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Here’s How Coca-Cola and Other Brands Are Manipulating You with ‘Scientific’ Research Claims

Here’s How Coca-Cola and Other Brands Are Manipulating You with ‘Scientific’ Research Claims


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There are ways to protect yourself from falling for marketing ploys disguised as scientific research

Exercise is more important than eating healthy? Not so fast, Coca-Cola-funded study.

Remember that fake study that fooled everyone into thinking that chocolate would help you lose weight? Even though the chocolate hoax was a social experiment, it still proved how gullible we are when it comes to junk science. You may be surprised to learn that many misleading or “junk” scientific studies exist, and are actually funded by big-name brands, according to Bloomberg.

More recently, a scientific study has been circulating that claims exercise is much more important than eating well when it comes to preventing obesity. But guess what? That study, published by the Global Energy Balance Network, was funded by Coca-Cola. You’ve probably also heard the claim that aspartame, the chemical found in diet sodas, causes cancer. Now brands like Pepsi are removing the stuff and experiencing a boost in sales as a result, but we still don’t have a factual answer about aspartame as a carcinogen.

Here are some tips on how to avoid this common and effective marketing ploy, according to Bloomberg:

Be skeptical: If it sounds implausible, it probably is, like the Dr. Oz-endorsed green coffee diet pill that was later found to be “backed” by a fabricated scientific study.

Look for Scientific Consensus: If one study says its claims are true, make sure to get a second opinion. “Sometimes people will take a study in rats or even in test tube data and extrapolate it to humans,” says Don Hensrud, director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living program.

Look at the Big Picture: Just because you’re eating organic doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Organic ice cream is still ice cream, and what works for one person’s health may be harmful to another’s. A diabetic woman drinking cranberry juice to improve her urinary tract, for instance, may experience a dangerous spike in blood sugar.


How Neuromarketing Experts Are Peering Into The Mind

Unscrupulous marketers dream of a ‘buy button’ in consumers’ brains which may be activated through scientific study of the mind. Fear of this brainwashing loomed large when, in 1957, american James Vicary presented his famous experiment on subliminal advertising: during the projection of a movie at the cinema, he claimed to have slipped in several frames, lasting only fractions of a second each, with the slogans “drink Coca-Cola” and “eat popcorn”. They flashed so quickly, he said, that audience members only perceived them unconsciously, but that was apparently enough to drive up sales of both soft drink and snack during the intermission. Years later, Vicary confessed it was a hoax.

We know that subliminal advertising doesn’t work and that there is no ‘buy button’ in the brain, but the fear that advances in psychology and neuroscience may be used to manipulate consumers hasn’t quite been shaken. Today, the focus is on neuromarketing, a collection of techniques which apply knowledge and tools from neuroscience to the art of selling. A neuromarketing study, for instance, may use brain scanners to test consumers’ reactions to a certain brand.

Neuromarketing studies can assess how consumers will respond to trailers or a television spots. Credit: Mohammed Hassan

For decades, marketing decisions have been informed by scientific knowledge of the brain—its shortcuts and its biases—in order to make products, commercials and even packaging more attractive to the unconscious mind. Neuromarketing, in its simplest form, is only the natural evolution of this practice, which now incorporates the latest scientific advances. The main novelty is that, nowadays, the study of the brain relies on neurotechnologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging and other techniques designed to probe our decision-making organ.

María López, founder of the neurotechnology company Bitbrain, calls this applied knowledge “theoretical neuromarketing” and warns against the “nonsense” and false promises found in the field. Perfectly sound investigations—say, on attention span or on the stimulation of emotional reactions—are often plucked out of context to support dubious claims billed as fail-safe strategies to sell more.


How Neuromarketing Experts Are Peering Into The Mind

Unscrupulous marketers dream of a ‘buy button’ in consumers’ brains which may be activated through scientific study of the mind. Fear of this brainwashing loomed large when, in 1957, american James Vicary presented his famous experiment on subliminal advertising: during the projection of a movie at the cinema, he claimed to have slipped in several frames, lasting only fractions of a second each, with the slogans “drink Coca-Cola” and “eat popcorn”. They flashed so quickly, he said, that audience members only perceived them unconsciously, but that was apparently enough to drive up sales of both soft drink and snack during the intermission. Years later, Vicary confessed it was a hoax.

