I choose to exercise half of my power?

Ann Althouse said...

"Well, so much for those silly "neuromarketers", then, right?"

No. There is a deeper level. But in any case that commercial isn't directed at me. It's directed toward young couples who are taking on the complicated burdens of raising a family. You're walking away from your youth and your freedom.

woof said...

The man has a stupefied look on his face

I don't see that at all. He looks as excited about the Honda as his wife does.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"But voting for the other guy is twice as effective."

Effective at what? You knew at the time you voted FOR Barack Obama that he had little experience, probably held some deep-seated hatreds for America, and that he associated with known domestic terrorists.

And you affirmatively helped put that person in the highest position of power on the Earth. Deliberately.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

That you aren't ... that you're still argumentative about it and challenge people who call you on it ... demonstrates how little you've matured since your mistake.

DaveW said...

That commercial is brilliant. It doesn't just sell the van, it sells the idea that the lifestyle behind the van is the perfect state in life.

This is one I'll disagree with Althouse on. The guy doesn't look afraid, the van doesn't invoke a casket, and the woman doesn't look like a succubus.

Or looked at slightly differently, it sells well to my demographic, but pushes some negative buttons for the professor's. But that's OK, I'm sure they have another one lined up that will push her buttons too.

chuck b. said...

Conjecture: Fear of being manipulated at the subconscious level is a baby boomer thing.

Seems very 1970s to me.

Justin said...

Anyone else see the rose petals flowing out of the van and think of this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlAmXGIbo84

Irene said...

Seems very 1970s to me, too.

It's rekindling memories for the that grownups who used to stup, as highschoolers, in the first generation of minivans.

Irene said...

Ah! The rose petals also alert back, in a wierd way, to American Beauty.

Kevin Spacey is the ad's narrator.

Irene said...

*weird*

woof said...

The red roses represent menstruation.

NotYourTypicalNewYorker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
New "Hussein" Ham said...

"The man has a stupefied look on his face. Does he want this minivan? No! But he will be led to it."

And you're totally unable to interpret this commercial because you're a chick.

Correct Interpretation: The man and the woman are leaving a restaurant at the end of a date. He's shelled out his $100 bucks. It's now time to bang her for desert, but he needs a good place to do it.

Voila! The van! Every teenage boy's fantasy vehicle!

The roses (reminiscent of the scene in American Beauty where Kevin Spacey bangs the blond high school cheerleader), the fireplace video, the boner-inducing oysters, the ultra-wide rear entertainment system ... everything about this commercial says to the man that he's about to get some serious anal time with this random ginger.

It speaks to my cock on a visceral level. But it ain't anything new.

Sex sells.

Ann Althouse said...

"... the woman doesn't look like a succubus."

Since a van is kind of a small bus... it's a Suck You Bus.

NotYourTypicalNewYorker said...

The professor is toying with us here....(squirms)heh

WV: skeys, I got the skeys do you have the Mateus?

DaveW said...

You know what it reminds me of? There was a play on that song, a joke when I was much younger, that went like this:

They, asked me how I knew
Rabbit shit was blue
And to this I said, you have been misled
Rabbit shit is red

OK. Maybe you had to be there.

Ann Althouse said...

"Anyone else see the rose petals flowing out of the van and think of this..."

The whole commercial made me think in a Stephen King way. But the rose petals made me think of this.

And I wrote all that before I saw that Irene said the same thing.

traditionalguy said...

The commenters want to contradict the Neuromarketer's statement, and declare that with their 2% they are making all of these thoughts come into their own minds for themselves. I salute you; but I also suggest that even your self image is being determined for you. Honda uber alles. And at just what age does a woman's mind quit chosing to buy sports cars so that she will not seen driving in an old woman's car??? I know several women nearly 70 who are still clinging to that self image, wrinkles and white hair or not.

Ann Althouse said...

"It's rekindling memories for the that grownups who used to stup, as highschoolers, in the first generation of minivans."

There another Odyssey commercial that says exactly that: here.

And this one is a reminder of the old connection between vans and small-time rock bands.

traditionalguy said...

My wife thinks I have a loose screw for loving American Beauty. She thinks that it is scurrelous movie, but I love the many levels of messages that it communicates.

Irene said...

I dodged a bullet or two in college by avoiding rock band boys who drove minivans.

Irene said...

I ended up marrying one.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"The red roses represent menstruation."

No, the roses = fucking jailbait cheerleaders.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RilaxU045Nw

It's mini-pr0n.

rhhardin said...

Insidious is bad because it comes from snakes.

