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Neuroscientists reveal what it really takes to be a market leader

Like me, you were probably aware that the original 'The Pepsi Coke Challenge', was a series of blindfolded, 'taste tests' conducted from the mid-seventies by various advertising companies across the globe on these two leading colas.

The reports from the US and Canada claimed, that far more blind-folded people preferred the taste of Pepsi® than Coke®.

Recently however, neuroscientists in the US did their own study and came up with entirely different findings...and for good reason.

The study also gave us an insight as to why now, twenty years later, Coke® is the clear market leader in cola sales, outselling Pepsi® globally.

Today, people still believe that by innovation and having the cheapest, fastest, strongest or best-tasting product, like Pepsi®, that they will win more customers and market share once people find out.

Innovation doesn't guarantee market share. Coke® almost lost its market leadership when it attempted to improve the taste of Coke® without understanding why it was preferred in the first place!

Nor does throwing millions of dollars at marketing, ensure market ownership or a brand that has the power to influence. Pepsi® cola sales are still lagging in most of its global markets and for good reason.

What science revealed

In 2004, when Dr Read Montague, a neuroscientist, chose to do his own research into  "The Pepsi Coke Challenge", he chose to utilise MRI technology (brain scans).

He wanted to uncover what happened in the brain when preferences were being made or challenged. He wanted to see what happened with brain activity when subjects were given a blind taste test and also when they had knowledge of the brand they were drinking.

Montague established from the brain scans that when judgments were based solely on sensory information (blind test and just on taste), the brain's ventral putamen (VMPFC) became active. His study in the US showed, unlike the advertising hype of the eighties, that the preferences were more or less equally split between the two products.

The research then showed that brand knowledge could and did influence preference but only with one of the brands.

In the case of Coke®, with brand knowledge, decisions recruited another area of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. These are mid-brain areas  associated with emotion-based (cultural) learning. When these areas were engaged, previous preferences of taste were out-influenced and overturned.

Significantly, more people chose Coke® (approximately two times more) than Pepsi®.

Unfortunately, with brand knowledge of Pepsi®, there was no engagement of the mid brain emotional influence. Preferences of the group remained based on taste only.

The study showed that the Coke® brand engaged the emotions and increased its share of preferences. The Pepsi® brand did not, even though it has a recognisable brand in the marketing sense. The Pepsi® brand had no influence on preference.

Montague's research also proved that when the emotions are engaged, they influence and dominate sensory preferences like taste, size or convenience.

The implication for business influence

You don't have to have the biggest or the best to own or control the marketplace. Good news for people currently stuck in a commodity marketplace.

Secondly, market dominance and brand loyalty come from owning a brand that can engage the kind of emotional influence that Coke® had.

It also showed that investment into brand recognition like Pepsi® doesn't automatically guarantee influence either.

The implication of this research for our practice

Our practice has always held an unorthodox view that approaches influence from a subconscious perspective. For a long time, as a Master Practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), I have seen how, despite what people say; what they eventually do - just like the MRI tests indicated -is entirely different.

My perspective that was borne out by Montague's research is that unless you understand and work with the unconscious motivators of people, you remain a victim to a reactive marketplace.

I am currently writing a book on these hidden motivators of influence that I hope to have published in the next 12 months.

In the meanwhile you may want to subscribe to the Evers Report if you haven't already done so, as we will be reviewing some of the principles month by month.

Contact us today to arrange an appointment to discuss how we would could assist you to improve your business influence.

Phone consultations are also available for businesses outside of Melbourne, Australia.