How advertising works in the brain

A good 6, 000 advertising messages are sent to people on a daily basis. Only a fraction of it actually arrives. However, the unconscious, for example, when buying decisions, plays a fairly large role. Even if we do not want to admit it: advertising works!

The "Pepsi problem"

In a 1983 trial, one group of people were to rate two similar-looking drinks for taste. The other group had the same task but knew what they were drinking, Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola. The result: The "blind" testers preferred almost all Pepsi, the others, however, predominantly known to Coca Cola.

Today we know why the experiment went like this. Subjects in the second group preferred Coca Cola because, influenced by their advertising, Cola tasted better. Thanks to brain research working with economists in the new field of "neuroeconomics", it is now known that such emotions play an important role in buying decisions.

The look in the brain

Among others, scientists from the University of Münster have dealt with brands and their effect on the brain. In a study in the Journal of Neuroimaging, they found that as soon as one sees the favorite beer or the preferred coffee brand, the mind turns off and emotional areas are activated, which then take the decision. This has also been proven with the help of the magnetic resonance tomograph.

Researchers can literally scan the brains of consumers. The scanners provided subjects with images that accurately recorded which areas of the brain were stimulated to select a particular product. The more colorfully a brain area lights up, the stronger it is activated.

For example, the advertising agency Gray conducted a research project with the Bonn-based institute Life & Brain under the direction of the brain researcher Christian Elger, in which the impact of advertising was measured.

For the investigation, 39 consumers were sent to a magnetic resonance tomograph. Through video glasses, the subjects saw brand logos and images, including scenes from commercials. 20 subjects were between 20 and 35 years old, 19 persons between 50 and 65. The oxygen content in the blood in the individual brain regions was measured, because active nerve cells consume more oxygen. Among other things, it came out that women respond to advertising much more emotionally than men.

Different processing in men and women

Brain areas where emotions are processed become more activated in women than in male subjects. Men, on the other hand, associate what they have seen with memories from earlier times. Older consumers are reacting more strongly to established brands such as Nivea, Persil, BMW and Miele. Younger consumers are more interested in brands like Ebay or Google.

Another result confirmed the findings of the market research practice: 95 percent of the received stimuli are unconsciously recorded and processed. If a person is emotionally touched, they can keep information better.

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