Over the past year or so three major, national brands have turned to Neuromarketing as a means to study shopper emotions, understand purchase motivations and improve their package designs.

As a means of introduction

“Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing which uses medical technologies such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to study the brain’s responses to marketing stimuli. Researchers use the fMRI to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain and to learn why consumers make the decisions they do, and what part of the brain is telling them to do it. Neuromarketing will tell the marketer what the consumer reacts to, whether it was the color of the packaging to the sound the box makes when shaken, and so on.” – Wikipedia

It is the packaging part of Neuromarketing I want to talk about today as the three brands in question, Campbell’s Soup, Gerber and Chips Ahoy! have all tried to tap into consumer emotion via Neuromarketing to increase their bottom line.

Campbell’s Soup worked with Innerscope Research Inc., a Boston company that measures bodily responses, and other firms to help conduct research to discover that all those warm and cozy feelings people get at home when they think about soup, didn’t necessarily carry over to their shopping experience.

Through bio-metric testing and research, they made the decision to alter (gasp!) their iconic soup cans thusly:

  • Different color packaging for different lines of soups.
  • A smaller logo.
  • Spoons no longer pictured.
  • Soup pictures more vibrant and “steamy.”

This was a big deal… a VERY big deal for Campbell’s Soup as messing around with something so iconic as their soup cans was clearly a bold move to say to the least. Written about in The Wall Street Journal – The Emotional Quotient of Soup Shopping, there’s an accompanying video which explains in further detail the role Neuromarketing played in changing the legendary soup can, click here to watch the video.

As for Gerber and Chips Ahoy, they were aided in their Neuromarketing-inspired package redesign by Perception Research Services, International and EmSense.

In an article on Brand Packaging outlining what was done regarding the package redesign for Gerber and Chips Ahoy!, Scott Young, President of Perception Research Services wrote…

“For Gerber baby products, we used neuroscience in pre-design research to get a baseline assessment of the brand’s existing packaging. We wanted to confirm its strengths and limitations against the competition and identify opportunities for improvement.

As might be expected, the study reinforced the power of the familiar Gerber branding and baby visual. But the research also uncovered negative emotional reactions to various graphic elements, including the visual icon intended to convey baby stages, the benefit bands and less-prominent health claims. These reactions suggest either confusion in interpretation and/or difficulty reading smaller print. Taken collectively, they spoke to a need to “clean up” and simplify the packs, to make them more accessible to shoppers.”

And as for Chips Ahoy!…

“… resealability was known to be a valued feature, but the resealability claim itself was driving negative emotional reactions; it was too jarring on the current packaging and too difficult to read on the proposed. The cookie visual on the proposed packaging was also problematic. Despite its prominence, it didn’t appear to be effective because it only drew neutral reactions. These insights led to significant refinements to both design elements prior to launch. The resealability tab was made more legible, while the cookie visual was given more energy with flying chips visuals.”

Now, truth be told, Neuromarketing is not without its detractors, including Joseph Turow, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who is quoted as saying, “There has always been a holy grail in advertising to try to reach people in a hypodermic way. Major corporations and research firms, are jumping on the neuromarketing bandwagon because they are desperate for any novel technique to help them break through all the marketing clutter. ‘It’s as much about the nature of the industry and the anxiety roiling through the system as it is about anything else.”

Of course to that I say… so what?

“…any novel technique to help them break through all the marketing clutter.”

You’re darn right we’re trying to find something to help our client’s break through the marketing clutter. Have you been out there lately? There’s a lot of clutter and it’s only getitng more and more cluttered!

When it comes to brand marketing, breaking through clutter is paramount for ultimate success, is it not? That and actually having a brand that’s worthwhile and stands for something but that’s another story for another time.

Ok, so here’s how I see it, what I think of Neuromarketing.

I say, if it can help me and my clients establish a competitive advantage, hell yeah I’m for it, at least testing it. What’s the harm in that?

But marketers need to remember two things, each of which i wrote about over the last month or so.

The first is about The Zero Moment of Truth. See, time was a consumer would see an ad, hear about a product then head off to the store to purchase said product. They would stand in front of that shelf and make their purchase decision. Course we now know that the packaging on the shelf may influence their puchase decision. BUT… today, even before a consumer leaves their house, they go online and that’s The Zero Moment of Truth.

The other thing I want to remind marketers is It’s Not The Brand, It’s The Product Stupid. This is something I wrote not too long ago where I not-so-gently reminded marketers that the reason consumers keep coming back to your product and continue to patronize your company is not because of a brand, but because you provide a quality product. Sure the new Chips Ahoy! packaging is different, more fun I suppose, more alive with its “flying chips visuals” but if the cookie is good to begin with, it wouldn’t matter what was on the package.

Sure people would try it but would they buy it again and again? No.

Ok, so what do you think of Neuromarketing? Does it have possibilities? Or is it just another gimmick?

Have you used it? Would you ever consider using it?

Sources: neurosciencemarketing.com, brandpackaging.comIs Neuromarketing The Future Of Marketing?, The Star Group