Meade said...

If this van is Barackin'...

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"I dodged a bullet or two in college by avoiding rock band boys who drove minivans."

Ohhhhh ... but the orgasms you sacrificed. You'll NEVER get those back!

New "Hussein" Ham said...

... don't come a'votin'.

deborah said...

Can we please have a drudgtaposition now?

Belkys said...

2% false
so Vance Packard is the new idea?

Belkys said...

I dont know how is the USA but here most women drive fortruner, Previa, Tundra, or Explorer

Youngblood said...

Althouse,

If it's all about the man being ensnared by marriage, why the attempt to associate it with the gifts that men buy women, or the things that they do to show that they're romantic?

Fluttering rose petals. Chocolate-dipped strawberries. Pearls. The not exactly subtle shot of the glittering rock on the woman's finger!

If anything, a fair argument could be made that he's not being led, he's actually the one doing the leading!

I do agree that death is the ultimate destination here -- note how the fireplace sequence is shot in the same way that cremation sequences are invariably shot in films.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

Van = A Place to Pork her on some side road after plunking down your hundy on wine and song.

Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

Oldest Mad Men trick in the book.

DaveW said...

OK I was interested enough to show it to the wife. She and I often try to analyze ads and marketing - we're particularly entertained by Viagra ads.

Anyway, she had a completely different cut on it than I did. She sees it as filled with symbols designed to appeal to women - the rose petals, the strawberries, the candles, even the color of the car. And she didn't think it was a particularly remarkable ad or very well done.

So back to the professor's original point about neuromarketing, and the effort to push subconscious buttons. Why does this ad filled with female symbols, and that turns off the professor and I think Irene too, push my buttons as brilliantly selling the car?

Interesting. Not going to buy one though.

Youngblood said...

Just messing around there. Actually, it's pretty clear to me that this is an attempt to literally romanticize the image of the minivan. The association of the van with the kinds of gifts that men stereotypically buy women (or the things that they do for them) is hardly subtle.

The minivan (and maybe the commitment to starting a family that the minivan represents) is the ultimate gift a man can give a woman.

(I like my "the dude is a killer" interpretation, though!)

Meade said...

"Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar."

Sure, and sometimes, if you're not careful, you'll get that cigar of yours snapped off in just a vagina dentata.

Ann Althouse said...

"I dont know how is the USA but here most women drive fortruner, Previa, Tundra, or Explorer..."

Previa! What a ridiculous name from the female perspective! My only association with that word is: placenta previa, a complication in pregnancy. Terrible!

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse, If it's all about the man being ensnared by marriage, why the attempt to associate it with the gifts that men buy women, or the things that they do to show that they're romantic? Fluttering rose petals. Chocolate-dipped strawberries. Pearls. The not exactly subtle shot of the glittering rock on the woman's finger!"

Because it's a van, the car with such a negative image associated with the least sexual aspects of marriage. And the shot of the woman's ring is very much saying you can have her sexually but only within the confines of marriage... which includes the van (ie, the nonsexual things that will burden and bind you).

"I do agree that death is the ultimate destination here -- note how the fireplace sequence is shot in the same way that cremation sequences are invariably shot in films."

Great point. The fire suddenly comes on with that oven sound.

Irene said...

"Why does this ad filled with female symbols, and that turns off the professor and I think Irene too, push my buttons as brilliantly selling the car?"

DaveW, maybe you've watched too many Viagra ads. Compared to those, this one seems brilliant.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

The reality is that Ann is trying to sell some advertising to Toyota and she's trying to pump up the click throughs.

Oldest trick in the Mad Women book.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"... you can have her sexually but only within the confines of marriage ..."

No, it says you can have her sexually, but only in the confines of her ultra-wide rear entertainment system.

Since you forgot the condoms.

David said...

I swear I posted this without having seen Althouse's post.

Topic: Advertising serves one of two purposes, to introduce a new product or to remind us of a pleasant past experience. Honda is trying to remind us of a pleasant past experience.

traditionalguy said...

Today Tiger Wood could once walk by Hondas and not buy...but 6 years ago he was snared into driving one car till crash do us part vows. Mistakes are costly.

Youngblood said...

"And the shot of the woman's ring is very much saying you can have her sexually but only within the confines of marriage... which includes the van (ie, the nonsexual things that will burden and bind you)."

The funny part is that, as you can see in my more "serious" interpretation, I actually kind of agree on that point -- the minivan (and the commitment to family that it represents) is the ultimate gift that a man can give a woman.

"Great point. The fire suddenly comes on with that oven sound."