We know that subliminal advertising doesn’t work and that there is no ‘buy button’ in the brain, but the fear that advances in psychology and neuroscience may be used to manipulate consumers hasn’t quite been shaken. Today, the focus is on neuromarketing, a collection of techniques which apply knowledge and tools from neuroscience to the art of selling. A neuromarketing study, for instance, may use brain scanners to test consumers’ reactions to a certain brand.

Neuromarketing studies can assess how consumers will respond to trailers or a television spots. Credit: Mohammed Hassan

For decades, marketing decisions have been informed by scientific knowledge of the brain—its shortcuts and its biases—in order to make products, commercials and even packaging more attractive to the unconscious mind. Neuromarketing, in its simplest form, is only the natural evolution of this practice, which now incorporates the latest scientific advances. The main novelty is that, nowadays, the study of the brain relies on neurotechnologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging and other techniques designed to probe our decision-making organ.

María López, founder of the neurotechnology company Bitbrain, calls this applied knowledge “theoretical neuromarketing” and warns against the “nonsense” and false promises found in the field. Perfectly sound investigations—say, on attention span or on the stimulation of emotional reactions—are often plucked out of context to support dubious claims billed as fail-safe strategies to sell more.


How Neuromarketing Experts Are Peering Into The Mind

Unscrupulous marketers dream of a ‘buy button’ in consumers’ brains which may be activated through scientific study of the mind. Fear of this brainwashing loomed large when, in 1957, american James Vicary presented his famous experiment on subliminal advertising: during the projection of a movie at the cinema, he claimed to have slipped in several frames, lasting only fractions of a second each, with the slogans “drink Coca-Cola” and “eat popcorn”. They flashed so quickly, he said, that audience members only perceived them unconsciously, but that was apparently enough to drive up sales of both soft drink and snack during the intermission. Years later, Vicary confessed it was a hoax.

We know that subliminal advertising doesn’t work and that there is no ‘buy button’ in the brain, but the fear that advances in psychology and neuroscience may be used to manipulate consumers hasn’t quite been shaken. Today, the focus is on neuromarketing, a collection of techniques which apply knowledge and tools from neuroscience to the art of selling. A neuromarketing study, for instance, may use brain scanners to test consumers’ reactions to a certain brand.

Neuromarketing studies can assess how consumers will respond to trailers or a television spots. Credit: Mohammed Hassan

For decades, marketing decisions have been informed by scientific knowledge of the brain—its shortcuts and its biases—in order to make products, commercials and even packaging more attractive to the unconscious mind. Neuromarketing, in its simplest form, is only the natural evolution of this practice, which now incorporates the latest scientific advances. The main novelty is that, nowadays, the study of the brain relies on neurotechnologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging and other techniques designed to probe our decision-making organ.

María López, founder of the neurotechnology company Bitbrain, calls this applied knowledge “theoretical neuromarketing” and warns against the “nonsense” and false promises found in the field. Perfectly sound investigations—say, on attention span or on the stimulation of emotional reactions—are often plucked out of context to support dubious claims billed as fail-safe strategies to sell more.


How Neuromarketing Experts Are Peering Into The Mind

Unscrupulous marketers dream of a ‘buy button’ in consumers’ brains which may be activated through scientific study of the mind. Fear of this brainwashing loomed large when, in 1957, american James Vicary presented his famous experiment on subliminal advertising: during the projection of a movie at the cinema, he claimed to have slipped in several frames, lasting only fractions of a second each, with the slogans “drink Coca-Cola” and “eat popcorn”. They flashed so quickly, he said, that audience members only perceived them unconsciously, but that was apparently enough to drive up sales of both soft drink and snack during the intermission. Years later, Vicary confessed it was a hoax.

