The New Mind Control

Don't blame your brain for that bad decision

'Grrreat' ads can make kids loyal to brands for life

Why Are Americans So Easy to Manipulate and Control?

"People actually remember few ads.

Yet commercials have an effect nonetheless.

Even if they fail to sell a particular product, they sell consumerism itself by ceaselessly reiterating the idea that there is a product to solve each of life's problems, indeed that existence would be satisfying and complete if only we bought the right things." - Alan Durning

"In the mid-1990s, studies began to suggest that decision making, long held to be a prime example of a mental process best accomplished without the interference of emotions, could not only benefit from emotions, but also might require them." - Jenny Lauren Lee

People find a comfortable predictable day to day manner of living preferable to living on the thin edge of not-life.

Individuals judge situations confronted primarily through pattern matching.

Although individuals claim to reason to come to a conclusion their actual decision is based more upon a "feeling" than on a rational decision.

Assume a consumer purchases a product. The product works as advertised.

This consumer emotionally registers satisfaction with the product.

That emotional satisfaction subconsciously brands the individual.

Subconscious emotional branding creates the "correct" emotional response.

We have the "right feeling" when we see the product on the shelf the next time and that right feeling induces product loyalty.

To find profit in so many similar items, marketers must brand a product on the buyer's mind.

Such efforts put the average American adult in the cross hairs of ~ 3,000 advertising messages a day, five times more than two decades ago.

Children are exposed to ~ 40,000 advertisements every year.

By the age of 18 months, they can recognize logos.

By 10, they have memorized 300 to 400 brand logos.

The average adult can recognize thousands of brand logos.

Many seemingly rational decisions are reflexive snap judgements, shaped by networks of neurons acting in concert.

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"We are embedded in an enormous sea of cultural messages, the neural influences of which we poorly understand.

We are beginning to understand the way in which messages can gain control over our behavior." - neuroscientist Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston

These orchestras of cells are surprisingly malleable, readily responding to the influence of experience.

The inescapable influence of marketing brands minds.

Brand marketing physically alters the brain structure.

Just as practicing the piano or learning to read can physically alter areas of the cerebral cortex, the intense, repetitive stimulation of marketing shapes susceptible brain circuits involved in decision making.

While monitoring brain activity directly researchers make inquiries into consumer choice by harnessing techniques pioneered for medical diagnosis:

positron emission tomography measures brain chemical activity;

magnetic resonance imagery measures the magnetic fields of the brain;

functional magnetic resonance measures blood flow around neurons.

"This is a way of prying open the jar and seeing what is inside." - psychologist Jonathan Cohen, director of Princeton University's Center for the Study of Brain, Mind, & Behavior

In the mind's eye, celebrity faces trigger many of the same circuits as images of shoes, cars, chairs, wristwatches, sunglasses, handbags and water bottles.

Objects and celebrity faces are reduced to a common denominator:

a spasm of synapses in a part of the cortex called Brodmann's area 10, a region associated with a sense of identity and social image.

None of these neural responses come consciously to mind when a shopper is browsing brand labels.

Much of what is considered the product of logic and deliberation is actually driven by primitive neural systems responsible for automatic emotional response processes that evolved to manage conflicts between sex, hunger, thirst and the other elemental appetites of survival.

In recent years, researchers have discovered that regions such as the amygdala, the hippocampus and the hypothalamus are dynamic switchboards that blend memory, emotions and biochemical triggers.

These interconnected neurons shape the way fear, panic, exhilaration and social pressure influence the choices made.

Political beliefs trigger the same malleable circuits of reward, identity, desire and threat that product branding does.

Lattices of neurons are linked, then continually revised, by experience.

Conversly they are burnt to a crisp by major traumatic experience.

So intimate is this feedback that there is no way to separate the brain's neural structure from the influence of the world that surrounds it.

Once researchers learned to map the anatomy of behavior they realized that the brain, shaped by the interplay of genes and environment, is malleable.

There is a fundamental disconnect between consumers and providers.

Advertising is predicated on marketing but it's no trick to sell people what they want; the trick is to make people want to buy what you have to sell.

When you succeed, you're a salesman. Otherwise, you're simply a clerk.

Media advertisements are designed to be salespersons, not clerks.

Consumers think purchasing decisions are within their control.

Knowing they are being manipulated into making a purchase, they recoil.

Knowing ads are designed to "sell" they still think themselves immune.

This is known as the blind spot bias.

People want to be entertained but refuse to see entertainment is, in fact, merely a vehicle for inducing them to purchase an advertised products.
They want the boundaries between entertainment and advertising pitches to be clearly delineated. That delineation is the last thing business wants.

Consumers of entertainment need to understand how they are manipulated.

When consumers found the remote, the videotape and TiVo they zapped commercials. Advertisers returned the volley with product placement.

In feature films, where advertising had never established the foothold it had in television and other media venues, deals between producers and advertisers have flourished.

Studios are paid large fees for conspicuously placing products in a scene or making brand name products part of the storyline.

The following is an actual proposal for product placement:

Dear Mr. Smith,

We are about to go into production with the motion picture, "Run, Sheep, Run", a suspense thriller, set in Los Angeles.

If there is any interest from your company, and I'm sure there must be, the film is better than any commercial that has been run on television or any magazine, because the audience is totally unaware of the sponsor involvement, I would like to have from your company the suggested brands for the people as listed above and the necessary cartons of cigarettes to be used.

We would enter a contract, that upon delivery of the answer print to the distributor, your company, Reynolds Tobacco, would pay to our production company, the sum of $500,000.00.

If for any reason the film is not distributed, then your company is out only the time in answering my letter, and a few packages of cigarettes, I think this protects both of us .

I expect to hear from you very shortly.

Robert P. Richards 08/25/72

Product placement, visual or auditory, is superior to straight commercials as people generally put up defenses against invitations to a purchase.

Product placement circumvents these defenses and places the product in the mind's eye for future influence.

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