Neuromarketing Continued

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by: Jennifer Rice

Rob and Jon are both surprised that I'm not a fan of neuromarketing. I read Kurzweil and sci-fi; I'm fascinated with nanotech and other future technologies… so how can I be negative about neuromarketing?

When people misuse low-tech options, it's quite probable that they'll misuse newer high-tech options. I'm not averse to new technology; I am averse to making it available to users who don't often understand the basic principles.

If I'm in a focus group and you offer me a choice between a snake, a roach and a June bug, I'm quite likely to pick the snake. Not because I'm a huge fan of snakes, mind you… I just think it's better than the alternatives.

That's what happens in focus groups, whether for an advertisement or a new product design. Few companies bother to actually initiate conversations with customers, build relationships with them, and involve them on the front end. Rather, they come up with some ideas while sitting around a conference table and decide to 'test' those ideas with customers. Hmm.

Now enter neuromarketing. Yep, it magically confirms that the snake "registers as a "strongly preferred choice"—the goal of every advertiser—the action switches to the right parietal cortex, above and slightly behind the right ear." And then the marketers wonder why the snake isn't flying off the shelves. Maybe it was the packaging? Or should we have made the font size bigger in the ad?

When businesses begin to learn the right process — involving the customer in the initial creation — then I have no problem using a new technique that is effective in context to that process. BTW, I'm not a fan of focus groups either, for all the reasons Zack mentions in his above-referenced post on neuromarketing. I find it most effective to talk one-on-one, or to get 2 or 3 people (max) in a room to have a real discussion. In the book "How Customers Think" mentions that 8 in-depth one-on-one interviews are the informational equivalent to 150 quantitative responses (my stats are probably off; I'm going from memory here.) When I was an account planner working on an apparel account, I went into people's homes and closets and learned first-hand what they wore and why. There are plenty of ways to understand your customer and learn — before you test — that a cat is preferable to a snake. Oh hey, how about starting a weblog and getting comments from customers? Now there's a novel idea!

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