All posts by hcdiadmin

Health & Wellness focus for new HCD Consumer Research Unit

HCD Research, a marketing and consumer sciences company, has partnered with Martha Bajec, a PhD expert in neuroscience and consumer research, to launch a new consumer research unit focusing on health and wellness consumer products. With HCD’s success in applying a behavioral and consumer neuroscience approach in consumer product and marketing research, they are applying their expertise to helping health and wellness companies navigate the complex world of consumer testing and understanding.

Martha Bajec, PhD

The health and wellness product space, which includes health and well-being related consumer products such as nutritional supplements, cannabinoids, and other plant-based phytocompounds and natural actives, is booming. Products featuring functional ingredients, including phytoceuticals, nutraceuticals, and herbaceuticals (including cannabinoids, like cannabidiol (CBD)), and other natural actives, have become increasingly popular. However, this type of product research requires specialized knowledge and expertise – from making claims to running consumer and sensory testing – the nuances of designing, implementing and analyzing such research can be challenging.

HCD Wellness, in partnership with Dr. Bajec, will provide consumer research in the health and well-being area for claims substantiation, consumer & market research, and sensory & ingredient optimization complementing traditional research tools with psychology and neuroscience. “As more companies enter this space, many have approached us for help with their research,” says HCD’s VP of Research & Innovation Michelle Niedziela, PhD. “We felt it was important to combine our expertise with Dr. Bajec’s expertise to better serve our clients in this space.” With Dr. Bajec’s extensive experience across a broad range of consumable products (including cannabis (all forms), alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, tobacco, electronic cigarettes, and fortified dairy-based beverages) and HCD’s expertise in consumer neuroscience, clients can expect the best possible research.

Consumer demand for health and wellness products, including CBD, is an expanding industry that warrants a closer look. Now is the time for companies to begin R&D into various applications of CBD and other natural actives. HCD Wellness will utilize state-of-the-art technologies and methodologies to help clients better understand the complex relationship between consumers and these products. Consumer research expert, Dr. Bajec adds, “I’m excited to bring my personal passion and CPG-insider perspective to partner with Dr. Niedziela and the HCD team in the mission of delivering clear, actionable results in support of discovery, innovation, and R&D in the all-too-important health and wellness space. HCD’s application of neuroscience research methods to consumer understanding is uniquely well-suited to study the effects and efficaciousness of bioactive and psychoactive ingredients, including cannabinoids like CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), among many others.” 

HCD Research is a marketing and consumer sciences company that provides expert recommendations by employing traditional and applied consumer neuroscience to optimize the design of market research projects for our clients. For more information contact Allison Gutkowski (

Neuroscience to boost your media insights

HCD Research continues to provide the best possible actionable results using the latest and most appropriate measures from neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral science to supplement and dive deeper into traditional market research for ad, concept, media elements (such as logos and spokespeople) and all marketing mix. 

We have developed a COVID-19 response safety protocol (click here to view in full) to ensure research can continue safely and confidently anywhere you need to be.

Making the Perfect Ad – Is Neuroscience the Key to Success?

Creating an ad that captures attention, tugs at emotions, and engages the mind is an advertiser’s dream. Taking advertising research to a new level of understanding, HCD uses a combination of neuro-psychophysiological, psychological, behavioral and traditional marketing research tools. This approach helps to understand the journey from creative content to nudging sales. They allow advertisers to more consistently produce great ads, as well as cull those destined to fail.

Our brains react to our world in milliseconds—faster than we’re consciously aware.

So how can we tap into this to better understand consumer reactions with neuroscience tools?

By integrating the results from comprehensive traditional studies, employing a comprehensive advertising research metric and applied neuroscience tools, we help marketers and market researchers learn how consumers say they feel about advertisements, and with neuroscience, why they feel as they do.

It’s all in the details:

  • Performance metrics – Ad metrics for comparative analysis and performance.
  • Second by second neuro response – In the moment measures to gauge consumer response as they are experienced.
  • Stopping power assessment – How effectively does it engage consumers within the first few seconds?
  • Branding moment engagement – How effective is the branding moment, and how can it be strengthened?
  • Ad element analysis – Examining elements within the ad for fit and effectiveness.

With tools ranging from implicit and psychological testing to biometrics and EEG, we can help.

For more information on how to best test your marketing mix, contact Allison Gutkowski (

HCD partners with Aigora to deploy smart-speaker surveys for in-the-moment consumer behavioral research

New tool helps uncover innovative opportunities for consumer products using in-context, in-moment consumer research and behaviorally-driven design. 

Flemington, NJ – Marketing and consumer research firm HCD Research can now capture consumer experiences hands-free and in-the-moment through its deployment of smart-speaker surveys developed by artificial intelligence and sensory research agency Aigora.

