It’s only fitting my first topical blog post relate to the study that interested me in Neuromarketing. It illustrated the major disconnect between what a person believes they are thinking & what their brain is really doing.
In November 2010 the US Department of Health & Human Services announced a major effort to get people to quit smoking by requiring graphic images depicting the dangers of smoking on all cigarette packs sold in the US. Neuro-Marketing research has already shown us how this will pan out. In 2004, thousands of smokers from all over the world (including Canada where this type of shock warning has been used for several years) took part in this study. They were asked if the warning labels on cigarettes caused them to consider quitting. Nearly all of the study’s subjects said, “Yes. The warnings make me want to quit smoking.”
However, their brains told a completely different story. While connected to a machine measuring which parts of the brain react to various stimuli, they were shown only the warnings on cigarette packs – just the pieces of the packaging they said made them consider quitting. The results were pretty shocking. Images of their brains showed the part of the brain that triggers craving (the nucleus accumbens) being stimulated by the images they were shown. The warnings were doing the exact opposite of what they were intended to do. They made smokers want to smoke, not quit.
Will these warnings have any effect? In the short-term they will probably make an impact, just like any dramatic branding effort does. Most likely anyone who’s going to quit because on these images will do so in the first few months. After that, the warnings will become invisible to smokers on the conscious level, and stimulate craving on the sub-conscious level. They will also stimulate craving in people who are trying to quit. You don’t have to take my word for it. Go to Canada where they’ve used this type of graphic warning for years and smokers joke about them. This is one of those branding efforts that should work on all logical levels, but the chemistry in the minds of the audience is stronger than the message.
Originally posted Nov. 2010, re-posted after problems with my previous site.