This past Sunday, as the Independent Magazine Advisory Group convened ahead of the 2007 American Magazine Conference in Boca Raton, Ellen Oppenheim, chief marketing officer of the Magazine Publishers of America, discussed the role that new technologies will play in the measurement of media effectiveness, advertising impact and consumer engagement overall.
Following Ms. Oppenheim's remarks, I raised the question of neuromarketing, to ask whether it would be possible to know our customers (readers, viewers, users, etc.) not only on a psychographic or demographic level, but indeed, on a biological one. If we know what excites them, down to the particular neural center, then perhaps we can tailor our marketing strategies accordingly.
[Few among my colleagues know that neuroscience was actually my gateway into journalism and publishing, so long ago it seems. That, in addition to my current entrepreneurial venture to build a biomedical device that generates "custom dreams," lends me special interest into the high-potential hybrid field of neuromarketing.]
Ms. Oppenheim responded that, while they are intriguing, she believes neuromarketing and other high-tech assessment techniques are better suited to targeting engagement than to measuring its impact.
She may have a point.
Still, neuromarketing presents another less-addressed benefit that is instrumental to understanding just how easily true diversity can be accomplished, since its viability as a field of research is thanks to one reason above all:
It has often been said that beneath our skin we're all the same. One might argue that our common genetic heritage is nowhere more evident than in the ripples and folds of the human brain.
The human capacity for knowledge is eternal and distinguishing; the hallmark of our species is a unique ability to answer those questions, magnifying our place in the world and (according to some mystical religions) shrinking the divine in the process.
Such was the point made by Eileen Naughton, former president of the Time Group and now Director of Media Platforms at Google, who spoke at the 2007 AMC about search being a natural human inclination.
Likewise, liberal firebrand and free speech-for-free champion Arianna Huffington championed the cause celebre of intellectual diversity. No two people will ever see the world in identical ways, she asserted, leading to an inherent mingling of opinions that is worth embracing.
What does all this mean for diversity as a practical pursuit?
The implications are quite profound, actually: Neuromarketing -- assuming its science can be translated into a meaningful technology -- would finally enable marketers to reach out and pinprick consumers not using broad strokes like geography; not even using concentric criteria like demographic and psychographic information within a geographic area.
Rather, imagine the implication of knowing one's customer at the deepest biological level! To do so is necessarily to recognize the biological commonalities that define Homo Sapiens -- and at the same time, to wend through the labyrinth of upbringing, education, genetic proclivity and emotion that comprises each individual's quintessential uniqueness.
The endgame of neuromarketing would enable a seemingly paradoxical celebration of diversity at the most fundamental, humanistic levels, tucked inside a double-helix of commonality. It would provide proof-positive that, for all our differences, we are built (and function) in largely the same way.