Brains and BMW

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by: Roger Dooley

BMW has long been linked to neuromarketing – the 2003 Forbes article, In Search of the Buy Button, noted that the BMW Z8 generated one of the strongest brain responses of 66 cars shown to subjects in an fMRI scanner. A little over a month ago, neuroscientist Stephen Rose did a radio interview with the BBC (listen) in which he mentioned that BMW had set up a neuromarketing lab.

This interview has generated a little buzz in the blogosphere. IT Sneak suggests that if BMW and Coca Cola are doing it, it’s likely that Microsoft, Dell, and others are too. And, in BMW aims for your brain, the Auto IT blog proposes that a neuroscience-based marketing campaign would do better than some of the fairly ineffective advertising efforts of luxury auto producers like Jaguar. The BMW Blog picked up the story, too.

Why DO expensive sports cars fire up our neurons? The Forbes article explains…

It’s not just that sports cars have a more pleasing shape, says Walter, the psychiatrist with the University Clinic of Ulm who was involved in the study. They trumpet the driver’s wealth and social dominance. “A sports car is like a peacock’s tail,” says Walter, a Honda driver. “Why should a female peacock choose a mate with a very huge tail? Because if you are strong and successful as an animal, you can afford to invest energy in such a useless thing.” In other words, as people have known since our Paleolithic forebears carved the first fertility goddesses, sex sells.”  

That’s one truism that we don’t need an fMRI lab to confirm.

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