Remember how “it doesn’t seem possible?” How much more deluded does that sound when you realize that Newtown, Connecticut is home to the headquarters of the National Shooting Sports Association, “the trade association for the firearms industry”?
Among the many illnesses plaguing this market-totalitarian society is this sponsored solipsism, in which the world only exists for other, abstract people. In the South, they believe so strongly in the sanctity of marriage and the evils of divorce, they pass Covenant Marriage statutes. But then only one percent utilize them, and the divorce rates are higher there than anywhere else. Everybody thinks our schools suck, but also adore their own children’s teachers. People get shot on TV, right?
To distract you from your mounting hopes for national glory in the women’s ten-meter air rifle competition, and as you check your wallet to make sure you’ve got your $2,885 cheap-seats ticket to the Opening Ceremony, here’s a fun diversion: What host nation-state introduced the Olympic torch relay, the thrills and wonders of which have been the object of so much MSM breathlessness in recent days?
So, big business marketers have begun taking advantage of functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. Wikipedia describes fMRI as follows:
Since the 1890s it has been known that changes in blood flow and blood oxygenation in the brain (collectively known as hemodynamics) are closely linked to neural activity.
As neurons do not have internal reserves for glucose and oxygen, more neuronal activity requires more glucose and oxygen to be delivered rapidly through the blood stream. Through a process called the hemodynamic response, blood releases glucose to neurons and astrocytes at a greater rate than in the area of inactive neurons. It results in a surplus of oxyhemoglobin in the veins of the area and distinguishable change of the local ratio of oxyhemoglobin to deoxyhemoglobin, the “marker” of BOLD for MRI.
Current fMRI research uses BOLD as the method for determining where activity occurs in the brain as the result of various experiences.
What can fMRI’s blood focus do? AdWeek recounts one example:
“This is data you cannot access with traditional tools,” says [fMRI researcher] Iacoboni. In classic focus groups and telephone survey research, he adds, “people can tell you things because of social pressure that they don’t really mean.”
One of Iacoboni’s favorite examples of this is the fMRI study he performed on Super Bowl ads. Exposed to ads that played on a female actress’ sex appeal, including one from GoDaddy.com, women who were tested dismissed it verbally as exploitative.
What was happening deep inside their brains, however, said otherwise. “Actually, they really enjoyed it,” Iacoboni says. The areas of the brain that encode reward lit up on the fMRI in the women studied; so did the areas indicating empathy—meaning despite what they said, these women saw the actress as someone they identified with and wanted to emulate.
Lovely stuff, isn’t it? Knowledge that age-old subconscious vulnerability might still trump rational desires makes it possible for corporate capitalists to craft ways of perpetuating and tapping the old and explicitly disfavored vulnerabilities. The latter just happen to be radically sexist, as well as aspirational, and therefore commercially profitable. Hence, there is simply no question about what happens next.
And guess who is making this all possible? As usual, the public:
Illuminare is banking that its experts and proprietary analytical tools will help establish it at the forefront of the world of commercial neuroscience research. Illuminare, which hired its first CEO three months ago, and [its] founders and advisors include renowned neuroscientists and radiologists from UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine.
Dr. Marco Iacoboni, an Illuminare founder, and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the UCLA Medical School,… runs the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Lab at the university’s Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center. It was founded two decades ago as one of the first dedicated academic medical research institutes to use fMRI to study the brain. Research Iacoboni conducted in 2006 on viewer reactions to that year’s Super Bowl ads eventually led to a broader interest in finding commercial applications for their efforts.
While Iacoboni and the other UCLA researchers have used a variety of tools, including EEG, in their work, they see fMRI as the leading edge of neuroscience technologies. “EEG can tell you when something happens in the brain with millisecond temporal precision, but that information is generally useless when it comes to understanding what people think and feel,” Iacoboni says. “What people think and feel is dictated by where in the brain it happens, and EEG has no way of telling you that. The temporal precision of fMRI is good enough that I can tell you what you reacted to in a commercial.”
As Iacoboni notes, EEG only measures surface electrical activity—but that’s also its main advantage over fMRI since the equipment used to detect it (at least with current technologies) is much more portable. Multiple neuromarketers have developed simple caps containing electrodes that study subjects can wear while sitting at home in their dens watching TV, for example, instead of the artificial environment of an imaging center.
“EEG became more popular because it’s cheap,” Iacoboni adds. “But you also get cheap data with it.”
Iacoboni is careful to point out that even with the ability to peer below the surface using fMRIs, “brain regions do a multitude of things, not just one.” But some associations between stimuli and brain region, he says, are stronger than others, particularly when it comes to marketing messages—and the key with fMRI is that it can hone in on those regions much more specifically than an EEG can because of the 3-D view it provides.
The official story is that the spread of the internet and wireless communications is about the spread of democracy. I take that to be patently preposterous, given the pertinent realities.
Meanwhile, consider the great marketing advantage to it all: By getting us all to participate 24/7/365, the behavioral engineers gain not just an array of spy-cams that make Big Brother purple with envy, but written, quantifiable records the ever-expanding field of “consumer behavior.”
