Neuromarketing Not So Hot

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by: Jennifer Rice

Zack Lynch of Corante's Brain Waves talks about neuromarketing last week (old news, I know, but I'm now getting caught up on my blog reading):

Either corporate America doesn't believe the hype surrounding neuromarketing or their marketing departments don't understand what "neuromarketing" means. My bet it is more the latter than the former. Regardless of the reason, the lack of interest in neuromarketing caused the first neuromarketing conference to be cancelled this week…

If you really think about it, how many marketing or advertising executives do you know that have a background in neuroscience. As I've said before, as brain imaging advances, neuromarketing will become a significant growth sector in years to come as the trillion-per-year advertising and marketing industries leverage brain scanning technology to better understand how and why people react to different market campaigns.

I'm going to disagree with Zack and with Rob at BusinessPundit: I wouldn't have signed up for the conference because I think neuromarketing can be both pointless and dangerous.

Rob refers to the "Pepsi Challenge" given in an MRI scanner, and the results were no surprise: people liked the taste of Pepsi but bought Coke. Since the MRI scan didn't tell us anything we didn't already know, is it really worth the money? I'm not seeing the value here. We can look at revenue and market share data to tell us what consumers are purchasing. Chances are, listening to your customers will tip you off as to why they're purchasing one brand versus another.

Yes, it's interesting to see physiological responses to campaigns. Yes, it's probably more reliable than focus groups. But I think we're missing the boat here. First, campaign testing isn't that necessary if you've done your homework, understood your customers' needs, and crafted a great strategy on the front end. Second, this is reinforcing the fallacy that advertising is what sells product. If I'm Southwest Airlines or Krispy Kreme or Apple, why do I need neuromarketing to tell me that a TV spot A is more interesting than TV spot B when I have customer evangelists who are actively promoting my business for me? I'm not saying that advertising isn't important; there are plenty of case studies to demonstrate that advertising helps to build brands (especially in packaged goods). However, tactics like neuromarketing serve to reinforce the impression that 'if we can just get our ad campaign right, all our sales woes will be resolved'… as if advertising can somehow compensate for a lack of differentiation, perceived value, or customer experience. Advertising is not a cure-all. A great neuromarketing-validated campaign does not a strong brand make.

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