What are powers of deduction? Sherlock Holmes offered Dr Watson a masterclass when Watson handed him a pocket watch. It belonged to your brother, who inherited it from your father, Holmes told Watson. He was careless, and had good prospects. Naturally, Watson was astounded. But to Holmes, the dented watch shouted its story of a careless owner, and its quality was an obvious sign of wealth.
This kind of deductive reasoning isn’t just a fiction. Where Holmes backed up his reasoning with scientific methodology steeped in the early days of forensics, these days neuroscience uses technology like eye-tracking, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG), to quantify consumer behaviour.
Scientists like Katharina Kuehn, head of neurostrategy and innovation and chief strategy officer at The Winning Group, are getting down to the nitty gritty of why customers might prefer red cars or why we post-rationalise impulse purchases.
In the war for attention, marketers have turned to neuroscience to better understand how the human brain works and how we make decisions.
For Katharina, it’s not magic. It’s the data of emotion. Holmes’ pocket watch story still applies.
“If you find someone very competitive that’s wearing an expensive watch, you’ve got a good guess that they are influencers and opinion leaders,” Katharina says. “I’ve always thought this the most fascinating topic to think about in the world. We’re very lucky that now we’ve got new methodologies and new ways of understanding the brain. It’s a rapidly evolving field.”
Neuromarketing employs scientific methodologies, and as an in-house neurostrategist, Katharina works with brands at the very beginning to develop the concept, positioning and strategy, and define the unique and relevant space that they want to own in somebody’s mind.
So, how powerful are these techniques? Recent examples from Brexit and Trump campaigns show this kind of thinking can operate on a global scale. According to Katharina, there are specific elements that made those campaigns so successful.