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Dynamic Research Journals (DRJ)

Journal of Economics and Finance (DRJ-JEF)


Volume 2 ~ Issue 5 (May, 2017) pp: 01-10
ISSN (Online); 2520-7490
www.dynamicresearchjournals.org

Neuromarketing: The Journey to Better Consumer Understanding


1
Thabani Nyoni and 2Wellington G. Bonga
1
nyonithabani35@gmail.com; 2sirwellas@gmail.com

Abstract: The idea that consumers are rational decision makers, who carefully consider options when making a
decision about a certain phenomenon, will soon phase out! Believe it or not. In a bid to better understand the
consumer, a myriad of economists still waste their precious time on not-so-deep modifications and
elaborations of mainstream economic models, some of which are barely shallow. Economists who solely rely
on linear models because they are more palatable are simply myopic, naturally or by default. The journey to
better consumer understanding is not an easy walk. There is ample evidence to prove that consumer decision
making is complex rather than simple as portrayed by orthodox economic models. Businesses need to fully
understand the consumer decision making processes for them to thrive in the current competitive business
environment which is now a global village. Existing purely economic models have proven insufficient in
explaining human behavior, precisely because they do not explore the subconscious brain and yet the
subconscious brain has been shown to be very instrumental in decision making processes. It is high time,
economists, marketers and researchers explore, at least deeper, the human brain itself, to uncover the true forces
behind consumer purchasing dynamics. This paper looks at the human brain from a neuromarketing
perspective, to shade more light on our quest to better understand the consumer brain. The paper begins by
explaining and then refuting the highly celebrated and esteemed rational choice theory, after which the human
brain is explored. The paper, among other recommendations, encourages modern day researchers to combine
their traditional consumer research methods with neurological research methods if neuromarketing is anything
to go by, in light of ever increasing global competition.
Keywords : Consumer Brain, Consumer Decision Making, Economic Agents, Marketing, Neuroeconomics,
Neuromarketing, Rational Choice Theory
JEL Codes: B21, D01, D03, D11, D12, D79, D81, M19, M31, M37, P36, P46

I. Introduction
Traditionally, marketers, just like traditional economists, considered all the decisions of the consumer
to be rational. Marketing research has been progressive for decades and yet it has not been able to unlock the
biological and physiological underpinnings that inform consumer choice. In fact, before the emergence of
neuromarketing, marketers usually recognized the human brain as a black box into which no one was able to
fully gain access. The black box was regarded as a no-go-area.
During that (pre-neuromarketing) era, marketing researchers solely depended on retrospective
theoretical constructs to predict and properly expagorate consumer behavior. As a result, marketers were
dependent on indirect ways of obtaining data such as focus groups and interviews in trying to uncover the
underlying processes of consumer decision making. However, such traditional marketing research methods are
not reliable precisely because they apparently provide self-reported assessments that suffer problems such as
unwillingness to reveal the truth among other drawbacks1. The main logic of combining neurological data with
marketing research is based on the undisputable fact that by so doing marketing researchers uncover the
underlying unconscious and affective processes that affect consumer behavior and yet not really understood so
far.
Apparently, there is overwhelming evidence to prove that the majority of the consumers decisions are
in fact not rational. The idea that consumers are rational decision makers, who carefully consider options when
making a decision about a certain phenomenon will soon phase out. Even consumers themselves, have a
tendency of believing that their decisions are actually backed by logical reasoning and yet in reality this may not
always be the case.
Most decision making models, as indicated by literature, do not address the dynamic organic processes
of human behavior, but instead suggest that consumer behavior can be studied as a rigid, linear process, and yet
consumer decision making is actually hinged on dynamic organic processes in the human brain. Therefore, any

1
see Nyoni & Bonga (2017b; 2017c) for more information
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model that seeks to really understand consumer decision making dynamics ought to explore the anatomy of the
human brain, at least to the extent reasonable for the study of neuromarketing. Neuromarketing has been
operationally defined by Nyoni & Bonga (2017b) as the use of neurological research methods to better
understand the thought patterns of the consumers with the potential of identifying the buy-buttons in the
consumers brain in order to make marketing and advertising more effective.

