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Neuro Marketing: Between Opportunities and Problems for Brands and Politics At The Time of the Coronavirus

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In uncertain moments like the one we are experiencing, we have only one certainty: the emotional drive guides every communication strategy, today more than ever. This is how brands and political communication are making space in the world of social media by focusing on what we all know, familiarity with the topics covered. However, a question arises spontaneously: “After what will happen?”

The first definition of neuromarketing dates back to 2002, when Ale Smidts, professor at the Rotterdam School of Management, spoke of this subject as “the set of techniques for identifying brain mechanisms aimed at a greater understanding of consumer behavior for elaboration of more effective marketing strategies “ .

Comprehensive, exhaustive, discreet in describing that process that can easily make us think of the ancient prejudice according to which “advertising deceives and sells what it wants”. In reality it is about the union between an economics-based discipline and the cognitive and behavioral neuroscience of consumers. What governs this combination is the emotional aspect, which plays a fundamental role in the decision-making process of man, to buy, read, comment or like.

The goal of neuromarketing is to understand which emotions, sensations, values ​​are associated by consumers with certain types of products and what drives them to perform one of the actions listed above.

In this historical moment we are experiencing, we are particularly sensitive to certain issues, to the use of some products and our days pass slowly, interrupted by the infectious bulletins, by new challenges on social networks and by concern.

The virus has become part of our lives at 360 ° because it has not only involved and upset the health of our country and the economy, but also the world of communication and advertising.

The (new) first steps of brands

Most of the Italian businesses, even those that have seen a halt in their production or their daily work pattern, have had to make a choice, face the virus and integrate it into their communication strategy or ignore it , watch it go by, without showing themselves directly involved in the situation.

It is no coincidence that the name of the first government decree issued on 11 March 2020 takes its name from the most used hashtag of the moment on social networks, #iorestoacasa. This has also become the slogan of many brands, which at times have taken it back in its original form, at other times they have conjugated it through their values ​​and their mission.

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The Israeli psychologist Daniel Kahneman, together with Vernon Smith, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 “for integrating psychological research results into economic science, especially regarding human judgment and decision theory under conditions of uncertainty”.

In his writings, Kahneman speaks of cognitive fluidity : starting from the assumption that our mind is articulated in a dialogue between two systems, one intuitive and unconscious and the other conscious and rational, the latter always prefers the option that requires the minimum effort, the least expenditure of energy, to solve complex problems.

In essence, cognitive fluency is the tendency to favor activities and choices that are familiar to our mind , easy to understand. Cognitive fluency generates a feeling of familiarity and positivity in people and plays an important role in everyday decisions. The empathy we often feel towards a product, an article, an image that possesses these characteristics is due precisely to this range of values ​​that we attribute to it once we see them in front of us.

It is therefore not wrong to “ride” the wave of the moment, to spread a positive message, as it can be positive for brand awareness. Not surprisingly, numerous TV commercials have also been adapted to the needs of a more sensitive audience, which needs to feel protected and supported in this difficult time. Numerous brands are conveying messages of hope and positivity without distorting their values, but rather strengthening them.

Taking actions of this type, especially on social networks, can expose a brand’s image to a lot of visibility and can strengthen the sense of community, understood as a “community”, of one’s followers, which is the real machine that set in motion social networks since their origin. In fact, we are not talking about brands that usually live in the shadows on these platforms, but about subjects that have long used digital communication as the backbone of their marketing strategy.

Let’s take Ikea, specifically Ikea Italia. The great giant of DIY modular furniture in its tricolor guise, makes use of lively and engaging communication, especially on its Instagram channel . In fact, Ikea decides not to stay at home but to #Start from this: if for the brand the house is normally a reality “Made to change” , as its payoff states, in this last period it has become a safe haven, a place to be rediscovered and enhanced not only for the furniture and accessories that are inside, but also for the people who populate it with their stories.

But not only that, on a practical level, Ikea uses the engagement mechanics offered by Instagram Stories, such as surveys, questions and quizzes, to keep their followers company with activities that are also complementary to furnishings, such as yoga classes, readings and book reviews. or even cooking lessons, with the help of influencers and professionals.

Cognitive fluidity in political communication

The world of politics and information has also entered this mechanism: cognitive fluidity and emotional involvement are not new topics for experts in electoral campaigns and international headlines. However, since the Coronavirus has become the dominant theme of information services, some newspapers that preside over social networks have become carriers of misunderstood messages.

In fact, a video from a few days ago, shared and chatted on social media that frames the leader of the League commenting on the health situation of the country, caused a sensation. Clothing is generating controversy and conflicting opinionsof the politician: a blue sweater, the surgical mask lowered and placed under the chin and the mobile phone headphones to surround the neck similar to a phonendoscope. We all remember the 2012 primary elections of the Democratic Party, during which the two contenders for the leadership of the party were more than once immortalized in clothes unusual for the political world: without a tie, with the sleeves of the shirt raised to the elbows. A fresher, friendlier look, closer to the new voters and the new generations. However, in such a delicate situation, the habitus so similar to that of the doctor portrayed as a hero by the mass media, turned out to be excessive, so much so as to trigger opinions and squabbles even among some professionals of the trade.

Therefore, every communication sector, from the commercial to the informative one, seems to have winked at an emotional sphere that manages to take hold of the population affected by this serious situation, but fortunately in the process of improvement. However, the logical question to ask might be: what will happen next?

When the quarantine is over and we can go out again, dedicate ourselves to our passions, hobbies and hug each other again, what will change? The word hug, for example, what sense will it have in some time : what emotional charge or pressure will be conferred on it after such a long period? And together with this, also the words home, family, Italy, recovery, crisis, illness. In addition to a new emotional value and a new meaning, it would be interesting to ask ourselves what could be the implications, for the world of communication, of this historical parenthesis.

We still do not know if the Coronavirus will become a taboo, we do not know if when even the last Italian is cured it will become a day of celebration, a new liberation of the country. It will certainly be interesting to observe, precisely through the techniques of neuromarketing, what the sight of a surgical mask, the figures of doctors and many other subjects that have become temporarily common will entail. Will we be involved in a new media wave or will we refuse to ride it because we are tired of these stimuli, even if they are now familiar?

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