Friday, May 27, 2011

Neuromarketing

Off lately, Neuromarketing is attracting more and more interest from marketers as a way of getting at the unconscious processes that lie behind consumers’ attitudes, feelings and behavior. A study was recently launched at the University of Oxford to study how Neuromarketing is changing market research and what this means for society. The study will also look into the possible implications for society and politics if consumers are seen to be less personally responsible for their decisions.


What does this mean?

It is one thing to see which parts of the brain become active in response to a stimulus. It is another to interpret what this means or what you can do with it.

According to neuroscientists, there are 3 main parts to the brain, each functioning as a brain unto itself. These "three brains" - nestled inside one another -- are as follows.

  • The "Human" ("New," or outer-most) Brain: Most evolved part of the brain known as the cortex. Responsible for logic, learning, language, conscious thoughts and our personalities.
  • The "Mammalian" (Middle) Brain: Also known as the limbic system. Deals with our emotions, moods, memory and hormones.
  • The "Reptilian" (Old) Brain: Also known as the R Complex controls our basic survival functions, such as hunger, breathing, flight-or-fight reactions and staying out of harm's way.

While neuromarketing is still a young field with many unanswered questions, one finding is clear:

The reptilian, or "old," brain drives your customers' buying decisions

Various studies have used:
  • Verbal report (e.g. scene recognition, brand preference)
  • Behavior e.g. purchase vs non purchase (Ambler, Knutson)
  • Different segment reactions (e.g. Democrats vs Republican brains are said to react differently to political advertisements)

But mostly the focus has been on correlation with so called ‘known centers’ such as: reward centre, self referencing centre, face recognition centre, liking centre, anticipation centre etc.

As a result, neuromarketing studies have increasingly pointed to various ‘known centers’ in the brain. Yet knowledge about these so called ‘known centers’ is often sketchy and the claims about their function are often reasoned speculation rather than known fact.


Trouble in paradise

The problem is that keeping up with the neuroscience literature is like trying to drink from a fire-hose. As the noted neurobiologist Steven Rose said: “The world-wide effort being poured into the neurosciences is producing an indigestible mass of facts at all levels.”

It is becoming extraordinarily difficult for full time neuroscientists to keep up - let alone businesses. Let’s face it… marketing is not interested in science or complexity. The truth is that marketing clients want ‘KIS’ not complexity. They want simplicity - an easy to understand, single number solution that says ‘this ad (or pack, or scene) ... is good/bad ….and says whether it will work or won’t work. Rather than try to drink from that fire-hose, there is a temptation for marketing to oversimplify and over-claim.


Threat

So as this bandwagon called neuromarketing picks up speed, some of the same threats that killed off previous technologies are re-emerging. A key one is over-claiming. It is an unfortunate fact that the sale of ‘smoke & mirrors’ often outsells substance. At least in the short term.

Bias towards over claiming exists in the media as well as in the marketing of consulting services to clients. The media love sensationalist stories that can carry a headline like "'Buy centre of the brain found“. As a result, journalistic reporting is prone to outstrip the scientific substance.


Conclusion

Neuromaketing is expected to open up a whole new world of understanding of the mind. As it develops, neuroscience will deliver increasingly powerful, marketing insights.

Its immediate application to general marketing requires businesses to tread carefully and disentangle the scientific substance from the promotional hype. Businesses prepared to exercise this caution and engage with it now have an opportunity for early-mover advantage before its application of neuromarketing gets constrained by regulation.

In the longer term, neuromarketing will be far more socially welcome for applications that focus on products and causes with a clear social benefit - applications like road safety messages and persuading people to give up smoking or to resist over-eating. Developing and testing strategies that are designed to cure rather than create social pathologies is hard to argue with. Used in this type of application, neuromarketing will be refined to public applause, rather than public alarm.

Compiled from various sources:
Images courtesy: francisanderson.files.wordpress.com, socialhallucinations.com

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Letter to my 14 year old self

Hey there! Howdy?

Due to an erratically placed birthday and honest parents who refused to change your actual birth dates compared to birth dates in record, you have been seeing that you are about 6-7 months older than your average class mates. This will continue for the rest of your life (at least till you complete graduation for sure)

Now that you are in eighth standard, you are so damn scared of the DAV boards that are about to happen later that year aren’t you? Don’t be. The exams will go swell and anyhow they are nothing like the life that you have laid ahead of you.

