What is Neuromarketing and why is It Important?

If you could get inside the heads of all of your current and potential customers to find out what they really think about your marketing efforts and products, would you? Of course you would. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that can provide that kind of untainted access. But there is neuromarketing, and it can come pretty close. Instead of relying exclusively on focus groups and filtered feedback, neuromarketing goes to the source – the consumer’s brain.

What is Neuromarketing?

The term neuromarketing (some call it consumer neuroscience) has been around for well over a decade, and the process can be utilised to glean different types of data. Some researchers use it to determine what goes into the consumer’s decision-making process, while others use neuromarketing to ‘read’ people’s thoughts as they watch a targeted ad or video. In short, neuromarketing evaluates the brain to study consumer behaviour.

To do this, scientists must move well beyond the standard question and answer tactics that have historically been used to gain insight into consumer’s decision-making process and purchasing habits. In order to get organic, more accurate results from their test subjects, scientists who engage in neuromarketing research use either functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or electroencephalography (EEG) equipment on their subjects. By attaching electrodes to the heads of willing participants, researchers claim they can measure the intensity of a person’s emotions, such as excitement, disgust, desire, and anger.

While the participants are watching an ad, testing a new device, or tasting a new food product, the staff conducting the research can read the brain activity of the subjects in real time. Based on the results of the experiments, as well as other consumer studies that have been conducted on the same product or advert, the company or marketing agency that is promoting a product or advertisement can determine what direction to take next.

The Limits of Neuromarketing

While the data can obviously be very valuable, neuromarketing does have its limitations. Those participating in the test know they’re being analysed, so their experience can be a bit skewed. The test groups also tend to be much smaller than those in other forms of marketing research. Additionally, those who volunteer to participate in these types of studies may not accurately represent the target population. So, given these limitations, is neuromarketing even worth the additional effort?

Why is Neuromarketing Important?

Neuromarketing matters because, when combined with other qualitative data, it can be a powerful tool in creating hypotheses related to predicting consumer habits. Using the results, marketers can fairly accurately gauge whether a tentative promotion will yield a positive or negative reaction from consumers. They can also determine whether or not a product’s appearance, usability, and packaging will do well in the marketplace. The results gathered from neuromarketing studies shouldn’t be used by marketers as a sole determiner of their next move, but they certainly provide insight into the consumer’s mindset that traditional marketing test methods cannot offer.