Here is yet another example of how business is seeking to getting into - and manipulate - the minds of potential customers. Just imagine what the governments and the "Intelligence" and "security" organisations are doing -
This report appeared in the London Observer newspaper and was submitted by Matthew Dane:
It may prove to be the most successful new selling technique the capitalist world has ever known. The 'mind virus' is the latest form of consumer brainwashing.
A mix of psychology and Internet technology, the aim is to create social epidemics by feeding the right information, or virus, into someone's mind. Once implanted, it can make the most useless of gadgets seem essential, the most unnecessary accessory irresistable. It is a money spinning dream.
That is the claim of psychologist Paul Marsden who believes he can help businesses to trigger shopping crazes for their products.
It works like this. First you find out how the mind of your target consumer works by getting at his or her ideas and subconscious thoughts. Marsden's company, Brand Genetics, is pioneering this, not through market research but word association games on the Internet that can tell the psychologist everything he needs to know.
Once someone has been lured to play the games their 'mindsets' or reactions to certain words and ideas are laid bare. The next step is to sell on the information to an interested business that can use it to create a product that is branded and packaged in a way that will be irresistible to the target consumer.
Demand for the service has been so strong that Brand Genetics already has a multi million pound turnover with clients including American Express, Land Rover, Lloyds TSB, Mars and Metz.
Successful brands can be used as starting points and simply cloned. 'That part is like genetic modification. Really the basics are that our minds are tuned to wake up all certain terms related to certain concepts. Sex, survival and status are the big three for all humans,' says Marsden.
The consumers' enthusiasm for something that fits into their mindset so well can go on to create a social epidemic.
'People are drawn to mimic the behaviour of others. It is contagious,' said Marsden. 'I would get my psychology student to stand in the middle of Oxford Street and stare at the sky. Within minutes it can bring the whole of Oxford Street to a practical standstill as people cannot resist copying and will stop to stare at the sky too. Add to that how we will follow anyone with status or celebrity and the cues to creating a social epidemic are all there.' Marsden calls it 'positive mind virus'. Bizarrely, he used his expertise in the psychology of suicide to develop the technique.
'Suicide in contagious,' he explained. 'When the report of a suicide appears in a newspaper, especially the tabloids, the suicide rate leaps by an immediate 10 per cent, sometimes as much as 20 per cent. ' This led him to the conclusion that planting the right seed in a person's mind could achieve any end.
Marsden offers a recent example. He invited business people to visit a website in exchange for being entered into a prize draw for a holiday. They were asked to guess the next mobile phone innovation. The entries were collected and the best 100 ideas passed to a mobile phone company. The company had tapped into expertise that would normally cost a fortune to gather. 'This is about using the Internet as a virtual consumer to find people's mindset,' he said.
The Consumer Association confirms that as along as people are not deceived into playing the Internet word association games, then it is all above board.
You have been warned.
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