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« Idealism Is OUT, Realism is IN | Main | Why Older Brains Are Often Better Brains »

March 04, 2005


Atare Agbamu

David --

What are the best books on brain science today? Thanks.

Atare Agbamu

Jonathan Kranz

Provocative insights, to be sure, but can one truly say, "that most marketing concentrates on the conscious mind"? Successful marketing has ALWAYS played on the crux of desire and fear, and the attendent emotions that revolve on its axis. If that weren't so, how would you explain the successful sale of luxury cars, which are similar in 95% of their features and benefits to cars at a fraction of their cost?

Our terrain today is, as it always has been, on the field of the arational emotions. As a writer, my job isn't to build a logical case for action, but to provoke response through emotional (and therefore only semi-conscious) "logic": I link what I'm marketing to the loaded images and feelings that already exist in the prospect's mind; I make the purchase "safe" with guarantees and previous sale nubmers; I convince them, in a final act of irony, that responding is the most rational thing to do.

So I would argue that brain science isn't pointing to a new kind of marketing, but is helping us further understand how old, familiar and successful techniques work and why they'll continue to work.

David Wolfe


... a question I often get. I don't think there is any "one or two best books" about the brain, but I certainly recommend Descartes' Error; The Right Mind; New World, New Mind; Phantoms in the Brain; A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness, The Emotional Brain; The Secret Life of the Brain; The Brain Has a Mind of its Own; and In the Theater of Consciousness.

I suggest going to Amazon and check out reader reviews to get guidance as to where you might like to begin.

You also might want to subscribe to the Dana Foundation's quaterly on the brain, Cerebrum


David Wolfe


Your points are well stated and argued. I should have done better in making my own point. Yes, marketers have always striven to touch consumers' emotional strings. However, to arouse fear or libidious desire or gustatory craving, the paradigm that guides marketers -- like the one that has long guided most econonmists -- is rooted in the belief that the "invisible hand" in the marketplace is rationally driven even if emotionally kick-started.

Why else would companies spend so much money polling consumers asking them why they do this or that and what would motivate them to buy a specific product. The responses that come back are rationally rooted because rational responses are easier to submit to statistical science.

Some of the most successful campaigns I've had a hand in have not been pre-tested with consumers because the reasons I've advised clients to take a given direction are not testable through tapping the contents of consumers' conscious minds.

At long last, companies are beginning to realize that the contents of the conscious mind that consumers disgorge are more frequently invalid than previously acknowledged. This is precisely why ethnographic research has become increasingly popular.

Interestingly, in his new book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell tells of an experiment in which psychologists were given the barest amount of information on several personalities and asked to describe them in psychological terms. Then they incrementally added addtional information. With each batch of additional information, the psychologists amended and added to their assessments of the personalities. And with each modification, the accuracy of the assessments fell.

So, when I say most marketing is directed to the conscious mind I mean the contents of the conscious mind as revealed by consumers.

Does this clear the matter up in a useful way for you? Perhaps I need to do a clarification post for the benefit of everyone.

Thanks for your thoughful and thought-provoking response, Jonathan.



Interesting post. By the would do you think about "Power of Impossible Thinking" book? it does look into the latest neuroscientific research and its link with corporate transformations

David Wolfe


Had not heard of the book. I will look into it. Thanks.


S. Anthony Iannarino

Hi David,

As one who has had a piece of the back of his right frontal lobe removed, I have followed a similar path of study regarding marketing (and all else). Having a brain surgery really gets you interested in your pinkish-gray matter.

I would add to your excellent recommendations, books from the evolutionary pyschology track, especially The Lucifer Principle, by Howard Bloom; The Moral Animal, by Robert Wright and anything by Oliver Sacks (who wrote Awakenings). And Restak's Secret Life of the Brain is an excellent primer.

David Wolfe

Oliver Sacks is a great hero of mine. He not only must be a superb physician, he's a great humanist and writer extraordinare. I must have given away at least three dozen of his The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. And I loved his Anthropologist from Mars. It was a gross oversight of mine not to have included him in my recommended readings on the brain. Thanks for bring this to my attention and sharing your own reading recommendations.




I am attempting to build my own principles around neuro-marketing and am working on a foundation of Identity marketing: the way you think drives your feelings and those drive your behaviors. As you say, conscious research would not be necessary because the standards and behaviors would be grounded in emotional and neurological principles.

Here is a question for you. The fMRI only tests the visual stimuli. What is your thought on that? I was very interested in working with the Marking of the Mind group at one point, as well as BrightHouse, but became discouraged when they left out the other senses. A bit of neuro-marshal law in my book. OR are they running sound, touch, etc. under that fMRI machine and I just don't know it?



dear sire
please send to me marketing theory 2005
thank you

Ana Figueiredo

Hi my name is Ana I'm a MBA' student and i explore tkhe theme Neural marketing. Can you help giving cientifical articles and your opinion


Can I add a counterweight to this?

And here is some humour

It appears that Neuromarketing or NeuroEconomics (another funny)is the perfect tool as it can be used for good and bad.

The fact that the academics are jumping on it makes me think...ok laugh.


The comments to this entry are closed.

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