Even before I read your interpretation, I thought, "Cremation!"

(In fact, I thought of this scene from Return of the Living Dead. Which is also wedding-themed, interestingly enough.)

Pogo said...

Neuromarketing is sonorously retro, rehashing old advertising/propaganda methods for compelling obedience.

A Clockwork Orange remade for the Oxygen channel.


Now should they discover the power inherent in middle school politics, they'd be closer to the truth.

Youngblood said...

Really it's more "marriage-themed", I guess. But you get the point. (And it's just a Youtube link, so it's safe to click on!)

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Advertising serves one of two purposes ..."

Advertising serves one of two purposes:

1) To sell products by convincing us (men) that we will get pussy if we purchase those said products.

2) To sell products by convincing us (women) that we will get extra time to fuck if we purchase those said products.

There are only two things worth anything on the Earth: pussy (men), and time to fuck (women).

Everything else is incidental to those two things.

End of lesson.

Michael E. Lopez said...

Ann Althouse said...

"Well, so much for those silly "neuromarketers", then, right?"

No. There is a deeper level. But in any case that commercial isn't directed at me. It's directed toward young couples who are taking on the complicated burdens of raising a family. You're walking away from your youth and your freedom.


I think it's also pretty clearly aimed at young couples who have never actually heard how that song ends. Indeed, I think the commercial must have been created by someone who either didn't bother to listen to the entire song and just relied on some sort of vague, half-baked cultural memory of what a love song is, or who has no respect for the intelligence of his or her audience.

If you know the song, the commercial sends an entirely different message.

E.M. Davis said...

Unless they are hiring psychology majors as copywriters and art directors, this 'subtext' Ann imagines is created from her own mental perversions.

Shallow people dominate Hollywood and advertising ... and we are not this deep.

Yes, psychographics are used in research, but they rarely dictate the creative choices made.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Now should they discover the power inherent in middle school politics, they'd be closer to the truth."

Speaking of Middle School Politics:

http://gatewaypundit.rightnetwork.com/2010/11/wow-hundreds-of-riders-with-us-flags-escort-cody-alicea-to-school-today-video/

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Yes, psychographics are used in research, but they rarely dictate the creative choices made."

Heh.

You said dic.

Heh.

E.M. Davis said...

The best example of misplaced commercial music I can find?

M83's Don't Save Us From the Flames. A song about a car crash in a car commercial.

Missing lyrics include lines about "a piece of brain in my hair" and "a ghost is screaming your name."

John Burgess said...

They're just discovering (actually, just naming) something that's been known to advertisers for a hundred years and politicians for thousands.

Press people's buttons = Win!

The full formula:

1. Press different buttons for different effects.

2. Repeat

3. Profit!

WV: karni The guy who teaches politicians and ad men to win.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Press people's buttons ..."

You mean their clits, right? Don't be so euphamistic!

Business Plan:

1) Press clits

2)

3) Profit!

Youngblood said...

Michael E. Lopez wrote:

"If you know the song, the commercial sends an entirely different message."

That's not the worst case of it, by far! Back in the 1990's, Volkswagen ran commercials featuring the song Roman P, by Psychic TV. The song was about Roman Polanksi, and in that context, the refrain ("Are you free / Are you really free?") had an entirely different meaning.

woof said...

Royal Caribbean used Iggy Pop's Lust for Life in commercials. It's a song about drug culture.

Youngblood said...

E.M. Davis,

Ohhhh! That's a good one!

How about a song about a tragically doomed heroin user shooting up to sell Lincolns?

Or, my personal favorite:

A song about a serial killer from Bertold Brecht's anti-capitalist Threepenny Opera used to sell hamburgers!

traditionalguy said...

Meanwhile in DC, the Eagles lead by Mike Vick have scored 35 points in the first Quarter. The Redskins have been sleep walking. That would continue at this pace to a 140 to 0 score. The Redskins have watched too many Honda Commercials.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"That's not the worst case of it, by far!"

Roman Polanski calls the anal-rape of 10-year-old girls "Fahrvergn├╝gen."

That's where they got that.

True story.

woof said...

How about a song about a tragically doomed heroin user shooting up to sell Lincolns?

Space Oddity is about heroin just because of the count down at the beginning ?

Youngblood said...

Woof,

No. "Space Oddity" is about a tragically doomed junkie because... well... it's pretty obvious. Just listen to the lyrics.

But, y'know, if there's any doubt, David Bowie cleared it up in a later song.

woof said...

Scary Monsters was the best Bowie LP by far.

