Neuromarketing Firm Injects Buying Impulses

San Jose-based NeuroInject thinks they have developed the killer app for neuromarketers: a way to not only sense what customers think about an advertisement or product they are viewing, but to actually make the customer want it.

“For years, people have been talking about a ‘buy button’ in the brain, but always in a metaphorical sense,” said NeuroInject CEO Colin Pastakis. “Now, we know there actually is a tiny area of the brain directly associated with purchase decisions. And, our new cap technology can change its state.” Pastakis would not identify the specific brain structure involved, as the firm has a patent pending on their process.

The premise is simple enough. Subjects are recruited for a market study in which they will view a few commercials while their responses are being monitored. The cap looks like a typical EEG cap used by other neuromarketing firms, but has one key difference. Although Pastakis was unwilling to divulge exactly how it works, at the point when the product or brand logo appears on the screen, a brief electromagnetic pulse can be sent to activate the area of the brain NeuroInject identified as related to a buying decision.

“It really works,” Pastakis said. “We’ve seen subjects drive out of our parking lot, and pull into the convenience store across the street to buy a soft drink whose commercial they just watched. And, they are completely unaware of why they did that.” A followup survey showed that 87% of the subjects purchased the soft drink in question within 24 hours after the study. When asked why they made the purchase, “I was thirsty” and “I like the taste” were the most common answers, according to Pastakis.

We asked Pastakis about safety. “No worries,” he said. “Even at full power, our cap emits less radiation than four or five cell phones. And, we know cell phones are perfectly safe.”

Pastakis was unable to provide a client list, stating he was bound by non-disclosure agreements. The firm has ambitious plans to expand nationwide. “We have to provide scalability for our clients,” Pastakis said. “Eventually, we’ll be conducting studies in hundreds of cities.”

Until they can ramp up their location count, NeuroInject is focusing on working with smaller numbers of influential individuals. “Bloggers are the easiest to attract. We invite them to a special event for ‘elite influencers’ and tell them we want their opinion on a new product. Providing free food and drinks really increases the yield factor.” After the studies, according to Pastakis, 72% wrote a favorable post about the product, and 89% tweeted about it. One well-known blogger not only wrote a blog post about the product but tweeted about it through several accounts, with each account repeating the message several times.

This technology seems certain to raise new questions about the nascent neuromarketing industry, but Pastakis isn’t concerned. In fact, he invites critics to participate in a study personally to assure themselves of its safety. “The last vocal critic we wired up concluded there was no reason for concern and left singing our praises,” said Pastakis.

[NOTE: This was our April 1, aka April Fool's Day, post.]

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— who has written 959 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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9 responses to "Neuromarketing Firm Injects Buying Impulses" — Your Turn

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Alan Bergstrom 1. April 2011 at 9:41 am

Roger:
great April Fools Day post! I wonder how many people will fall for it. You did a great job making it sound somewhat convincing…even making the image seem like it was pulled by “NeuroInject”! How fun! BTW, keep up the great work…love your posts; they are always very informative (well, mostly, except on April Fools Day).

Alan Bergstrom

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Alain Nonyme 1. April 2011 at 9:44 am

There is only one problem : there is no trace of a firm called NeuroInject.

It looks like a hoax.

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Ranjan 1. April 2011 at 10:14 am

Vow, and happy April Fools Day :)

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Lee 1. April 2011 at 10:16 am

Ha, ha! Nice one ;)

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Brad Bierwagen 1. April 2011 at 11:02 am

I’m onboard with Alain. Roger – thinkin’ this is your version of the Google’s April Fools’ play. Nice satire of NM critics and their misunderstandings of the science.

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Logan 1. April 2011 at 11:04 am

This seems more like neuromanipulation then market research and if true has the potential to do untold harm to neuromarketing. I know that if this turns out to be true, i would never allow an anonymous company put a neuocap on me, no matter what their supposed goals.

That said, i am not convinced that this passes the sniff test. Did they release the purchase numbers from the control group from the “elite influences” study? Most of these bloggers are ego maniacs and simply including them in an “elite influences” group is going to make them talk about their inclusion. On top of that, they know that if they want to get back they better talk about what they were invited and paid (food in this case) to talk about.

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Logan 1. April 2011 at 11:05 am

i really need to check the calendar before posting…

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Caroline Winnett 1. April 2011 at 11:06 am

Roger, you made my day!

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Marc Van Rymenant 4. April 2011 at 3:02 am

EEG can only have access to the superficial cortex of our brain. All the zones involved in a preference to purchase something are located inside the brain (Putamen, BA 10, 11, 24, 32, …). The only way to measure these zones is through fMRI. Is this a joke ? The website Neuroinject.com doesn’t exist and the domain name is free !!!! Really !!! :)

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