II. The Economic Decision Making Model: The Rational Choice Theory
Consumer decision making can be defined as the process by which consumers make their purchase
decisions based on either cognitive or affective influences or both. Various researchers, economists and
psychologists have attempted to characterize consumer decision making in quite different ways. Basically, the
disciplines of Economics and Psychology have contributed a significant number of predictive models that have
been primarily designed to link economic and cognitive algorithms that characterize consumer decision making
from diverse perspectives. The most widely read and acknowledged predictive model in Economics is the
Rational Choice Theory postulated by Muth (1961). This model is shown below:
Figure 1: The Standard Economic Model of Decision Making

The rational choice theory is a model which is used, mainly by economists, in understanding economic
behaviors, particularly, how individuals or economic agents make choices between different alternatives. This
theory, which has been over-popularized, as a standard economic model of decision making, states that
individuals make their decisions based on utility maximization. This apparently implies that economic agents
will always attempt to get the most value for the least amount of resources (money) they have.
Utility maximization simply means that economic agents generally seek to make sensible decisions
that will give them the most benefit and satisfaction. However, it is important to note that this satisfaction is
actually subjective to that particular economic agent or individual consumer and apparently refers to their own
personal implicit or explicit judgments. Rational decision making, occurs consciously or cognitively and
apparently refers to the use of the theory of utility maximization. Therefore, based on the rational choice theory,
economic agents apparently make rational decisions that are consistent with their own personal and or selfish
objectives and with boundaries imposed by certain given conditions.
According to the rational choice theory, when faced with various courses of action; economic agents
will do what they believe is likely to produce the best results. In order to make rational decisions, it is assumed
that economic agents will take stock of necessary information in an objective way, take stock of available
possible alternatives and make choices that have the greatest possibility of maximizing their expected benefits;
at the same time, reducing any costs or short falls.
A rational choice analysis of the market for green mealies, for instance; would basically involve a
description of the desired purchases of green mealies by buyers, the desired production and sales of green
mealies by sellers, and how these desired purchases and desired sales interact to determine the price and
quantity sold of green mealies in the market. The typical green mealies buyer is faced with the problem of how
much of his or her income to spend on green mealies as opposed to some other goods or services. The typical
green mealies seller is faced with the problem of what quantity of green mealies to produce and what price to
charge for them.
Exactly how does the buyer choose how much of his or her income to spend on green mealies? Exactly
how does the seller choose the quantity of green mealies to produce and what price to charge? There are,
admittedly, a plethora of answers to these questions. They may make their choices based on, lets say, habit;
where current decisions would just be a continuation of what has been done in the past. The decisions could be
made randomly. In contrast, the rational choice approach to this problem is based on the fundamental premise
that the choices made by buyers and sellers are best choices, given all relevant factors that are beyond their
control. The basic idea behind rational choice theory is that economic agents do their best under prevailing
circumstances.
The rational choice theory of consumer behavior is based on the following axioms regarding consumer
preferences: [for more information see Kreps (1990), Mas-Collel et al (1995), and Varian (2006)]

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 The consumer faces a known set of alternative choices.


 For any pair of alternatives (A and B, say), the consumer either prefers A to B, prefers B to A,
or is indifferent between A and B. This is the axiom of completeness.
 These preferences are transitive. That is, if a consumer prefers A to B and B to C, then s/he
necessarily prefers A to C. If s/he is indifferent between A and B, and indifferent between B
and C, then s/he is necessarily indifferent between A and C.
 The consumer will choose the most preferred alternative. If the consumer is indifferent
between two or more alternatives that are preferred to all others, s/he will choose one of those
alternatives, with the definite choice from among them remaining indeterminate.
Therefore, the rational behavior implies in the rational choice theory in that kind of behavior which is
in line with these axioms. Any other choice which is not in harmony with these axioms is therefore irrational. In
rational choice theory, rationality means only that an individuals choices reflect the most preferred feasible
alternative implied by preferences that are complete and transitive, that is; choices reflect utility maximization.
Based on this theory, decision makers undergo a conscious process before choosing potential courses
of action in which all given alternatives can be evaluated and then execute the decision that will maximize
utility. As you can see, the rational choice theory, provides a clear and straightforward model of consumer
decision making and yet, by being too explicit and narrow, the rational choice theory, unintentionally
oversimplifies the salient issues involved in the decision making process and ostensibly dismisses other essential
contributing factors that not only exist but also describe and predict how consumers behave. These other factors
are non-other than psychological and neurological aspects of consumer decision making.

