Natasha Singer at the NYT writes a fabulously insincere and ominous article on neuromarketing. She works all sides of all fences, pitting anyone against everyone with the artful weave of quotes and sequence. She’s like a bullfighter in a pasture of cows, whirling her cape to create a stampede. Ole!
Of course, the truth is in the article, but you need a shovel to find it. No one except for zealots believes that neuromarketing knows anything more than plain old marketing, but that it is worth following in case it does deliver a Falling Apple. Right now, “Neuro-” is one of those Cool Table prefixes like “i-” that conveys a hip nuance, science without pocket protectors, folks living twenty minutes into the future. Be There or Be Square!
Neuromarketing cannot and will not deliver more than Marketing 101 because neuro is about the brain and marketing is about the Other Guy. And, if you think persuasion mavens need to know the difference between P4 and voxels to understand the Other Guy, you’re forgetting the Rule (amended):
Great Persuaders Don’t Need Rich Uncles, Kindness from Strangers, or Third Party Vote Splitters, or iNeuro toys.
Now, neuroscience is legit and provides continuing insight into the basic science of brain and behavior. The likely Cool Table payoff with neuroscience will be with brain disorders and their cure, moderation, or palliation. The Pharma guys should be more interested in the neuro girls and boys than should the marketing guys.
Natasha Singer does zero in on the key fright feature: Subliminal! She spins that one through the herd with grace and style. What If? What If? She lures a privacy expert into a lunge. She compels a PhD Engineer into a retreat. What If?
What If we can deliver subliminal messages efficiently and effectively to either unknowingly or foolishly cooperative receivers?
I conceal my answer with “unknowingly or foolishly.” It borders on both metaphysical and scientific certainty that people will never be unknowing enough long enough and often enough for subliminal messages to conquer. Subliminals only and ever work when you don’t know there’s a magic show in town. And, you cannot hide magic shows long enough and often enough to conquer.
Now, that “foolishly cooperative” is a cow of a different color. Get in the Way Back Machine and hit the button for Germany 1933. Not too hard to imagine what the Ministry of Propaganda would do with subliminals. And, no tricks, Ma. Nothing up my sleeves, here’s my platform for your vote. Join the Party and wear this cool cap with visor and ear buds. And the rest is falling off the log and persuasion gravity.
But, that’s not really a neuro story. That’s a persuasion story.
Ole! Neuromarketing. Ole! NYT. But you gotta worry about the horns of human nature.