Neuromarketing – scanning people’s brains to gauge their reaction to products – has made huge strides over the past five years. India is the next country to submit its subconscious to the probing.
For consumer goods companies, the technique is an alternative to verbal feedback from would-be consumers, which is not always reliable. The idea is to scan people’ reactions, then design products, packaging and advertising to stimulate particular parts of the brain. And the leading practitioner sees India’s bulging middle class as a prime target.
Neuromarketing’s critics dismiss it as a fad. Yet Neurofocus, the global market leader in neurological testing, has seen 100 per cent year-on-year growth over the last three years. It employs leading neuroscientists, works with major food, car, electronics and cosmetics companies, and has offices in London, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Seoul, Bogotá, New York and Dallas.
Anantha Pradeep, Neurofocus’s Indian-born chief executive, says the idea of selling products through multiple celebrity endorsements is misplaced. And he sees huge opportunities for neuromarketing in India:
It is a culture that is highly emotional and companies need to be able to talk to people in a language that they truly understand. If you look at the India’s ancient scriptures and philosophies you can see that it is a culture obsessed with the brain.
For thousands of years the country has looked into the human condition, how people should live their lives, how they should think and react in any given situation. How does the mind and body connect? If I don’t do this here, where will I do it?
Companies might not share such mysticism, but they know understanding India’s middle class is crucial. In a report from earlier this year, analysts at Deutsche Bank said:
India’s middle class consumption is roughly equivalent to Ireland’s total private consumption and is forecast to triple as a share of India’s total consumption over the next 15 years…
For corporations, the middle class in India thus presents significant business opportunities. The sales growth of consumer goods such as televisions and mobile phones to the middle class has already been established, but a new range of products such as financial services is increasingly being geared towards this group as well.
Meanwhile, penny-pinching customers might soon have to control their subconscious, if they’re to avoid overspending on saris, spices and the rest.