III. Confuting, Rather Than Confusing The Rational Choice Model


The rational choice model has attracted a lot of criticism especially since the emergence of the
discipline of Neuroeconomics, which gave birth to the controversial, and yet paramount, field of
Neuromarketing. The main problem with the rational choice theory is that it emphasizes on inputs and outputs
and yet it does not clearly and convincingly tell us how economic agents experience and actually undergo the
complex and highly subjective process of choice formation. The rational choice theory does not consider the
motivational influences on consumer behavior and apparently undermines the intermediate processes of WHY
an economic agent might choose one alternative over another.
The Prospect Theory proposed by Kahneman & Tversky (1979), is one of the earlier decision making
models to challenge the assumption of human rationality in economic decision making. Kahneman & Tversky
(1979) demonstrated that there are many contradictions in human behavior that cause individuals to respond
differently to the same choice asked in different contexts. For instance, they found that participants would drive
far distances to save $5 on a $15 calculator purchase but would not commute the same distance to save $5 on a
$125 coat. Similarly, when given a choice between getting $1000 with certainty or having a 50% chance of
receiving $2500, most participants chose to get $1000.
However, when participants were told that they could either certainly lose $1000 or have a 50% chance
of no loss or a $2500 loss; participants chose to take the risk and opted for the latter alternative (Dubner, 2010).
These contradictions in participants' risk-aversion and risk-seeking behavior is a clear demonstration of the fact
that human behavior is not consistent at all and provides strong evidence for the idea that consumers or
customers are not always rational when making decisions. In reality, there are a lot of circumstances in which
consumers prove to be irrational.
According to the Prospect Theory individuals make decisions between probabilistic alternatives based
on subjective evaluations of gains and losses, a process that relies heavily on heuristics, which are mental
shortcuts that allow us to make both efficient and abrupt decisions, without taking in all relevant information. In
this theory, Kahneman & Tversky (1979), directly refute the rational economic decision making model, in the
sense that they strongly argue that individuals do not make fully comprehensive and calculative analyses during
the decision-making process but rather develop neural mechanisms and shortcuts to aid the process.
Some of the prominent heuristics that human beings employ when taking in new information is loss
aversion, the tendency to place a much stronger emphasis on avoiding any type of loss rather than
accumulating gain, and framing, which demonstrates how consumers react very differently when the same
information is framed in a different manner, such as when either the positive or negative consequence of a
situation are specifically mentioned.
Kahneman & Tversky (1979) also found that, even though individuals might feel as though they are
making controlled, fully informed, conscious and rational decisions, scientific research demonstrates that
humans make decisions that significantly deviate from maximum utility. This is mainly attributed to the fact that
our decisions are, in most cases, subconsciously influenced by extraneous information. This peripheral
information, as agitated by Kmenta (2014), can reflect an individuals subjective experiences and preferences,

