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How Coca Cola uses Neuromarketing

Why is Coca-Cola the market leader in soft drinks, even though Pepsi always scores better in taste tests?
© Freepiks

Coca-Cola is one of the world's best-known brands and has a strong global presence. It is available in over 200 countries and is consumed by people of different cultures and backgrounds. Coca-Cola is known for having one of the most successful marketing campaigns of all time. They have used creative advertising campaigns and slogans to promote their products and raise awareness of the brand. But one of the major reason is their knowledge on neuromarketing.

Neuromarketing was born when the results of a groundbreaking neuroscientific test in Houston became known. At issue is a mystery that has puzzled the American marketing world for decades: Why is Coca-Cola the market leader in soft drinks, even though Pepsi always scores better in taste tests? The brain researcher Read Montague conducts the investigation with the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging ({MRI), which has been available for a few years. It makes it possible to map neuronal processes in the subjects' heads and thus make the brain's reactions visible.

Montague first organises a blind tasting of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. In the process, the majority of the test subjects express a preference for Pepsi, which, according to HirnScan, also activates the reward centre more strongly. In a second test, Montague announces the brands before the taste test. The astonishing result: the majority of the test subjects now prefer Coca-Cola. At the same time, the activity in the reward centre increases with the market leader brand. But above all: Coca-Cola also appeals to an area of the brain in which assessment processes concerning a person's self-image take place. So the study not only proves that the Coca-Cola brand radiates positively on perceived product characteristics ("halo effect"). It also proves that past experiences with the brand apparently have a positive effect on consumers' self-image.

Consumers do not always tell the truth

A veritable research boom followed, especially in the USA. In the process, fMRI becomes the standard method. Neuroeconomics is the name of the new discipline that links neuroscience and economics. The term neuromarketing is becoming established as a term for the practical application of the findings in marketing and market research. This is associated with a great promise: Previously hidden patterns of perception, reactions and motivations in the minds of consumers are to become visible. And in a second step, products and advertising can be precisely tailored to these patterns.

The autopilot controls our decisions

Neuromarketing primarily leads to the questioning of linear persuasion concepts such as AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) - purchase decisions can instead be based on brand preferences that have perhaps been built up unconsciously over decades. With the neuro-boom, the distrust of classic surveys is also increasing: What people explicitly express does not necessarily correspond to their true attitudes. Purchasing decisions are based on patterns and are largely automatic. Brain scan studies in marketing research show that before purchase decisions are made, favourite brands cause activity in the frontal cortex of the brain to be reduced. The cortex is responsible for rational decision-making; it is relieved, so to speak, by strong brands. 

When it comes to buying, the mind stops working

DaimlerChrysler is the first company to commission neuromarketing studies. Henkel, GloxoSmith-Kline and Tchibo are also working intensively on the subject. They are supported by specialised consultancies. They work with a kind of map that positions human motives, values and desires along the poles of stimulus, dominance and balance. Analogously, brands can also be located on the map. 

95 percent of our daily decision-making processes, especially purchasing decisions, take place unconsciously. An autopilot accesses stored programmes that are activated by certain codes. Marketing can make use of these codes within the framework of "implicit coding" in order to
to advertise more effectively.