Believe it or not, you will graduate as an engineer (now would be the right time to stop reading and focus on something else if you don’t want to screw your future by becoming one) from a premier engineering institute of the country (go ahead… laugh with relief).

Not only that; having faced the doom of being an engineer you will set out for something far bigger and expected to provide you with a “holistic view of approaching discussions” and “multifaceted approach and managerial viewpoints". Yes you guessed it right. You are doomed to become an MBA (though from yet another premier institute). Just like all had been Bollywood actors line up for stupid box; inadvertently almost all engineers line up for an MBA. Though, by passing out in the year 2009, how should I put it delicately and yet not reveal a lot that is about to happen in future; you would still realize less than the ideal placements that you would expect from an IIM (oops!).

So now that we have gotten THAT out of the system, there are some pointers that I would like to give out to you for smooth sailing in the future.

Learn to play an instrument: Throughout your life, you will have the regret of not having learnt a musical instrument. Not having been blessed with a musical voice, or for that matter any musical telent whatsoever, you fill find it disconcerting that you cannot play a musical instrument to save your life. But, now you still have so much time at your hand. So you can do that!
Learn foreign language: You have always wanted to learn a foreign language. Be it French, Japanese, Chinese etc. take some time to learn one now that you are still in school. Will go a long way to help you out.
PS: Learn Japanese. Will help you watch Manga without the need of subtitles :D

Propose to that cute blonde girl: You see that cute blonde girl that you have been wanting to, but hesitating in, ask out. Yes, the one with curly pigtails. Don’t be hesitant and go ask her out. Because she too has been hesitating in asking you out! Not much of a CV point, you may say. But will help you much more than many other such points combined ;)

More than just studies: Later this year your maths teacher, Ms. Subramaniam, will insist that you do more than just studies. Your parents will also insist on getting you some exposure to swimming. Let them. The all just want to help you out! Go for some sports etc. play some basketball, Badminton etc. You know you like them. You will get to like them more.

Develop your talents: You have always known that you have a bit of a flair for drama. The stint with NSD this summer will just go to prove that you are right. Not to mention the gazillions of anecdotes of your relatives’ account of you saying “aap ko jaana hai toh meri laash ke upar se jao” (If you have to go, you would have to do so over my dead body!). So go ahead yaar and develop into something more.


Now that you have read the complexly worded sentences so far without developing a serious headache, this should also give you a hint of another latent talent you have and part of which you have realized for quite some time now; a voracious reading appetite (in addition to voracious appetite if I may add!.. so look out for that one). Anyhow, what I was referring to was what your English teachers often complained and will complain about is your exceedingly complicated writing style. That is your latent talent and you would do well to develop it.

Though, fun parts apart, some serious tips too!

Don't be afraid: Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself. In retrospect, you'll always wish you had. You’ll always wish you had said no to someone when you should have.

Disappointments are a part of life: Sometimes people will disappoint you in your expectations. On other times, you may be a disappointment to others. While efforts may always be done to ensure that it is not so, but all said and done just accept that fact and move on.

 Enjoy life: I understand that you always feel the need to be in control of things around you. But don’t forget to relax and have fun once in a while.

Life is not fair: Life may be tough for a short while. But always remember that everything in the life is a phase. And like all phases, as good phases come and go, so do bad phases. Sometimes the things may be such that you might look for some exit strategies. But you know you're better than that. There would be times when you will look back on those incidents and laugh out loud.



Kid! See you around in another fourteen years.


Images courtesy: impactinit.assetsdelivery.com, qbtpl.net, just4lovers.files.wordpress.com, whitneymcd7.files.wordpress.com, adviceforyou.org.uk, polyvore.com, sportsandgammingfun.com, sanskritika.gecj.ac.in, gallery.photo.net, clintoncountygov.com, ldswhy.com

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thoughts of a poor man

Following is a guest post by Abhirup
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The wind blows
And the ice melts,
The poor dies
and poverty lives

You were not different
from me brother,
You have the same
blood and flesh and bones

The same winter shrills us both,
The same summer warmth us both,
We played in the same fields
and sat under the same tree

But are we different now?
You live in palaces,
I live in huts
You are King, I am just a servant

I worked hard all day and long
but my child still went hungry to bed
Did you ever experience
What it feels to starve?

