Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Campbells goes deep for soup

The subject of neuromarketing first came up in the discussion and assignment on the video The Persuaders. The Wall Street Journal reports today how Campbell Soup is using neuromarketing techniques to get consumers to buy more soup, which it turns out is a slow growing category. The article reports that Campbell has been studying “microscopic changes in skin moisture, heart rate and other biometrics to see how consumers react to everything from pictures of bowls of soup to logo design." This approach is a far cry from the traditional focus group or consumer attitudinal survey. And, it goes beyond the kinds of deep psychological analysis utilized by Clotaire Rapaille. I first became aware of neuromarketing when medical turned marketing researches utilized MRIs to study consumer reactions to television commercials.
Researchers could see what areas of the brain “lit up” as the commercial progressed. This allowed the advertiser to edit the commercial for maximum emotional effect. Clearly, we are going to see more of this as marketers utilize multiple techniques to get inside our heads. This is not about consumer psychology; it’s about biometric responses to marketing issues. Welcome to the future.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Toyota Engages NASCAR fans

I don’t know about you, but the several feet of snow in front of my house is really inhibiting my lifestyle. I’m spending even more time than usual with popular culture, including lots of unavoidable advertising. Which brings me to my viewing of the Daytona 500 NASCAR race on Sunday, which was a sheer act of desperation. I cannot think of anything more boring than watching automobile racing. Yes, I know it’s the fastest growing sport (is it a sport?) in the United States. But don’t count me among its fans. One of the ads I saw was for Toyota racing, which directed the viewer to their website. It’s a really interactive website, and provides a good example of participatory advertising. In particular, I was drawn to the “Design it. Enter it” link that enabled the participant to do all kinds of fun things to a race car. And when finished, you can submit it to a contest. I spent a good deal of time playing around with this pretty cool feature (you can now tell I’m really stir-crazy!). I bring this to your attention, because I spent a considerable amount of time with this brand, and that’s the goal of participatory advertising: to create deep engagement that is sustained over time. Engagement is the new metric (way to measure) advertising effectiveness. We all know that most 30-second commercials go in one ear and out the other, so if an advertiser can get you to participate with their brand in some form or fashion over a sustained period of time, the likely result is deep engagement. Different brands go about it different ways – Starbucks is the pre-eminent user of multiple engagement platforms. But this Toyota website is a good example of how the “new” advertising works. Check it out and let me know what you think – even if you aren’t a fan of Danica Patrick.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Virtual Goods and the Loss of Touch

Kinesics is the study of body language and in that gestures. Simply put a gesture is a cultural practice, like greeting someone by shaking his or her hand. But in our postmodern society, gestures take on new meaning as those who frequent Facebook or Second Life or some other on-line “world” that allows for what may be referred to as virtual gestures. Among the many ways gestures, virtual or authentic, are utilized is to show emotion. And, so on Valentine’s Day, one might give or receive virtual flowers--an emotional gesture--through Facebook. You may think this is absurd, but the virtual goods market is now $1.5 billion per year, according to a post on TechCrunch.

I'm bringing this phenomenon to your attention to point out the way virtual gestures connect to postmodern advertising. If the kind of virtual goods that are being sold aren’t about the product—remember the product is virtual—then what else is it about? Well, one thing is the emotion associated with the gesture. I think that emotions associated with gesturing go back before there were such things as virtual goods. In my book Advertising in Everyday Life I write about the loss of tactility that accompanied the development of mass-produced goods. By loss of tactility, I’m referring to our removal from the means of production – we no longer make our own stuff. And, because of packaging, we are unable to see or touch products we purchase, as just about everything comes sealed in a box. So, in my opinion the act of purchasing goods has been “virtual” for a long time; services because they are intangible to begin with, have always been virtual by my definition. So, virtual goods are no big deal in my opinion, just an extension of a cultural practice—gesture—that is more than 100 years old. What has replaced our ability to “touch” products is advertising. Yes, in a postmodern sense we touch advertising through our participation with it. Whether it’s consumer generated advertising or simply voting, which I’ve written about in this blog, these are both gestures. So, I think that purchasing virtual goods is novel, but the ideas upon which it is based are not new. I think, like postmodern advertising, tactility and in that gestures have taken on extended meaning.