We know that subliminal advertising doesn’t work and that there is no ‘buy button’ in the brain, but the fear that advances in psychology and neuroscience may be used to manipulate consumers hasn’t quite been shaken. Today, the focus is on neuromarketing, a collection of techniques which apply knowledge and tools from neuroscience to the art of selling. A neuromarketing study, for instance, may use brain scanners to test consumers’ reactions to a certain brand.

Neuromarketing studies can assess how consumers will respond to trailers or a television spots. Credit: Mohammed Hassan

For decades, marketing decisions have been informed by scientific knowledge of the brain—its shortcuts and its biases—in order to make products, commercials and even packaging more attractive to the unconscious mind. Neuromarketing, in its simplest form, is only the natural evolution of this practice, which now incorporates the latest scientific advances. The main novelty is that, nowadays, the study of the brain relies on neurotechnologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging and other techniques designed to probe our decision-making organ.

María López, founder of the neurotechnology company Bitbrain, calls this applied knowledge “theoretical neuromarketing” and warns against the “nonsense” and false promises found in the field. Perfectly sound investigations—say, on attention span or on the stimulation of emotional reactions—are often plucked out of context to support dubious claims billed as fail-safe strategies to sell more.


How Neuromarketing Experts Are Peering Into The Mind

Unscrupulous marketers dream of a ‘buy button’ in consumers’ brains which may be activated through scientific study of the mind. Fear of this brainwashing loomed large when, in 1957, american James Vicary presented his famous experiment on subliminal advertising: during the projection of a movie at the cinema, he claimed to have slipped in several frames, lasting only fractions of a second each, with the slogans “drink Coca-Cola” and “eat popcorn”. They flashed so quickly, he said, that audience members only perceived them unconsciously, but that was apparently enough to drive up sales of both soft drink and snack during the intermission. Years later, Vicary confessed it was a hoax.

We know that subliminal advertising doesn’t work and that there is no ‘buy button’ in the brain, but the fear that advances in psychology and neuroscience may be used to manipulate consumers hasn’t quite been shaken. Today, the focus is on neuromarketing, a collection of techniques which apply knowledge and tools from neuroscience to the art of selling. A neuromarketing study, for instance, may use brain scanners to test consumers’ reactions to a certain brand.

Neuromarketing studies can assess how consumers will respond to trailers or a television spots. Credit: Mohammed Hassan

For decades, marketing decisions have been informed by scientific knowledge of the brain—its shortcuts and its biases—in order to make products, commercials and even packaging more attractive to the unconscious mind. Neuromarketing, in its simplest form, is only the natural evolution of this practice, which now incorporates the latest scientific advances. The main novelty is that, nowadays, the study of the brain relies on neurotechnologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging and other techniques designed to probe our decision-making organ.

María López, founder of the neurotechnology company Bitbrain, calls this applied knowledge “theoretical neuromarketing” and warns against the “nonsense” and false promises found in the field. Perfectly sound investigations—say, on attention span or on the stimulation of emotional reactions—are often plucked out of context to support dubious claims billed as fail-safe strategies to sell more.


How Neuromarketing Experts Are Peering Into The Mind

Unscrupulous marketers dream of a ‘buy button’ in consumers’ brains which may be activated through scientific study of the mind. Fear of this brainwashing loomed large when, in 1957, american James Vicary presented his famous experiment on subliminal advertising: during the projection of a movie at the cinema, he claimed to have slipped in several frames, lasting only fractions of a second each, with the slogans “drink Coca-Cola” and “eat popcorn”. They flashed so quickly, he said, that audience members only perceived them unconsciously, but that was apparently enough to drive up sales of both soft drink and snack during the intermission. Years later, Vicary confessed it was a hoax.

We know that subliminal advertising doesn’t work and that there is no ‘buy button’ in the brain, but the fear that advances in psychology and neuroscience may be used to manipulate consumers hasn’t quite been shaken. Today, the focus is on neuromarketing, a collection of techniques which apply knowledge and tools from neuroscience to the art of selling. A neuromarketing study, for instance, may use brain scanners to test consumers’ reactions to a certain brand.