Were we this different?
You looked at me but walked away,
I kept looking at you,
Perhaps you will turn back

You enjoyed a lavish meal that night
But I had to starve.
I died a week later,
Did you shed a tear brother?

You had to live,
and I had to die.
The poor had to die
And poverty had to live.

But did you shed a tear brother?
I ask myself.
Perhaps you did or perhaps you didn't
But I had to die for poverty to live.

------------------------------------------------------------

Abhirup Bhattacharya did his graduation in Fashion Technology(Apparel Production) from NIFT following which he worked in Egypt as merchandiser for clients like Walmart. He will be joining the NMIMS Core MBA program from June 2011.
Twitter id: abhirupbh

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The benefits (or the tragedy as the case may be) of being a female in an Indian B School

For those of you have been to a B-school would surely agree with me that there are several benefits that are associated with being a female in an otherwise testosterone charged environment of a B school.

In both engineering (not talking about IGIT) and management education (not talking about XLRI or other HR management instis) there is a dearth of female candidates. Thus, all that the male candidates want is a more demographic representation of the countries’ male-female ratio in these institutes. In these hallowed institutions, sightings of a fellow homo-sapiens from venus is considered a divine sign and properly revered.

Here I will make but a mere attempt to list down some benefits which, inadvertently or otherwise, get bestowed upon our fairer counterparts.

During the GD/PI process of B schools: Being a female in a group of twelve people seated for a round of “Group Discussion” has its own merit. By an unsaid rule, most of guys; who would otherwise be at each others throat to put forward their viewpoint and gain the attention of the moderator, would fall silent like a lamb the moment any girl (NOTE: GIRL and not aunties) opens her mouth. Even if she had opened her mouth to yawn, everyone would be falling over each other to give her a chance to “prove” her in the discussions and “put forward” her views. The interviewers are always more favorable to the female applicants. While the questions to a male candidate may vary from quantum application of Freudian theory (abstract right?) to the heat transfer equation between two high friction bodies; the question world invariably be about hobbies, interests and generally insipid subjects for the female candidates.

Committees: During the numerous rounds of interviews and discussion for plethora of committees that each B school invariably has, females are given a preferential treatment in two ways: Firstly- a lot of time they are always preferred over male candidates as it is assumed to boost the morale of the fellow teammates; Secondly- The interviews starting from generally eight in the evening till the sun shines; inadvertently has early interview slots for females to avoid them any “discomfort”.

Project groups: I had a professor in my institute who reserved special attention for the female students with his favorite dialogue “LAA will take care of those who take care of LAA”. In fact, a lot many professors specifically request that each group MUST contain at least one female; leave aside the logic that there aren’t that many females in the entire campus to begin with (I am not kidding…. Seriously). It is particularly at such times that the females have the time of their lives as they just have to make sure they get into a good group. The work and other such trivial matters shall be taken care of by the fellow group mates. And nobody resents them for doing as such.

Placements: Unfortunately, the situation reverses at the time of placements when the odds are indescribably in the favor of fairer sex. In most of the cases, an educated (trust me even big names are not required) female from the institutes (even if they are from Baburao Ganpat Rao Apte Institute of Medical, Engineering and Commerce Studies), with decent “attributes” are amongst the first ones to land with the best of the jobs. That’s not to say that they are not qualified for the job, heaven knows I have seen more than my fair share of qualified females during both engineering and MBA, but that sometimes other glaring attributes may also play a significant role. It is at those times that all males rue the fairer sex and crib about them.

In general: Did I mention that close to 90% junta in a typical B school comprises of engineer who, for the sake of their lives, have never been close to a female colleagues of any kind. Except perhaps an odd She-male, which frankly isn’t saying much! So imagine their awe and wonder when a live female of their project group (well they don’t necessarily need to be that either) comes up to them and request for a simple thing such as making a project report overnight from scratch or getting a survey filled by some two hundred odd people. That awe and wonder, more often than not, forces these silly awestruck morons to bow down to the whims and fancies of her ladyship and do exactly as they are told. After all, who can refuse that sad puppy look?

These are but a few benefits that I have been able to capture. Please feel free to add more if you feel I have missed out some of the “aspects”

PS: I had written a short post on Stereotypes in a class, Do give it a read too!

PPS: This post inspired by a post I read here. DO go through. A very interesting read this one turned out to be!

Images courtesy: i.ehow.com, i.ehow.co.uk,  www.calacademy.org