Did They Find the Brain’s Buy Button?

What’s The Value of Value?

Communicating that your product or service provides added value isn’t always easy and it’s even tougher when you don’t know what is considered valuable to your audience.  As marketers, we’re constantly trying to increase the perceived value of our products or services because we know that the more “value” our offering holds in the mind of the consumer, the more likely he or she is to buy.  It isn’t rocket science.  But, have you ever really pondered value and how humans decide what is valuable?

If I’m trying to increase the perceived value of my product, I had better first understand how value is determined. It’s easier deciding when the options are markedly different, but how the heck do humans determine the superiority of those products that are identically priced or that display nearly identical features?  Regardless of cost or features, different products or services are determined to be more valuable than their competitors when we ultimately choose one option.  So, how does this happen?

As Brandtrust® has explored and discussed in previous blogs, humans are irrational beings and aren’t making the logical decisions that we think we are.  The choices we make are heavily influenced by multiple factors including past experiences, cultural values, marketing, advertising, and brand loyalty.  These factors play a critical role in the value we place on certain products or services, thus ultimately affecting the purchase decisions we make.

Measuring Value Judgments

An interesting article was recently published on the Neuromarketing website by Roger Dooley titled “Closer to the Buy Button?” and sparked us to think even more deeply about value.  Dooley illustrates how the brain, decisions and value are linked (and how marketers could leverage this knowledge, so keep reading!).  Neuroeconomics researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found through functional MRI imaging that the ventromedial frontal cortex, or VMF, of the brain “plays a key role in decisions involving value.”  This finding was uncovered as subjects were offered juice boxes and chocolate bars that were purposely grouped to reflect that the candy bars were of higher value than the juice boxes.  Interestingly, subjects with normal VMF areas in their brains understood the valuation and, when given different combinations, made consistent selections.  However, those who suffered VMF damage did not and made choices that were inconsistent and not reflective of the values of the products.

The fascinating identification of the brain structure responsible for value determination gets us that much closer to understanding the mechanics of the decision-making process in its entirety and has interesting implications for the future.  Now that we’ve targeted the value determination control center, measuring that activity could help marketers determine which packaging approaches or price points imply added value.  Maybe the VMF is currently the closest thing to a “buy button” but is knowing where to find the button enough?  Which brings me to my next question….

How Do I Know What Will Push That Buy Button?

Sure, you can generate options and then run them by consumers to see which ones trigger the desired VMF responses.  But testing all product or marketing ideas utilizing functional MRIs is not particularly efficient and has a certain hit-or-miss quality.  A better approach is to start with a foundational understanding of what’s important to the consumer, what they’re using as inputs for the VMF to determine value and what they expect from a product or service.  Without that knowledge, it’s a little bit like throwing a handful of tacks at the wall and hoping that one sticks.  That foundational understanding of what’s motivating these value assessments can be achieved through deep, emotional insight mining that provides access into the consumer’s thought-process and decision-making rationale.  Not only will deep, emotional insight mining tell you what’s important or valuable to the consumer but it will tell you why it’s important and valuable.  If you’re able to gain insight into those feelings, you can better trigger the VMF and ultimately “push” that “buy button.”

NOTE: For more on what motivates consumers, check out this blog post on brands and love: “Hug Your Customers.”

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