Great discussion with Danish science journalist Lorne Frank on “All In The Mind“.
Natasha Mitchell:…the Pepsi paradox: that actually is very interesting isn’t it? In a sense it gets at the neurobiology of branding.
Lorne Frank: That was a study that started off this whole neuromarketing, I think it was in 2004, it’s been known for a long time that there’s this thing called the Pepsi paradox because Coca Cola of course sells much more than Pepsi. But in blind tastings most people will say that they prefer Pepsi, so why do they actually buy Coke? So there’s this guy Clinton Kilts in Georgia who wanted to find out what is going on in the brain, where is branding actually happening, can we pinpoint it somewhere? So he took people and did that blind tasting while they were in a MRI scanner (they just had very, very long straws).
Natasha Mitchell: Is that what they did?
Lorne Frank: Yeah, it looks crazy to see a picture of it, they would be sucking on these straws metres long, and they would guess Pepsi or Coke, and in the first round it was blind tasting, they didn’t know what was what. And you could see the response in the brain and the response to the one, the drink they liked the most, there was more reward, basically, in reward areas.
Natasha Mitchell: It’s a whole sort of circuitry in the brain, it’s no one spot.
Lorne Frank: Everything in the brain is basically circuitry, but there are areas where you can see that will really light up and become active when you ingest something sweet for example—oh, that gives you a reward. And Pepsi is sweeter than Coke, so most people would like that best and it would give the best response, basically. And then in the next round they would tell people, now you’re ingesting Pepsi and now you’re ingesting Coke. And then you would have the same, initially the same kind of reward reaction, but then an area in the front of the brain where we actually do our conscious thinking and whatever would come on. There would be an area that is usually involved when you think about yourself, and you think about what you like in the world. This would come on and would sort of actually convince the reward system that oh no, Pepsi is not the best drink, Coke is the best drink. So the reward would actually be dampened so they would actually trick themselves to like Coke better because of this branding effect that goes on in the thinking part of the brain.
Natasha Mitchell: Real identification with the branding.
Lorne Frank: Yes, this is more me.