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which are formulated based on prior experiences, unidentifiable emotions and subconscious neural practices,
thereby making it, virtually impossible, for economists to distill the underlying mechanisms within decision-
making through observation alone. Ariely (2008), initially based on the Prospect Theory by Kahneman &
Tversky (1979), significantly changed the way in which we think about how we make decisions; through the
introduction of the idea of predictable irrationality, in which he demonstrated that humans are more likely to
act irrationally than rationally when making certain decisions.
Ariely (2008) offers various examples of normal irrational behavior to show that although some
human behavior might be viewed as relatively rational, this behavior would be irrational as defined by
economists because it is not based on rigid theory of utility maximization and other factors within the economic
model. One such example was an experiment conducted on the Michigan Institute of Technology (MIT) campus
in order to show the allure of free products. In this experiment, Ariely sold Lindt truffle and Hershey Kiss
chocolates to students and limited each student to only one chocolate per customer.
Ariely showed a difference in quality between Lindt truffle and Hershey Kiss by selling the truffles for
$0.15 and the Kisses for $0.01 and found that students preferences for chocolate purchases were relatively
equal with 73% of students purchasing truffles and 27% purchasing Kisses. Subsequently, Ariely lowered the
price of each chocolate by $0.01 such that the truffles were now being sold for $0.14 and the Kisses were free.
With this very small change in price, but with the same price difference between products and the same
expected benefit, now 69% of students chose the Kiss. Basing on the results of this experiment Ariely
demonstrated that the concept of a free product distorts the decision-making process and causes humans to act
irrationally. Therefore, Ariely (2008) argues that human beings often make irrational choices. He supports his
arguments by challenging certain well-known foundational concepts in Economics including the widely read
and acknowledged principles of supply and demand.
Basic economic theory (of demand and supply) states that the price of a product in a market is found at
an equilibrium point, determined by the intersection and an equal balance between demand and supply of that
particular product. However, this price point can be swayed, as argued by Ariely (2008). Through a series of
experiments based on a marketing concept known as anchoring, Ariely (2008) proved that the price consumers
are willing to pay can be easily manipulated, as consumers are not as in tune with their personal preferences as
economic theory suggests.
Anchoring is a marketing tenet that avers that when consumers encounter new commodities whose
features are unfamiliar to them, the first price they see (no matter how arbitrary it may be) becomes an anchor,
which has a strong lasting effect on the price they will be willing to pay for similar products from that time
forward. For example, if a consumer first saw a product priced at $2, the principle of anchoring would argue that
this consumers baseline for the price of that particular product is now $2 and thus he or she believes that $2 is a
fair price for any such product.
Ariely (2008) also exposed irregularities in our decision making through the so-called decoy effect.
When we are presented with two distinct options, we find it difficult to make a decision between them.
However, if a third alternative is introduced into the scenario that is similar to one option but clearly inferior, it
completely alters the choices that we make (Ariely, 2008). Ariely offers the following example to demonstrate
this effect: pretend you had to choose between a weekend in Rome with all expenses paid and a weekend in
Paris with all expenses paid (Ariely, 2008). This decision would be quite difficult in the sense that the two
options are, in some ways, closely synonymous, since they are both weekends abroad, but in other ways, such as
the details of the location, quite different.
However, Ariely (2008), argues that if a decoy option was added, our choice would become easier and
could be manipulated by the decoy alternative. In this case, the decoy could be a weekend in Rome with all
expenses paid except for morning coffee. Ariely (2008), argues that the thought of Rome without coffee causes
participants to gravitate to Rome with coffee because it appears as the better alternative. Therefore, introducing
a third option that is slightly worse than one of the original options makes the original option (the trip to Rome)
seem much better.
Given these examples of human behavior, humans do not have as much rational control over their
decisions as economists may suggest (Ariely, 2008). Instead, consumer decisions are actually, a function of
various external and subconscious stimuli that normally exceed our cognitive capacities but are simplified
through heuristic properties. Based on the idea that the decision-making process is more complicated than what
economic theory suggests; and involves various elements that cannot be quantifiably evaluated and measured
based on Economics alone, a more cognitive perspective ought to be incorporated into the model; in order to
comprehensively understand consumer decision making. These cognitive processes, however, arise from neural
function; an area not normally considered by economists.

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IV. EXPLORING THE HUMAN BRAIN


4.1 The brain
Brain is one of the most important parts of human organism. The brain is also one of the most
complicated systems in nature. The human brain, as noted by Lewis (2016), is actually the controlling and
command center of the human beings nervous system. The brain recognizes and receives signals that are then
sent to different parts of the body. If compared to other mammals, the human brain has a similar structure. The
main difference is the proportion of its size to the size of the body. Other mammals have much smaller brains as
compared to the size of their bodies. Summary of some of the most important characteristics of human brain is
presented in Figure Below:

Largest brain of all vertebrates relative to body size

It weighs about 3.3 pounds (1.5 kilograms)

It makes up about 2 percent of a human's body weight

It contains about 85 billion nerve cells (neurons)

It contains billions of nerve fibers (axons and dendrites)

