I recently met with a friend for a coffee after long time without seeing each other. She looked very different, in the best possible way. She looked radiant. She had just ended her MBA and she was now preparing herself for a big change in her life: she had just decided to move to another country to be with the love of her life. She was about to move out of her apartment and she was preparing to leave her position as an executive woman at one of the biggest companies in Colombia where she had been working for over a decade.

She told me that, of course, she had received a lot of pressure during the last year, that she had done a lot of introspective exercises to undergo this stressful period and to also understand better herself as a professional. She said to me that she looked for an understanding of herself in the more objective possible way:  a scientific perspective.

“Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, is a technique for measuring brain activity. It works by detecting the changes in blood oxygenation and flow that occur in response to neural activity – when a brain area is more active it consumes more oxygen and to meet this increased demand blood flow increases to the active area. fMRI can be used to produce activation maps showing which parts of the brain are involved in a particular mental process.”[1]

So my friend did a FMRI scan, and she was amazed by the findings: “It delivers you a precious information that allows you to rearrange some parts of your life according to what you really are. It brings you light to how you really react to everything. It reveals to you the traits of your personality and all the things that will mark your path in some way, objectively” she told me.

It was the first time I heard about someone doing this kind of test for solely professional purposes. I was really impressed. It also reminded me of a book I read a couple of years ago about a three-year, seven-million dollar- neuromarketing study by Martin Linsdtrom. Neuromarketing is quite a controversial subject today as some people argue that it is ridiculous to consider it as an accurate method to predict behaviors in large groups, as well as  ethical concerns are raised by its detractors. However, I personally find this topic fascinating, and I do admit that some of the chapters in the above-mentioned book amazed me.

“Buy-ology, Truth and Lies About Why We Buy” is “a fascinating look at how consumers perceive logos, ads, commercial, brands, and products” according to Time Magazine. Following, I transcribe a small excerpt that comes to my mind every time I find myself handing my card to my local grocery’s cashier and I notice the disgusting black lungs and fetus images on cigarettes packaging.

“Several months before conducting the study (…) about the efficacy (…) of health warnings on cigarette packs, we’d shown our American volunteers one of the most repulsive (and to my mind, effective) antismoking TV ads I’d ever seen. A group of people are sitting around chatting and smoking. They’re having a jolly good time, except for one problem: instead of smoke, thick, greenish-yellow globules of fat are pouring out of the tips of their cigarettes, congealing, coalescing, and splattering onto their ashtrays. The more the smokers talk and gesture, the more those caterpillar-sized wads pf fat end up on the table, the floor, their shirtsleeves, all over the ´lace. The point being, of course, that smoking spreads these same globules of fat and wreaking havoc with your health.

But just as with the cigarette warning labels, viewing this ad had caused our respondents’ cravings spots to come alive. They weren’t put off by some gruesome images of artery-clogging fat; they barely even noticed them. Instead, their brain’s mirror neurons latched on to the convivial atmosphere they were observing –and their “craving spots2 were activated. Another powerful antismoking message had been taken down, just like that.

In other words, overt, direct, visually explicit antismoking messages did more to encourage smoking than any deliberate campaign Marlboro or Camel could have come up with. Bur now it was time to put subliminal tobacco ads to the test.

A good-looking cowboy with a rugged landscape stretched out behind him. Two men loping along on horseback. A hillside in the American West. A jeep, speeding down a curving mountain road. A lipstick-colored sunset. A parched desert. Bright red Ferraris. Racing paraphernalia from both Formula 1 and NASCAR, including red cars and mechanics wearing signature jumpsuits. These were among the images we showed our volunteers.”[2]

Voilà the above-mentioned ad:

[1] https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-functional-magnetic-resonance-imaging-fmri/

[2] From Martin Lindstom’s “Buy-Ology. Truth and Lies About Why We Buy”, Chapter 3. 2008.

[3] Imagen: http://www.f1technical.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=20796

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