Marketers have always espoused power of the brand. They have known for years that Coke and Pepsi, both of which although nearly identical in color and chemical composition; evoke strong subjective preferences for one or the other, mostly though in favor of Coke.
This is not new; what is new, however, is that progress made in brain imaging techniques (such as, functional brain scanning- fMRI), have begun to offer insights into functioning of human brain in relation to brand preference behavior of consumers as they find two different systems of brain being involved in generating such brand preferences. Based on such studies, neuro-scientists are able to offer explanations for success or otherwise of a brand or a campaign. This has led to increase in clamor of marketers for the new field of Neuromarketing (a field of study created from combining the knowledge of marketing with that of neuroscience). The new field is of particular significance to understand consumer perceptions on store A vs. store B even though both of which may be offering same products at comparable prices.
In a path breaking study, comprising 67 subjects, conducted at Baylor College of Medicine, scientists attempted to put to rest that age-old question: Which one you prefer, Coke or Pepsi? The experiment tried to seek behavior patterns of consumers when only sensory information (color, taste, etc) was provided to them vis a vis when cultural information (brand cues) were provided to them. Results and methodology of this study can be viewed in Neuron– a prestigeous science journal.
The verdict of the study: Brand knowledge biases consumers’ preference decisions and two separate systems in the brain are involved in generating these preferences. In the case of Coke and Pepsi, sensory information plays only a part in determining consumers’ behavior. Indeed, brand knowledge (at least in the case of Coke in the study) biased preference decisions
To test for effects of brand knowledge, the study conducted a series of taste tests. The subjects in anonymous taste tests had two unmarked cups, one of which contained Pepsi and the other Coke, while in semi anonymous taste tests they had both cups containing the same drink either Pepsi or Coke (one cup was unlabeled and the other indicated the brand of the drink contained in the cup). In the taste tests, no significant influence of brand knowledge for Pepsi contrasted with the anonymous task. However, there was a dramatic effect of the Coke label on subjects’ behavioral preference. Despite the fact that there was Coke in all cups during the taste test, subjects in this part of the experiment preferred Coke in the labeled cups significantly more than Coke in the anonymous task and significantly more than Pepsi in the parallel semi anonymous task.