CBC MARKETPLACE: YOUR FINANCES » RETAIL
The science of shopping
Broadcast: December 2, 2002
| Reporter: Margo Kelly;
Producer: George Prodanou;
into the consumer mind," Adam
Koval, Brighthouse Institute for Thought Sciences
are going to new lengths to probe the minds of consumers.
A company in Atlanta is scanning people's brains with MRIs,
in an effort to record our subconscious thoughts about products
The process has been dubbed neuromarketing.
It's being hailed as a giant leap in the science of selling,
but the technique is also raising some concerns.
For corporations that want to
sell us stuff, the shopper's mind is a
territory to be mapped. In a hospital in Atlanta, researchers
are trying to do that mapping. They're paying people to lie
inside MRI machines and look at pictures of products while
the machine snaps images of their brains.
The Brighthouse Institute for Thought
Sciences claims it's closing the gap between business and
science — with
the goal of getting us to behave the way corporations want
"What it really does is give unprecedented
insight into the consumer mind.
And it will actually result in higher product sales or
in brand preference or in getting customers to behave the
way they want them to behave," company
executive Adam Koval told Marketplace.
Back in Toronto, we caught up with Cathy Denison as she was trying
on a fur coat.
"I look like a movie star. You've got to have an attitude
when you wear a coat like that…That's the kind of thing,
I don't need it, but I want it."
And that's exactly what neuro-marketers want to
our emotional bonds with products.
Advertising veteran Allan Middleton teaches
marketing at York University. He says neuromarketing is in its
early stages — and
he's mostly skeptical about what it can do.
"If it works…you get to 1984 and Brave New
World." Marketing professor Allan Middleton
"Theoretically, if you could possibly
not only understand how people respond in a laboratory situation
to a buying stimulus, then it will certainly help marketers forecast
behavior. Well, if it works — which by the way I don't
think it will — I mean, you get to 1984, and more
importantly, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World."
Middleton doesn't think there's one magic technique —or
image— that will compel us to buy something, because there
are so many products and messages competing for our attention.
Still, neuromarketing is attracting some corporations
with a lot money to spend - though Brighthouse's Adam Koval won't
say which companies are interested:
"We can't actually talk
about the specific names of the companies, but they are global
consumer product companies. Right now, they would rather not be
exposed. We have been kind of running under the radar with a lot
of the breakthrough technology."
science' worries some »