Neuromarketing: hope or hype?

Neuromarketing: hope or hype?

Posted by Leanne Loijens on Fri 31 Jan. 2020 - 2 minute read

The application of neuroscience methods to marketing – neuromarketing – is growing in popularity. Last week at an event with 13.000 visitors, a colleague of mine Patrick Zimmerman presented ‘Neuromarketing for webshops’ together with Evoworks. Patrick explained the practical application of neuroscience tools in marketing.


Presentation Neuromarketing

The hope of all marketers

Marketers hope that neuroscience will provide them with information that is not obtainable through conventional marketing methods such as questionnaires and focus groups. Can neuroscience be the holy grail of the study of consumer buying behavior online or offline?

Solving the puzzle

There are a number of well-established methods for measuring and mapping brain activity. The most commonly used methods applied in neuromarketing include electroencephalo-graphy (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) but other (“non-neuro”) methods like eye tracking, face reading, and measuring physiological responses are growing in popularity.


tobii eye tracking package design market research

In my experience combining methods is crucial for gaining insight in something as complex as liking and wanting. Each method (including the traditional ones like interviews and focus groups) can give valuable information. The combination is like bringing the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.

Limitations of using neuroscience methods for neuromarketing

EEG is a relatively old technology in neurology, but it is still considered a good way to measure brain activity. However, the limitation of EEG is that it does not have good spatial resolution, which means it cannot precisely locate where the neurons are firing in the brain (especially in deeper, older structures).

While EEG measures the electrical activity in the brain, MEG measures the magnetic field created by neuronal activity. MEG has excellent temporal resolution and better spatial resolution than EEG. However, like EEG, MEG is limited to picking up activity at the surface of the brain. Another disadvantage of MEG is that the technique is expensive and therefore not readily available to the average marketer or market research agency.

fMRI measures the change in blood flow in the brain. fMRI has the major advantage of being able to image deep brain structures, especially those involved in emotional responses. Although it is often claimed that fMRI is a non-invasive method, that is, of course, not the case. A scanner is not a supermarket or a home situation where factors like the presence of other people or the abundance of other products than the one your company is interested in can influence choice behavior. This technique is also expensive, which is another disadvantage of using fMRI.


eeg neuromarketing electrodes

Extremely hard to explain buying behavior

The major drawback of all three methods is that the data are difficult to interpret. It is one thing to see which parts of the brain become active in response to a stimulus; it is another to interpret what this means or what you can do with it. Neuroscience is a discipline in itself and although there is a wealth of scientific information about the brain and specific areas such as the reward center, the translation of all this information into predictive models that explain why we buy certain products and not others is still extremely hard.

The marketing hype

And let’s face it: marketing is not interested in science or complexity. A marketer wants to increase the conversion ratio with a solution that just says ‘this advertisement will generate lots of traffic to our webshop’ or ‘this online quote generator will increase sales’. 

Rather than trying to understand complex neuroscientific data, there is a temptation to oversimplify and over-claim. 

And there is the threat. 

If we keep in mind that hidden “buy buttons” are a fantasy, neuromarketing is here to stay and will evolve in a discipline that can fundamentally change how we design, promote, price, and package our products.









RESOURCES: Read more about FaceReader

Find out how FaceReader is used in a wide range of studies and how it can elevate your research!

  • Free white papers and case studies
  • Customer success stories
  • Recent blog posts



Subscribe to the blog
Share this post
Topics
Learn
more
Relevant Blogs
top-5-consumer-behavior-research-blog-posts

Top 5 Consumer behavior research on the Behavioral Research Blog

Observational research is becoming more and more popular in consumer science and market research. From on-site behavioral observations in supermarkets to advanced multimodal lab studies.
passenger-retail-experience

What behaviors to focus on – Airport passenger experiences

To learn more about airport design and to investigate how to make time at an airport more enjoyable, Livingstone et al. undertook a study into passenger experience.
measure-disgust-gut-wrenching-movies

Consumer behavior research in the spotlight: consumption behavior

Why do we drink less when watching gut-wrenching movies? How does exposure to moral violations influence consumption?