These neurons are connected by trillions of connections

The cerebrum makes up 85 percent of the brains weight

Source: Nursing Assistant Central-Facts about the Human Brain

4.2 Anatomy of the human brain


The biggest percentage of the human brain belongs to the cerebrum which is then divided into two
main parts hemispheres. The layer bellow it is called brainstem behind which is the cerebellum. The layer on
the outer surface of the cerebrum is called the cerebral cortex (Lewis, 2016). This cerebral cortex is made up
from four different lobes. Those lobes are as follows (Zurawicki, 2010):
 The frontal lobe  The temporal lobe
 The parietal lobe  The occipital lobe
Humans are vertebrates and mammals (Yadav, 2009). As well as all the other vertebrate brains, the
structure of the human brain is made up from three sections: forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain. Forebrain is the
section that develops in the cerebrum and its underlying structures. Midbrain actually becomes a part of the
brainstem. Hindbrain is the one in charge of giving rise to regions of the brainstem and the cerebellum (Lewis,
2016). Illustrative presentation of a cross-section of the human brain can be seen in the figure below:

Source: Shutterstock

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What actually differentiates humans from other mammals and animals in general is the complexity of
their thought. The part of the brain responsible for that crucial difference is the cerebral cortex. This is because it
is greatly enlarged in brains of humans. As far as it comes to visual processing, the occipital lobe which is near
the back of the skull, is responsible. Part of the brain responsible for the processing of language and sound is the
occipital lobe (Zurawicki, 2010). This lobe includes hippocampus and amygdala. Their main function is
connected to memory and emotion.
The part that integrates signals or inputs that it gets from various senses is the parietal lobe. This lobe
is extremely important for the functions of navigation and orientation. Brainstem is the part that relates to the
spinal cord. Its main parts are medulla oblongata, pons and midbrain. Role of this brain part is flow of the
information from brain to the rest of the body. It performs some of the essential functions in regards to
controlling breathing and consciousness as well as controlling the heart. In the end it is in charge of the supply
of some cranial nerves to the face and the head (Lewis, 2016).
In between cerebrum and brainstem them are the thalamus and hypothalamus. The thalamus is in
charge of regulating consciousness, alertness and sleep while hypothalamus is main link between endocrine and
nervous system (Lewis, 2016). Endocrine system is the one in charge for producing hormones (Sargis, 2016).
The cerebellum lies under the cerebrum, and its role is connected to motor control; it is in charge of
coordination and balance. The cerebellum has some cognitive functions (Lewis, 2016).

4.3 Paul McLeans Brain Model

The diagrams above show Paul McLeans brain model. The model is important to neuromarketers,
(modern-day marketers), orthodox marketers, neuroeconomists and orthodox economists in the sense that it
helps us better understand the consumer. According to Paul McLeans brain model each of these three parts
plays a specific role: the neo-cortex (rational brain) thinks, the limbic system (emotional brain) feels, and the
reptilian brain makes decisions. The decision on whether to act or not is not taken inside the reptilian brain. The
reptilian brain (also known as the R complex or the Primitive Brain) controls the body and decides quickly the
strategy that must be executed (e.g withdrawal, action etc.) in order to ensure satisfaction of the basic needs and
wants (e.g physiological, security, sexual etc.). The limbic system is also known as the emotional brain. The
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limbic system is associated with feelings, emotions, remembering of events, relationships with others,
immunity, hormonal balance, attention and general attitude. The decisions of the emotional brain (the limbic
system) refer to annoyance and or pleasure that we associate with certain stimuli. The neo-cortex or the rational
brain is responsible for analyzing and solving problems, using logic and languages and driving creative thinking.
The rational brain (the neo-cortex) is also responsible for building rational memories such as remembering the
information learned for a test, exercise or examination. Therefore, in order to maximize the efficiency of an
advertising or campaign message, it is important for that message to be based on the needs of the customer
rather than the features of the product. To be effective, marketing needs to target first the emotional brain and
the primitive one, which lead them to open the channel of attention which transmits the information to the
rational brain.