Hence, here is marketing consultant BlueKai Analytics bragging about how its “Intent Data outperforms other data sources by 200 to 300%”:
BlueKai Intent™ is the single, largest source of Intent data qualified by in‐market actions and keyword searches in the world. It is aggregated, real‐time data from top tier websites with unique access to purchase, shopping comparison, and product research behavior from their users. Intent behaviors extracted from these sites include: price search by make and model, destination city for travel or activity on loan calculators, product comparison, or specific keyword searches. Time and again this type of data is highly correlated to consumers who are ready to buy.
Unmatched scale of over 160M in‐market shoppers across 7 key verticals
Strict Intent data qualifications
Data transparency means exact targeting without guessing
Thousands of in‐market attributes provide unparalleled targeting granularity and specificity
Intent data providers include 80% of the top 20 sites in each vertical
In case you feel like making the gesture, here’s the link to BlueKai’s “opt-out” process. [Note: I think it’s broken!]
So, you know how big business marketing is totalitarian and bound to invade every possible nook and niche of personal life?
Dig this latest report on how the professionals are busy analyzing how to manipulate the women whose personages make them the best vectors for conveying implanted corporate capitalist marketing messages to other women:
Marina Maher, which represents such brands as Procter & Gamble Co.’s Head & Shoulders and Cover Girl, Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s Poise and Kotex and Jameson Irish Wiskey, used a survey of more than 2,000 women to identify a group of 12% of women who have outsize influence on the purchase decisions of others.
These “Influence-Hers” have considerably larger social networks — both online and offline — totaling on average about 170 people they interact with regularly, compared with75 for a typical woman, said Marina Maher Managing Director Keith Hughes.
Besides having a larger social circle, they also tend to be more actively engaged with brands. The Influence-Hers are 38% more likely than typical women to “like” brands on Facebook or to provide personal information to brands they like on Facebook. They’re also 105% more likely to post positive experiences and 125% more likely to post negative experiences about brands online.
Creating something of an amplified echo chamber, the Influence-Hers can have a big impact on making Facebook marketing more effective, Mr. Hughes said. Their comments and interactions with brand wall posts are both more frequent and seen by more people, which in turn positively affects brands’ ranking in the algorithm that determines how well posts do in the “Top News” rankings of wall posts.
Turns out that these “[i]nfluential women are themselves more likely than other women to have their purchases influenced by everything from online reviews to expert endorsements.” Hurray!
Of the female influencers, 83% rely on expert reviews very or fairly often; 84% rely on consumer reviews to make purchase decisions; 42% say they’re relying more in the past few years on expert reviews; and 59% are relying more on the reviews of other consumers to make decisions.
They’re also as much as 90% more likely, depending on the category, to value the input of endorsers than other women. So the Influence-Hers both consume and generate far more buzz than other women.
Of course, no one human being packs the buzz impact of Oprah among the buzz generators, who are 76% more likely to read a book endorsed by her than are women generally.
The Influence-Hers are also 55% more likely than other women to go to a restaurant after seeing it on TV and 91% more likely to buy something for her home after seeing it on a morning TV show.
The implications of the research include a need for marketers to look beyond broad Q Scores and favorability ratings when doling out endorsement dollars, Mr. Hughes said (and, not surprisingly, Marina Maher has a proprietary index for that).
“Marketers need to be more targeted and strategic in the way they’re targeting these women,” he said. Among other things, he said brands need to give these highly influential women more opportunities to create and aggregate reviews either on Facebook or websites and to provide them with relevant information they can pass along — both branded and unbranded.
They used to talk about women’s liberation, didn’t they?
Our old reliable favorite, Axe perfumes for adolescent males, is at it again, taking heavily-researched stupidity-promotion and self-delusion to still new levels. According to the latest Advertising Age:
Axe ads have traditionally been about products that instantly turn women into lust-crazed vixens bent on coupling with Axe-wearing gents as quickly as possible. But in the first ad for the new fragrance Twist, a robot makes over the guy repeatedly during the course of a date in which the woman appears acutely interested only at the end. The ad is based on a concept co-created by consumers and ad agency Ponce (in late 2008, the agency was renamed Ponce Buenos Aires after Fernando Vega Olmos left to work on Unilever at JWT).
“Women get bored easily,” notes a version of the ad for Axe sibling Lynx in the U.K., which touts a “fragrance that changes.”
The reality, said David Cousino, global director of consumer and marketing insights at Unilever, is that all fragrances change, starting with a fresh, strong, usually citrusy top note that lasts for as long as an hour and aims to help cover the smell of alcohol-based propellants as they evaporate, progressing to a generally richer, milder mid-note and a longer-lasting and often subtler-still “dry-down” note. This is all old hat to fragrance developers and marketers, he said, but it was new and fascinating to the consumers in the development group.
“The guys linked that to the mating game and how guys are feeling that they need to constantly change and evolve to keep the girls interested,” Mr. Cousino said.
“Women get bored easily”? Really? In the 21st century, big businesses are still getting away with this?
And people wonder about the cultural impact of corporate marketing?