Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Neuromarketing: is there a future for this new trend?

I heard for the first time about Neuromarketing in Marketing Magazine, in July 2007. This new trend does not surprise me at all, since marketing tends to know better and better the customers, by using new technologies. I wanted today to give a focus about neuromarketing, as this topic is pretty controversial.

According to Wikipedia, Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing that studies consumers sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. Therefore, in order to understand better customer behavior and factors that impacts its buying decision, marketers try to identify how the human brains in order to enhance their marketing proposition.

Knowing what the customer wants has always been the dream of any marketer. Marketing is a difficult science, as it aims to offer the best message at the right time in order to convince the customer to buy a product. The problem is that customers' minds are very complex & unpredictable.

The role of science in marketing
Science has helped a lot marketing in this sense. Thanks to mathematics, especially, people are able to forecast probabilities, and to predict the results of a specific marketing campaigns. A great return of investment forecast is based on maths, on statistics predictions.

Also, marketing has based a lot of its triggers thanks to philosophy, and sociology. Based on studies, over the years, marketing has become more and more efficient, whereas the competition has become bigger.

Why using neuromarketing
One of the problem with the different measuring tools we had in the past is that it is based on the verbal expression of what the customer wants. The results could hence be biased upon how the question has been asked. Indeed, this information is mainly rational, occulting the whole emotional aspect of the decision making process. Therefore, by entering the human brain, scientists are willing to understand better the emotional side of the customer.

How does that work?
Neuromarketing uses the IRM technology, which gives a picture of the activity zones of the brain while exposed to a marketing stimuli.

Case Study: Coca VS Pepsi
In a study published in Neuron in 2004, 67 people brain scanned during a blind taste test of Coca Cola & Pepsi. The study show that the majority prefered Pepsi during the blind taste, but picked the Coke while seeing the brands. This study is supposed to show that while speaking about Coca Cola, the brain thinks about all the memories it is related to.

My opinion
The fact is that a customer has multiple factors affecting his buying behavior. Depending on his background, on his mood, on his knowledge about the product, the result will be different. I don't think we can get any conclusion of the neuromarketing so far as it can't be applied on a large scale. Can it help to set a marketing campaign? I don't think so. It might be able to shape a little bit better a marketing operation, but will never replace other kind of marketing research.

 Neuromarketing could be though a great thing to experiment and to understand maybe better the decision making process, but can't be used to better a marketing campaign in my opinion. Also, the cost of such a research is high (730 euros/person).

In my opinion, neuromarketing is not the future of marketing. It will never allow a marketer to know exactly what to propose to customers.

What do you think about it? Do you think neuromarketing has a great future? Would you use it for your marketing decision? Do you have case studies on how neuromarketing has been used?

By the way, while conducting research about this topic, I found the neuromarketing blog, http://www.neurosciencemarketing.com/blog, which is very interesting and that I had to my netvibes. It gives good information on marketing scientific research.
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  1. Most of the 'science' behind neuromarketing isn't terribly new or conclusive: human beings remember some things better or more clearly than others, and meaning is a construct of context and personal experience. I'm not sure this is a revelation at all, actually: the Greeks wrote plays about it thousands of years ago.

    Brand experts are madly searching for ways to defend their preconceived notions of marketing as a mind-control (or influencing) endeavor. Facing difficult economic times and constant challenges from employers and clients to make brand and marketing expenditures more relevant to sales, marketers need to step up and deliver.

    So I find it fascinating that anybody would choose to dive deeper into the vagaries of mind or brain science, rather than 'work the other way' and experiment with defining brand more externally...in terms of the behaviors by companies and their consumers that constitute the complex dance of inquiry, transaction, and service.

    You don't need sensitive sensing devices or religious faith to see and map the chronologies and dependencies of commercial relationships, so why not build models of brand that don't influence those actions but rather emerge FROM them? Brand as behavior, not thought or intent.

    Anyway, I write a lot about the potential implications in my book, Branding Only Works on Cattle, and my chapter on the challenges of brand measurement is available for download for a short time on my site: http://tinyurl.com/5ne379

  2. I think your thoughts are very interesting on how to approach with new tools branding. However, I still believe studying, as you have actually written, behavior, and the way people make decision and think is important in order to get new approaches. I believe your book is very interesting and I added it up to my book to read list. So did I add your blog to my netvibes. I'd like to discuss with you further in details about your ideas.