I looked up the lyrics to Space Oddity and I couldn't find any heroin references. I guess I just slow.

Youngblood said...

Woof,

Believe it or not, they sang about drugs a lot back in the late 1960's! They never said, like, "Hey, this a song about drugs," or anything like that, but they weren't always subtle.

How do you think we made it to the bicentennial?

Titus said...

I love to see a pair of pointy tits in a tight cashmere sweater, walking down the street, perhaps perspiring a smidge.

davis,br said...

And if the new Odyssey is anywhere as good as mine, it's a damn good car

...or perhaps further evidence that resistence is futile?

Oligonicella said...

The only conclusion I can draw is that you are unable to read peoples faces or body postures. 'Twas he who clasped her hand, not her his.

Oligonicella said...

she his.

Kirk Parker said...

I nominate Microsoft's Where Do You Want To Go Today commercial.

chr1 said...

Ann said: " You're lured into the very trap you have feared. The man has a stupefied look on his face. Does he want this minivan? No! But he will be led to it"

Ha-ha, sounds like feminist cant to me. Maybe Hallmark was improperly representing the equality of the sexes with a woman at the center of a heart-shaped hedge maze, and the man wandering around.

Control the means of advertising!

TMink said...

Neurologists in general could care less about the unconscious. They are mapping what does what in the brain, and the big things like attachment and memory and impulsiveness are what they are looking at.

And I think it is more accurate to state that advertising has been focused on behavioral manipulation for decades. They show us glimpses of what they think we want, hoping it will sway us into making a decision. Sometimes it has to work.

But I think that honest to Betsy neurological advertising would be unrecognizable to our conscious mind, blurs and whirs and clicks that would push our buttons without engaging our thinking per se.

Music and poetry do that to an extent. They are a neural hack. They bypass our rational defenses and go straight for our affective centers.

Trey

DADvocate said...

The first time I saw the commercial on TV it didn't appeal to me at all. It's MINIVAN!!! Minivan's are about as exciting as a bowl of oatmeal. (Grits are a different story!!)

I did notice it got 28 mpg.

Marketers have been trying to do this kind of shit for years. Remember subliminal messages, how commercials places products and wording in front of women's breasts? Vance Packard's "The Hidden Persuaders" was published in 1957.

There is always a set of people more than eager to fall for a sales speil. These are mostly people who look too much outside of themselves to find happiness and completeness in their lives.

deborah said...

Good point, Trey, about the subliminal. There's a certain shade of purple that transports me viscerally to Easter. The most salient feature to me was the deep, beautiful red shade of the van.

And I agree, DADvocate, 28 mpg is nothing to sneeze at!

dbp said...

The commercial is aimed at married men. It uses the imagery of love, marriage and commitment because the target audience has already been sold on that once and can be sold on it again and again.

Michael Haz said...

This commercial for the Toyota Sienna minivan is far better that the Honda commercial. Hits the target market in the bullseye.

Richard Dolan said...

I couldn't care less about the commercial, but the blather about 'neuromarketing' is quite funny. It's an attempt to dress up routine advertising concepts -- i.e., ads that are pitched to basic appetites are more successful -- in incoherent neuro-speak, as if that makes them more persuasive. Brains don't think, and don't engage in 'conscious activity.' People do those things, and their ability to do them depends on having a properly functioning brain. But the idea of pitching an ad to whatever will grab the attention of neurons is ridiculous -- just a bunch of words strung together that are completely senseless.

Fernandinande said...

They don't use Clams 'n' Roses to sell Guns 'n' Butter.

probably no one remembers "The Hidden Persuaders"

Ask me! Thanks to reading that book as a kid I'm often influenced by tits that I can't see.

Sofa King said...

Compare and contrast the Dodge advertisement with George Washington driving a Dodge Charger straight at the British lines.

The rational part of my brain thinks it's monumentally idiotic. But for some reason, I always end up with a shit-eating grin on my face at the end of that commercial.

Sofa King said...

Edit:

Actually, it was a Dodge Challenger. Maybe they need to work on it a bit. In any case, I knew it was a Dodge.

veni vidi vici said...

Hi Honey, let's go out to the minivan and fuck.


If this is the state of American marriage, I'm damned glad mine crashed and burned.

Tibore said...

"Thus, neuromarketers believe, traditional market research methods — like consumer surveys and focus groups — are inherently inaccurate because the participants can never articulate the unconscious impressions that whet their appetites for certain products..."

Oh, great, not another opportunity to resurrect the concept of subliminal advertising.