Neuromarketing studies can assess how consumers will respond to trailers or a television spots. Credit: Mohammed Hassan

For decades, marketing decisions have been informed by scientific knowledge of the brain—its shortcuts and its biases—in order to make products, commercials and even packaging more attractive to the unconscious mind. Neuromarketing, in its simplest form, is only the natural evolution of this practice, which now incorporates the latest scientific advances. The main novelty is that, nowadays, the study of the brain relies on neurotechnologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging and other techniques designed to probe our decision-making organ.

María López, founder of the neurotechnology company Bitbrain, calls this applied knowledge “theoretical neuromarketing” and warns against the “nonsense” and false promises found in the field. Perfectly sound investigations—say, on attention span or on the stimulation of emotional reactions—are often plucked out of context to support dubious claims billed as fail-safe strategies to sell more.


How Neuromarketing Experts Are Peering Into The Mind

Unscrupulous marketers dream of a ‘buy button’ in consumers’ brains which may be activated through scientific study of the mind. Fear of this brainwashing loomed large when, in 1957, american James Vicary presented his famous experiment on subliminal advertising: during the projection of a movie at the cinema, he claimed to have slipped in several frames, lasting only fractions of a second each, with the slogans “drink Coca-Cola” and “eat popcorn”. They flashed so quickly, he said, that audience members only perceived them unconsciously, but that was apparently enough to drive up sales of both soft drink and snack during the intermission. Years later, Vicary confessed it was a hoax.

We know that subliminal advertising doesn’t work and that there is no ‘buy button’ in the brain, but the fear that advances in psychology and neuroscience may be used to manipulate consumers hasn’t quite been shaken. Today, the focus is on neuromarketing, a collection of techniques which apply knowledge and tools from neuroscience to the art of selling. A neuromarketing study, for instance, may use brain scanners to test consumers’ reactions to a certain brand.

Neuromarketing studies can assess how consumers will respond to trailers or a television spots. Credit: Mohammed Hassan

For decades, marketing decisions have been informed by scientific knowledge of the brain—its shortcuts and its biases—in order to make products, commercials and even packaging more attractive to the unconscious mind. Neuromarketing, in its simplest form, is only the natural evolution of this practice, which now incorporates the latest scientific advances. The main novelty is that, nowadays, the study of the brain relies on neurotechnologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging and other techniques designed to probe our decision-making organ.

María López, founder of the neurotechnology company Bitbrain, calls this applied knowledge “theoretical neuromarketing” and warns against the “nonsense” and false promises found in the field. Perfectly sound investigations—say, on attention span or on the stimulation of emotional reactions—are often plucked out of context to support dubious claims billed as fail-safe strategies to sell more.


How Neuromarketing Experts Are Peering Into The Mind

Unscrupulous marketers dream of a ‘buy button’ in consumers’ brains which may be activated through scientific study of the mind. Fear of this brainwashing loomed large when, in 1957, american James Vicary presented his famous experiment on subliminal advertising: during the projection of a movie at the cinema, he claimed to have slipped in several frames, lasting only fractions of a second each, with the slogans “drink Coca-Cola” and “eat popcorn”. They flashed so quickly, he said, that audience members only perceived them unconsciously, but that was apparently enough to drive up sales of both soft drink and snack during the intermission. Years later, Vicary confessed it was a hoax.

We know that subliminal advertising doesn’t work and that there is no ‘buy button’ in the brain, but the fear that advances in psychology and neuroscience may be used to manipulate consumers hasn’t quite been shaken. Today, the focus is on neuromarketing, a collection of techniques which apply knowledge and tools from neuroscience to the art of selling. A neuromarketing study, for instance, may use brain scanners to test consumers’ reactions to a certain brand.

Neuromarketing studies can assess how consumers will respond to trailers or a television spots. Credit: Mohammed Hassan

For decades, marketing decisions have been informed by scientific knowledge of the brain—its shortcuts and its biases—in order to make products, commercials and even packaging more attractive to the unconscious mind. Neuromarketing, in its simplest form, is only the natural evolution of this practice, which now incorporates the latest scientific advances. The main novelty is that, nowadays, the study of the brain relies on neurotechnologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging and other techniques designed to probe our decision-making organ.

