During a dinner conversation, yesterday, I got involved (more likely dragged) to a discussion about that hot new trend called NeuroMarketing and the wonderful brave new World it would create.
I am not a NeuroMarketing Expert - nor is this the place to debate who is really a genuine one. Nonetheless, allow me to share my thoughts and experiences with it; for your information, my background includes a healthy experience with applied psychometrics.
FYI, the term NeuroMarketing appeared in 2002 in an announcement of BrightHouse – a US advertising firm, regarding the creation of a new fMRI Business Unit for marketing research.
What is NeuroMarketing?
“Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing which uses medical technologies such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to study the brain’s responses to marketing stimuli". (Source: Wikipedia).
Allow me please to rephrase this definition in a simpler manner. Neuromarketing is the application of Neural Sciences to marketing; Neural Sciences involves not only Neuroscience, but also several areas of applied psychology (pursuasive psychology, human perception, etc.).
The principles are very old – use MRI to see whether a specific stimulus of our senses (e.g. a video or an image or a sound, or a smell, or even a particular colour), can cause a consistent set of responses to our brain- activity. Of course, the interest of Neuromarketing is whether that given response of ours could correlate with a desired consumer- behaviour; the relevant marketing campaign is to incorporate that stimulus in the hope of establishing a purchasing behaviour to the consumer. E.g. what is the brain activity/ reaction if I use Packaging A or Packaging B for my new product?
In practice and in 2017, Neuromarketing uses all sorts of brain imaging, scanning, or any other technology that can measure our various psychometric activities and reactions to any stimuli.
Keep in mind that those measurements exist as long as EEG devices have been around.
How is it done in practice?
You basically go to a Lab and they attach all sorts of electrodes mainly on your head, your hands and possibly in your mouth and they plug you to a computer or some device that can measures brain activity.
Basically, in the past I would have given to you a product to taste and I would have asked you a few questions about what your thoughts regarding its flavor, texture etc.… Now the questions are skipped – I will simply attach some electrodes on you.
What is measured?
- Competitive Engagement
That is how involved a viewer is while watching your advertisement and those of your competitors. That is indeed pretty cool and useful information- remember this is indicative and not absolute data/ observations.
What is basically done is measuring engagement in real time to see where/ how engagement rises and falls during an advertisement.
- Visual Attention
Is your product- packaging optimal in capturing consumers’ attention? Will it stand out or ‘fade out’ on a supermarket shelf?
Are your website’s important elements/ information/ sales- offers easy to spot?
- Auditory Attention and its influence on the Visual Attention
E.g. how do you react to the voice or music in a TV commercial?
- Any Gut-feeling responses
People do have gut- feelings about your product / service and also about your brand. Can a new product / concept shift perceptions and how?
- Eye- tracking on a video or a website via heatmaps.
How can your business' advertisement be shortened to ensure the best return on investment?
- All sort of subconscious attitudes
The advertisement may be entertaining / fun to watch, but are your consumers really getting your message?
Maybe it is now time to produce a new TV commercial because your old one has been played over and over and over again, or is the existing commercial still effective?
- Physiological responses to an advertisement or the tactile experience of touching a product or its packaging or even tasting a new offering.
These are measurements like our heart-rate, our skin- conductance, our facial EMG -that is our facial muscle contractions, etc.….
Who is using it and for what?
Instead of a lengthy answer, the attached table to this article contains a pretty good indication of types of companies who use NeuroMarketing and what for.
So, is Neuromarketing the answer?
If you want to be critical about it, the real reason behind all that Neuromarketing hype, it is simply because all current / existing market research techniques have proved to be rather inadequate. Thus, the joke: ‘Marketing is about lying to consumers and Market Research is about lying to yourself'.
FYI - Statistically about 60% - 80% of newly launched products or services, they fail even though they have been market research tested.
As I mentioned earlier, I come from a psychometrics background. The first and the most basic principle in Psychometric is that no 2 people are similar implying that you should never average psychometric measurements not does it make sense to use more than 2-3 subjects in any psychometric experiment / observation. So, since the average human/ the average consumer does not exist, what is the point of these psychometric measurements?
There is another issue that is generic to lab observations. You can observe the neurosomatic reactions of any great consumer- 'subject'. But that is by no means a prediction of how this person will react -for example- in a supermarket environment and how s/he makes a decision surrounded by a whole of competing product selections placed not in optimal lighting and surrounded by other distractions.
To the best of my knowledge and experience, neither any of the brain- imaging techniques nor the current State- of- the- Art in Neural Sciences are sufficiently advanced to be able to predict/ forecast or manipulate consumer behaviour.
To me, it is amazing to google and find neuromarketing companies promising the “truth” about what customers “really” think: “we measure what consumers really think and feel, rather than simply what they state,” or “we unlock what your customer really thinks.” Given the current State- of- the- Art of imaging technology, these claims appear genuinely questionable at best.
Maybe instead of spending money in tricking the consumers by ‘all sorts of marketing techniques’, you should invest in creating products or services of the highest quality. Consumers and their Loyalty will then follow.
Spiros Tsaltas is a seasoned Technology & Operations Executive and Management Consultant; he is also a former University Professor (RSM MBA, CUNY, etc). Spiros has hands-on experience on setting up all sorts of Startups both in the US and in Europe. He is an active transformational leader and strategist who has also years-long experience with Boards of Advisors and Boards of Directors. He is currently assisting a couple of Ghanaian companies with the setup of their BoDs.
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