Why neuromarketing?

This blog is the result of an article that I read last year in a business magazine that was talking about neuromarketing. I had no idea, at that time, that that particular reading will change my life. The article was describing the use of sophisticated neuroimaging techniques that allowed marketers to adapt their strategies to what people really thought, not to what they claimed. Neuromarketing is a somewhat familiar field to me, as I graduated the medical university but refused to enter the system, so I got an MBA in marketing and I started my own advertising agency called Lemon Studio. I was so fascinated by neurocinema and the applications of neuroimaging techniques in studying TV commercials, that I decided I wanted to pursue this field through a PhD research at ASE (The Bucharest University of Economic Studies), even if I am not sure yet whether the Romanian market is ready for this emerging and rather novel field.

Neuromarketing has been first used by the BrightHouse Institute in Atlanta in 2002, when the company announced the opening of a market research department that used fMRI as the basic research tool. During the last years, the neuro-tools employed by different marketing departments have diversified, as companies started to use EEG, brain activation imaging, CT scan, eye-tracking and psychographic measurements (heart rate, skin conductance, etc) in their daily studies, in order to get an accurate picture of their subjects’ neural reactions. There are more than 60 neuromarketing agencies around the world and Europe ranks the first with about 31 agencies. That means that, even if neuromarketing is facing some harsh criticism, which is actually normal for a new field, neuromarketing is here to stay and comparative studies have reinforced that even stronger.

The first acknowledgment that my decision was a good one came with my attending the first Neuromarketing World Forum that took place in Amsterdam in February. This is where the Neuromarketing Science & Business Association (NMSBA) was established, the first neuromarketing association that gathers together academic researchers and business professionals, of which I am happy to be part of. Soon after returning from the event, I was called by journalist Ioana Calen to talk about neuromarketing for Dascloud.ro (http://dascloud.ro/2012/03/15/creierul-sufletul-comertului) and later for an article that appeared in one of the Romanian glossy magazines – The ONE (http://www.onemagazine.ro/fashion/designeri-si-colectiile-lor/articol-9612281-noile-tendinte-in-shopping), which covered a subject similar to my doctoral thesis – online versus offline shopping. Noticing the media interest in this new field, I decided to launch a blog, that would be useful both in my professional development, as an information-gathering tool and as a landmark to other neuromarketing or neuroscience enthusiasts.

Another reason for my venturing with this blog is that, at least in Romania, neuromarketing is a rather unknown field. One of the main concerns is obviously ethics-related and refers to the allegedly manipulative power these neuroimaging tools can exert on consumers. From this standpoint, neuromarketing studies are no more different than traditional market research studies except that they are more accurate. Researchers can’t read people’s minds and they can’t inoculate thoughts or needs in their subjects’ minds. EEG and fMRI allow us to “peek” into the brain and record its activity, so we get an idea of what elements are appealing to the subject, what makes him laugh or scares him and how intense is his reaction to the stimuli.

And there’s more, to paraphrase a classic: studies show that 95% of the decision making process takes places at the subconscious level, and this is fascinating! The lately developed economic theories, like behavioral economics, emotionomics and value-based marketing (Marketing 3.0), overfly this rather unexplored domain of human psychology, but in my opinion, neuromarketing comes the closest, and this is the trigger for my quest!

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