María López, founder of the neurotechnology company Bitbrain, calls this applied knowledge “theoretical neuromarketing” and warns against the “nonsense” and false promises found in the field. Perfectly sound investigations—say, on attention span or on the stimulation of emotional reactions—are often plucked out of context to support dubious claims billed as fail-safe strategies to sell more.


How Neuromarketing Experts Are Peering Into The Mind

Unscrupulous marketers dream of a ‘buy button’ in consumers’ brains which may be activated through scientific study of the mind. Fear of this brainwashing loomed large when, in 1957, american James Vicary presented his famous experiment on subliminal advertising: during the projection of a movie at the cinema, he claimed to have slipped in several frames, lasting only fractions of a second each, with the slogans “drink Coca-Cola” and “eat popcorn”. They flashed so quickly, he said, that audience members only perceived them unconsciously, but that was apparently enough to drive up sales of both soft drink and snack during the intermission. Years later, Vicary confessed it was a hoax.

We know that subliminal advertising doesn’t work and that there is no ‘buy button’ in the brain, but the fear that advances in psychology and neuroscience may be used to manipulate consumers hasn’t quite been shaken. Today, the focus is on neuromarketing, a collection of techniques which apply knowledge and tools from neuroscience to the art of selling. A neuromarketing study, for instance, may use brain scanners to test consumers’ reactions to a certain brand.

Neuromarketing studies can assess how consumers will respond to trailers or a television spots. Credit: Mohammed Hassan

For decades, marketing decisions have been informed by scientific knowledge of the brain—its shortcuts and its biases—in order to make products, commercials and even packaging more attractive to the unconscious mind. Neuromarketing, in its simplest form, is only the natural evolution of this practice, which now incorporates the latest scientific advances. The main novelty is that, nowadays, the study of the brain relies on neurotechnologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging and other techniques designed to probe our decision-making organ.

María López, founder of the neurotechnology company Bitbrain, calls this applied knowledge “theoretical neuromarketing” and warns against the “nonsense” and false promises found in the field. Perfectly sound investigations—say, on attention span or on the stimulation of emotional reactions—are often plucked out of context to support dubious claims billed as fail-safe strategies to sell more.


How Neuromarketing Experts Are Peering Into The Mind

Unscrupulous marketers dream of a ‘buy button’ in consumers’ brains which may be activated through scientific study of the mind. Fear of this brainwashing loomed large when, in 1957, american James Vicary presented his famous experiment on subliminal advertising: during the projection of a movie at the cinema, he claimed to have slipped in several frames, lasting only fractions of a second each, with the slogans “drink Coca-Cola” and “eat popcorn”. They flashed so quickly, he said, that audience members only perceived them unconsciously, but that was apparently enough to drive up sales of both soft drink and snack during the intermission. Years later, Vicary confessed it was a hoax.

We know that subliminal advertising doesn’t work and that there is no ‘buy button’ in the brain, but the fear that advances in psychology and neuroscience may be used to manipulate consumers hasn’t quite been shaken. Today, the focus is on neuromarketing, a collection of techniques which apply knowledge and tools from neuroscience to the art of selling. A neuromarketing study, for instance, may use brain scanners to test consumers’ reactions to a certain brand.

Neuromarketing studies can assess how consumers will respond to trailers or a television spots. Credit: Mohammed Hassan

For decades, marketing decisions have been informed by scientific knowledge of the brain—its shortcuts and its biases—in order to make products, commercials and even packaging more attractive to the unconscious mind. Neuromarketing, in its simplest form, is only the natural evolution of this practice, which now incorporates the latest scientific advances. The main novelty is that, nowadays, the study of the brain relies on neurotechnologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging and other techniques designed to probe our decision-making organ.

María López, founder of the neurotechnology company Bitbrain, calls this applied knowledge “theoretical neuromarketing” and warns against the “nonsense” and false promises found in the field. Perfectly sound investigations—say, on attention span or on the stimulation of emotional reactions—are often plucked out of context to support dubious claims billed as fail-safe strategies to sell more.


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