Plain Thoughts Blog

on marketing, media and communication

This is your brain on marketing

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By peterurban - August 12th, 2008

Surfing recently (my new favorite thing to do online), I ran across a Neuroscience Marketing blog. My attitude towards the effectiveness of advertising and marketing is skeptical at best when it comes to my own consumption, so I found some of the cool facts in this blog not only provocative and interesting but also often shocking – like the fact that even the presence of particular numbers anchors our minds’ attraction to specific prices, explained here.

As a sidenote, there is a name for my distrust and self-exemption from the power of advertising: the Third Person Effect (W. Phillips Davison, 1983). Wikipedia aptly defines this hypothesis as when a person exposed to persuasive communication in mass media sees it as having a greater affect on others than on his or herself. This is not to say either way that media does, or does not have an affect on viewers whether or not they acknowledge it, but we of the media-saturated 21st century generally presume that the bombardment of visual advertising and marketing is more effective on more vulnerable demographics like, say, children.

An interesting example of how our brain structures our reaction to a product and its marketing. The blog discusses how, like wine, our expectations for other consumer goods like software largely shape our reception of certain products. Just as it’s a cultural assumption that wine from California tastes better than wine from North Dakota, the bad press surrounding Vista from the get-go developed negative assumptions for Microsoft that were (and still are) tough to beat. To prove that the distaste for Vista was at least partially due to the impressionability of users, an experiment was conducted in which users tested and asked to rate Mojave (Vista in disguise), the “next” Microsoft OS. Testament to the strength of expectation, 94% percent of the users rated Mojave higher than Vista and gushed about how “cool” it looked and how “great” it functioned Read more about the experiment here – I highly recommend checking it out.

Its funny, that blog post really increased my sympathy for PC and Microsoft. Further, the depiction of Microsoft in the Mac commercials makes me want to reach out and give that poor man a hug. Maybe not the response that Mac was going for, but it definitely gets a reaction. The pervasive smugness among Mac users anchored by the attitude of those commercials has always irked me, to the point that until this summer I adamantly refused to admit that Macs were just, well, better.

Me? Influenced by advertising? Never!

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