V. Exploring The Decision Making Process


5.1 System 1 & System 2
The research of Kahneman (2011) has played an important role in the differentiation between two
systems of the mind System 1 and System 2. These are defined as two distinctive systems that function
independently, but simultaneously, to provide their own input when facing a decision (Mishra et al, 2015).
System 1 functions automatically and quickly with little to no mental effort and no sense of voluntary control
(Kahneman, 2011). It is also known as the cognitive unconscious or the unconscious mind and is defined as the
mental processes that function outside of the consumers awareness (Zaltman, 2003). System 1 has fast and
instinctive processes that are formed by means of associative learning on a subconscious level (Mishra et al.,
2015).
The primary purpose of System 1 is to maintain and update the consumers model of his/her world and
to represent what is normal in it. This model is constructed with specific associations that link ideas of
circumstances, events, actions and outcomes that occur simultaneously most of the time. As these links are
created and strengthened over time, the pattern of associated ideas will eventually represent the structure of
events in the consumers life and it will also determine his/her interpretation of current events and expectations
for the future.
System 2 is known to assign attention to specific effortful mental activities when required and is often
associated with activities of choice and concentration (Kahneman, 2011). It is also known as conscious thought
and is defined as object-relevant or task-relevant cognitive or affective thought processes that will occur when
the object or task is the consumers focus of conscious attention (Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006).
System 2 is more controlled, slow, deliberate and constrained by working memory capacity (Mishra et
al., 2015). The conscious perception is known to be linear in thought and likely to focus on one task at a time
and logical facts (Van Praet, 2012). Both Systems 1 and 2 are active when an individual is awake. System 1 is
automatic and System 2 will usually be in a low-effort mode, in which only a small part of its ability will be
engaged (Kahneman, 2011).
Conscious thoughts and subconscious thoughts have different characteristics and the different
characteristics are what make these two modes preferable in different situations (Dijksterhuis & Nordgren,
2006). System 1 tends to continuously generate suggestions for System 2, specifically impressions, intuitions,
intentions and feelings. When these suggestions are validated by System 2, the impressions and intuitions will
be converted into beliefs and impulses into voluntary actions (Kahneman, 2011).
In the same line of thought, Van Praet (2012) suggests that the conscious mind can be seen as a
gateway to the subconscious, because repeated conscious activities and experiences eventually lead to habits
which reside in the subconscious of the consumer. Dijksterhuis & Nordgren (2006) contend that the
distinguishing factor between conscious and subconscious thought is attention. Conscious thought is thought
with attention and subconscious thought is thought without attention or with the focus of the consumer directed
elsewhere.
Conscious thoughts also play a role when a consumer reviews past actions and plans, and organizes
how to make choices in new situations (Zaltman, 2003). It is important to consider that the subconscious mind
does not function like the conscious mind. Subconscious perception allows multiple bits of sensory information
to be perceived at the same time with different senses while other information enters consciously (Zurawicki,
2010). It is accustomed to multi-tasking and processing different levels of information simultaneously (Van
Praet, 2012).

5.2 Elaboration Likelihood Model


The elaboration likelihood model (ELM) is based on the concept that the process by which consumers
make decisions can differ depending on the amount of time the consumer is willing to spend on the decision.
The ELM model suggests that changes in attitudes and other judgments result from different psychological

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processes that depend on the degree of elaboration the individual is engaging in at that moment and the degree
of elaboration will be influenced by individual and situational factors (Petty & Brinol, 2015).
The ELM model was first introduced by Petty et al (1983) and distinguishes between two different
routes of persuasion. The central route suggests that attitude change is a result of an individuals careful
consideration of information that he/she feels is fundamental to the merits of a specific attitudinal position, and
the peripheral route suggests that attitude change does not occur because an individual has carefully considered
the pros and cons of an issue, but rather because the issue is associated with a positive or a negative cue. It has
been acknowledged that the ELM model has specific implications for advertising messages.
Someone who is about to purchase a specific product (high involvement) may be more focused on the
product-related information presented in an advertisement, while those who are not considering purchasing the
product (low involvement) will not necessarily focus on the product-relevant arguments in an advertisement. It
is generally accepted that consumers will be more motivated to dedicate cognitive effort to evaluating the
qualities of a product if involvement with the product is high. Therefore, when elaboration likelihood is high,
the central route of persuasion is considered to be more effective, and when elaboration likelihood is the low, the
peripheral route is considered to be better (Petty et al., 1983).
There are, however, a number of concerns related to the ELM model specifically the role of high
involvement that have been identified and should be taken into consideration. Firstly, learning about a brand
from an advertisement is no longer considered particularly important as consumers expect most reputable brands
to perform similarly and, therefore, brand decisions are often made instinctively rather than rationally and the
majority of advertisements are processed at low attention levels using low involvement processing (Heath,
2001).
Low involvement processing is the mental state in which most advertising is processed and is the
reason why many believe that advertising has little or no significant effect on their choice of brands. Some
question why consumers are not interested enough to pay more attention to the advertisement and if there might
be something wrong with the advertisement itself, but the reality is that the average consumer does not consider
learning about brands to be important (Heath, 2001).
Low involvement processing, however, does not mean that the consumer does not learn about the
brand. Low involvement processing, unlike high involvement processing, happens automatically and even if the
consumers tendency is not to pay attention, brand learning is still being processed. Low involvement processing
also does not extensively utilize working memory, which means that it is not good at interpreting messages or
drawing conclusions from advertisements, but rather collects inputs and stores it exactly as it is (Heath, 2001).

