Voodoo Neuroeconomics


In neuromarketing, it’s not uncommon to see a big leap from actual research data to a questionable business conclusion. It turns out that neuroeconomics research can be similarly used. You can be the judge of whether BrandMillion.com is one of these wacky and unsupportable leaps or the Next Big Thing. The firm’s press release, BrandMillion? Pays Consumers for ?Mind Position?, cites the fMRI-based branding research we described in Brain Branding: The Power of Strong Brands. In this case, the actual research data from work by Christine Born in Munich showed that familiar brands evoke a more positive reaction in the brain than unfamiliar ones. Here’s the big leap:

Consider this: If a computer can be thought of as an electronic brain, then a consumer?s brain can be thought of as an organic computer–and a form of electronic media. Now consumers can earn ad dollars for their intellectual space, their minds.

Why not? All other advertising space is paid for. Advertisers buy space in other media such as television or magazines for external ads that allow them to achieve a position within the customers? minds. What BrandMillion has done is to simply, and brilliantly, allow the ad money (reward) to continue to flow–directly to the consumer.

BrandMillion rewards consumers for their brand awareness by giving them rewards, including products for brand searches, and soon to come, a portion (20 percent) of its advertising revenues.

The method for rewarding users seems quite odd. Apparently, the first user to search for a particular brand receives a reward. The second user to suggest that brand must wait until the advertiser places a second ad. Presumably, the thousandth user to search for a brand has to wait for another 998 ads to be placed. Any neuroscience aside, basic economic analysis suggests that an early user would be wise to search for thousands of brands and hope to be in the first position for some of them. Every incremental user, though, has a lower possibility of a quick reward. The busier the site gets, the smaller the chance of a reward. Perhaps we’re missing something, but the site’s FAQ states,

I see ads on the site for brands I have recorded searches for. Why haven’t I earned any rewards?

Other consumers entered the same brands earlier than you. Your entries are further down on the list and you will need to wait for future ad placements to earn a reward.

In addition to the self-defeating nature of the reward system, the basic branding theory seems flawed – rather than building brand awareness, BrandMillion requires the user to enter the properly spelled brand name. While I suppose that could reinforce brands that pop into the consumer’s mind, the brands that need help are the ones that aren’t at that level of awareness. With or without the neuroeconomics tie-in, this concept is a non-starter.

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