Advertising in the brain: mostly unconscious

The human brain

A little digression into the human head: 1, 300 to 1, 400 grams weighs the brain of an adult. It owns an estimated 100 billion nerve cells - called neurons - each of which has about 10, 000 connections to other neurons. This ensures that people can send, receive and forward non-stop signals. Every second you take eleven million bits or 1.4 megabytes of information through your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin - a tremendous amount (a single-digit number like 3 means five bits).

But we do not consciously process this quantity. Consciously it is only between 40 and 50 bits. This corresponds to an eight-digit number, a telephone number approximately.

And now to the advertisement: Even if advertising - in pictures, as text or music - acts on a human brain, deliberately only about 40 bits arrive. That is precious little. Nevertheless, just under eleven million bits do not evaporate ineffectively.

The power of the brain

How and why that is, explain Christian Schreier and Dirk Held in their book "How advertising works". Efficiency is the magic word. The brain works efficiently, for example, when judging someone else in seconds - stereotypes and prejudices are such strategies of efficiency.

Here's an example: In a trial by the Bonn-based neuroscientist Christian Elger, a group of test subjects was shown pictures of well-known branded products. They also saw the prices of products that were cheap and sometimes overpriced. Occasionally a yellow-red discount sign appeared, but not always with the favorable articles. Then the subjects should indicate if they would buy the item. The discount sign showed its buying power, most of the participants took the overpriced, but as cheap signaled products.

In another experiment, subjects sat in a room with a cleaning bucket filled with a citrus-scented cleaner - but nobody noticed the scent. In one test, this group tended to have pronounced word associations to cleanliness that did not occur in a control group that did not use citrus fragrance. In addition, the "fragrance group" left the room neater.

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