Is There A 'Buy Button' In The Brain?

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COLUMBIA - The best marketers know how to reel you into a product, but now they also know what you desire most without technically asking you. Advertising and marketing personnel are teaming up with psychological researchers to work together to meet the needs of consumers better.

This technique is called neuromarketing.The application of brain science to understanding how consumers process different kinds of marketing messages, a relatively new term created by psychological researchers and marketers.

MU Researcher and Professor Paul Bolls says there is no such thing as a 'buy button.' "The brain is more complex than that," says Bolls, "Ultimately the decision to walk into a store, pull a product off a shelf, open your wallet and pay for that product is under control a lot more than some mythical buy button." Bolls works in the Prime Lab on the University of Missouri campus and works on numerous studies with cognitive research.

Desire is as close as you get to a buy button, but even then the brain has the power to regulate those powers. Advertisers and marketers look to trigger a release of dopamine in the brain which can create a positive association to a product and dopamine comes from the Limbic system inside the brain. The Limbic system is where advertisements try to reel you in.

Every year Sands Research studies Super Bowl ads using neuromarketing tools with eye-tracking, emotion output and brain response. One of the number one ads this year was the Budweiser Clydesdale commercial which tied with Coca-Cola.

Bolls says you can't tell if a product underwent neuromarketing just by looking at it and most companies do not share that information. To conduct neuromarketing research could take thousands of dollars, which is mostly why large brand companies use it like Target and Campbell's Soup. Target knows when a customer is expecting based off the product they buy and then emails the customer coupans for baby products.

Locally, CEO of Word Marketing, Clear Vision Development and Horizon Research Tony Richards uses neuromarketing techniques to help re-brand products for his clients. "Psychological research is very important because it helps us understand people better," said Richards, "It helps us understand their thoughts, their feelings, their habits, why they do what they do and that empowers both consumers to get a quality product that readily would fill their need and empowers service and product providers because it helps get their service or product in the hands of more people so they could use it."

It's hard to know how powerful neuromakerting can become in the future, but according to Bolls this information should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.