In the world of market research, big companies are paying up to $50,000 to get into the heads of between 30-50 people. Neuromarketing, an emerging field, is like the old focus group on steroids. Instead of sitting in a room and 880737_brain_001discussing a product, shoppers wear a cap equipped with technology designed to track the brain’s responses to odors, sounds and sights in the real world shopping environment. The responses are then analyzed and marketing strategies ranging from scented apparel to applying new colors on product displays are put in place.

A recent article in Women’s Wear Daily cites author Martin Lindstrom, a subject matter expert, as claiming  ‘[b]etween 20 and 25 percent of the biggest brands are using it [neuromarketing]; a year ago, it was 10 to 12 percent.”  Lindstrom notes that companies such as Microsoft, Google and A&F are actively using neuromarketing.

Industry experts believe that neuromarketing will give some marketers the edge they need in order to succeed in a tough business climate. One way to win consumers, many feel, is by appealing to all of the senses. It also seems that by enhancing the real-world store experience, traditional retailers are seizing a new tool to battle online retailers. The Women’s Wear Daily article highlights the great lengths that teen retailer A&F goes to in order to appeal to shoppers. The company uses fragrance, dim lighting, photos of partially-dressed models, and music to brand the shopping experience.

Not everyone agrees that neuromarketing is necessary but many believe that using an extra sensory detail such as scent can be very effective. This is especially true when the detail is simple, not complex. For example, bombarding the shopper with too many scents may result in indecision and no purchase at all. Proprietors of bakeries have probably long known this secret.

As researchers continue to prove the link between brain stimulus and response, spending on techniques like neuromarketing will probably grow.

[Source: Hall Cecily and Seckler, Valerie, Brands Pick Consumers’ Brains, WWDRetail, 10.14.09]