5.3 Female & Male Consumer Brain


Males and females want different products and they are likely to have different ways of liking and
obtaining these (Mitchell & Walsh, 2004). Gender has a pivotal role in consumer behavior. Because, the
differences between men and women about expectation, want, need, lifestyle etc. reflect to their consumption
behaviors (Akturan, 2009). Products are sex-typed or androgynous (Solomon et al., 2010), implying that
commodities normally take masculine or feminine characteristics. For example, Barbies are meant for girls
while Hotwheels are usually meant for boys. Understanding this gender difference in decision making is quite
important for better consumer understanding especially in terms of uncovering the underlying gender related
purchase processes.

5.3.1 The Female Brain


The female brain behaves differently from the male brain. This implies that it is important to know and
understand the target consumer in order to serve the correct type of consumer in the right way. It has been
shown that there is a big difference in terms of behavior of males and females. Females are very particular and
detail oriented mammals, always paying particular attention to everything in the environment, for example;
when they are in conversation with someone, they look at that persons facial expression, as well as the tone of
the persons voice.
When a female is looking for a product to lose weight, for example; she may not only consider its
outcome but she will also take into account the smell and appearance of the product. However, males in a
similar scenario will be exclusively concerned about the results of the product. The female brain is naturally
able to multitask; have more responsiveness to products and/or services.
Since females usually consider everything they hear, they make certain expressions, that if analyzed, it
becomes much easier to tell what a female is thinking. The right hemisphere of the female brain is more
developed as compared to the left hemisphere. As a result, females are usually more emotionally connected to
marketing stimuli.

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Therefore, companies can take care not to generate negative emotional responses to their products;
otherwise females will not purchase such products. Females are also a mammal that is characterised by passion.
Women, according to Broveman et al (1972), Martin (1987), Ruble (1983) and Williams & Best (1990), are
considered as being warm, expressive, compassionate and understanding. She can dislike something as a
reaction to what she is seeing. When she sees a product, she can completely reject or embrace it, depending on
how she is emotionally affected.
Therefore, marketers should know how to effectively penetrate the female brain, and the only way to
do this is through emotions. Females also like to decide on their own. Therefore, it is wise not to pressurize them
with a certain stimuli, just connect her in an emotional way, and let her decide on her own. The results will be
pleasing!

5.3.2 The Male Brain


On the other hand, males are usually not emotionally connected to shopping. When they go for
shopping, they simply go and look for the product they need, that particular product alone. Normally, males are
not disturbed by the other products but rather they are more connected to the features and benefits of the product
itself. The male purchase process is quite simple and straight forward; they go to a shop and buy the product
they want and then leave immediately.
Males are more interested in statistics or data about the product or service, the results of the product;
not necessarily how it appears or smells. Therefore, if marketers want to impress the male brain, they should
play around with statistics and numbers. They should display data on what the product has to offer; that way
the male brain can be attracted.
The male brain usually gets stuck when there are two, or more characteristically homogeneous
products or services, or when certain obstacles distract the purchasing processes. Recent research indicates that
29% of men decide not to buy because they did not find a parking space adjacent to the shop and 43% of males
do not come back to the shop if they know that the product is out of stock. Males seek solutions; they do not
look for products that connect to them emotionally. Recent studies also confirm that today men like online
shopping more than going to stores. They just purchase online from the comfort of their homes, as a result they
do not worry about parking space and loss of time. Therefore, when a product is meant for men, companies need
to understand the male related purchase process, how men think and how they react to products and services.

