We ran across this sketchy news item in Digital Chosunilbo, Korean Firms Turn to Neuromarketing. The article describes use of fMRI scans to aid the product development process:

Koreas largest cosmetics company Amorepacific asked Prof. Sung Young-shin, who teaches consumer and advertising psychology at Korea University, to conduct a study on customers recognition of its brands last year. Sungs team photographed the brain of female college students with fMRI devices while showing them ads and products of Amorepacific and famous foreign cosmetics brands.

The tests revealed that the students heard about Hera and Iope, two leading Amorepacific brands, but were not well acquainted with them. Based on the test results, Amorepacific launched a five-month campaign to overhaul its brands.

The result was Kathano Cream, released this year, which comes in a square container looking like a compact two-way cake, breaking away from the old practice of putting basic cosmetics items in round jars. The cream is easy to carry in a handbag. Company outlets in department stores were renovated to suit the colors and design of the new product, leading customers to unconsciously get accustomed to the brand. Kathano Cream is a mega-hit. LG Telecom also conducted a study on ad effects with fMRI devices, and Hyundai Motor is reportedly collecting information on neuromarketing.

It’s not quite clear how the original scans determined lack of brand familiarity, or how novel square packaging would address that issue. Perhaps the combination of a memorable (because it differed from typical packaging) container made their in-store displays and any ancillary advertising more effective.

Korean firms are increasingly on the cutting edge of product development – Samsung, for example, has clearly gone far beyond commodity consumer electronics and become one of the design leaders in the field. It should be no surprise that they would at least explore state of the art marketing techniques as well.

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