VI. The Importance of The Subconscious Mind


Many organisations still believe that consumers only make choices consciously. In other words, they
believe consumers deliberately consider the individual and relative value of a specific objects attributes and the
probability that the assigned value will be realized; this information is then processed in a logical way to arrive
at a final decision. However, a consumers decision-making and buying behavior is influenced more by
subconscious thoughts and feelings than by the conscious ones, although the conscious ones are also important
(Zaltman, 2003).
Consumer decision-making is based on interplay between cognitive and emotional structures and
circuits in the brain. An example of this is when a rational message in an advertisement connects with the
personal values of the consumer and emotional areas of the brain are stimulated (Peacock et al., 2011). In order
for marketing to be effective at the deepest and most influential level, it has to combine both conscious and
subconscious dimensions to produce a physiological change in consumers that can generate immediate results
and be sustained over time.
Due to the influence of brain activities at a subconscious level, there is sometimes a contradiction
between what consumers actually feel and what they believe they feel. Although subconscious behavior cannot
be studied by means of conscious introspection, many of the tools used in marketing research, such as surveys
and focus groups, rely on the ability of consumers to consciously access specific information and rationalize
their opinions and needs (Martin & Morich, 2011).
Some researchers have also started to incorporate observation and deep interviewing techniques to
access insights below the conscious awareness (Martin & Morich, 2011); however, such research does not
necessarily investigate the subconscious of the consumer. Techniques used in neuromarketing have the ability to
access these subconscious feelings and the knowledge gained from this type of research could be used to
improve the marketing strategies of a brand (Va, 2015).
It is also important to consider that when a consumer is exposed to a product, brand information or an
advertising campaign, the information is not absorbed passively. Instead, the consumer will create his/her own
meaning by blending the information from the organisation with his/her own experience and other stimuli
present at that specific moment (Zaltman, 2003). It is important to consider that the subconscious and conscious
perceptions of the consumer are often used in combination, paying selective attention to certain parts of a
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Neuromarketing: The Journey to Better Consumer Understanding

specific situation or stimulus and ignoring other parts (Zurawicki, 2010). Most of the time, the process will go
smoothly and System 2 will adopt the recommendations of System 1 with little or no modification (Kahneman,
2011).
However, if System 1 experiences difficulty, it will utilize System 2 to support it with more detailed
processing that could solve the problem (Kahneman, 2011). There are some subconscious thought processes that
the consumer might not be aware of that influence his/her decisions and have the ability to enter the memory of
the consumer. Exposure to signals processed below the perception level also leaves traces in the mind and these
impact the responses to consciously processed stimuli (Zurawicki, 2010).

VII. Conclusion and Recommendations


The probability of existence of a perfectly rational economic agent in the real world is synonymous
to the probability of encountering a perfectly competitive market. In reality, it is very rare. It will be a cold day
in Hell when you come across a perfectly rational individual or firm! However, in as much as it is myopic, the
rational choice theory remains a starting point in our journey to better consumer understanding. There is no
doubt that most of the consumer decisions are processed subconsciously. Therefore, models that seek to explain
consumer behavior cannot afford to turn a blind eye on the subconscious brain of the consumer.
Neuromarketing empowers marketers, psychologists and economists to directly investigate the
underlying and fundamental neural processes and biological pathways associated with marketing stimuli and
messages in order to form a deeper understanding of how those messages are perceived and processed on both
conscious and subconscious levels. Neuromarketing cannot be undermined in any way; so far it offers the
highest competitive advantage for businesses as already emphasized by Nyoni and Bonga (2017b; 2017c). There
is a lot of successful companies that have been using neuromarketing as a research tool for not less than five
years e.g Coca-Cola. Marketers should adopt a highly scientific mindset in order to successfully institute
neuromarketing. Modern day researchers should combine their traditional consumer research methods with
neurological research methods.

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