Context often goes overlooked when examining market research results, yet context plays a major role in consumer behavior and decision making. In-the-moment, contextual research examines consumer behaviors, choices, and product use that cannot be assessed through traditional surveys. Central location testing does not represent natural product use occasions or environments. Adding smart-speaker technology to this approach allows for hands-free consumer responses while using products in their own homes.

“It’s a natural addition to our toolbox,” said HCD’s VP of Research & Innovation, Michelle Niedziela. “We focus on advanced, non-traditional tools from neuroscience and psychology to uncover difficult to assess consumer insights. Using smart-speakers to get at consumer behaviors and habits from the comfort of their own homes will allow for better understanding of drivers of consumer decisions and unique insights for innovation.” Within the behavioral science framework, HCD utilizes multiple technologies including neuroscience and psychology to develop precise recommendations for driving consumer behavior.

As in real life, everything is relative. What we think of a product or brand, or how positively or negatively we assess it, depends on the context in which it is viewed. HCD will utilize Aigora’s state-of-the-art technology to help clients better understand the complex relationship between consumers and the brands they love.  These insights will enable clients to define strategies that influence consumer choice and drive brand growth.

HCD Research is a marketing and consumer sciences company that provides expert recommendations by employing traditional and applied consumer neuroscience to optimize the design of market research projects for our clients. For more information, contact Allison Gutkowski (

Aigora is a consulting and technology company focused on helping sensory and consumer science teams prepare for artificial intelligence.  For more information, contact Dr. John Ennis (

HCD Health & Safety Guidelines

Here at HCD, we take responsibility in protecting the health and safety of our clients, employees, participants, as well as the overall community very seriously. We are dedicated to providing quality in-person and remote research in a safe manner, while continuously monitoring the public health metrics of COVID-19.  

Looking ahead as HCD transitions back to in-person research, we wanted to share the precautions we take regularly, as well as new considerations below implemented to align with the CDC’s guidelines for protection against COVID-19. The following are implemented to ensure the well-being of all:

  • We will be conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks (e.g., symptoms and/or temperature screening) of employees before they enter facilities per CDC guidelines
    • Participants will also be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 or who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 (following CDC guidelines).
  • We will be minimizing the number of people on site at facilities and will modify or adjust seating, furniture, and workstations to maintain social distancing of 6 feet between employees and participants. (CDC Guidelines)
  • We will be routinely cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
    • Following the Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting to develop, follow, and maintain a plan to perform regular cleanings to reduce the risk of people’s exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 on surfaces.
    • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, printer/copiers, drinking fountains, and doorknobs.
    • Biometric equipment will be cleaned thoroughly with disinfectant wipes after each use, disposable facial EMG sensors will be used to minimize shared equipment.
  • Provide employees and participants with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), disposable wipes and other cleaning materials so that they can properly wipe down frequently touched surfaces before each use.
    • Technician(s) will wear gloves (renewed between participants) and masks throughout the day. 
    • Masks and hand washing capabilities will be available to all employees and participants.

These regimens are being strictly enforced to mitigate the chance of spreading COVID-19. We are confident that employing these guidelines will help to maintain the health of all researchers and participants.

HCD is committed to keeping you informed of any relevant information the COVID-19 situation may bring to consumer and market research. We value our relationship with each of you and thank you for your flexibility as we navigate our new normal.  

As always, we wish you well. 


The HCD Team

HCD Awarded U.S. Patent for Applied Neuroscience Mood Mapping

Latest award brings HCD’s approach to ensuring marketability and brand harmony of products and communications.

Flemington, NJ – HCD Research announced today the issuance to it by the U.S. Patent Office of a patent that covers a neuroscientific approach to mapping mood and marketability of consumer products and communications.

Market research and applied consumer neuroscience company HCD Research announced the issuance of U.S.Patent No. 10,430,810 which relates to mood mapping consumer response to consumer products and communications through physiological measures. Included in the patent is the ability to visualize and match consumer neuro-physiological response to products, product attributes and communications to ensure marketability and brand harmonization.

“This latest patent allows us to help clients ensure that their products meet their promises,” said Glenn Kessler, president HCD Research, describing how mood mapping technology can help both marketers and product developers create cohesive marketing and product campaigns to ensure market success. “The large majority of new product introductions fail in market. Mood mapping technology helps to clearly demonstrate the consumer emotional experience to both communications and products. Creating a cohesive emotional impact in both the product experience and the communication increase market success and consumer delight,” said Michelle Niedziela, PhD, VP of Research & Innovation HCD Research.

This latest announcement comes just a month after Niedziela and HCD demonstrated the effectiveness of the tool at the 13th Pangborn Sensory Science conference in Edinburgh, UK. In a workshop alongside the European Sensory Network, HCD demonstrated how they could measure consumer neuro-physiological response to a fine fragrance perfume and the perfume advertisement and show whether the two experiences were aligned or not. “A product’s emotional experience must match the emotional context promised in marketing mix to ensure market success,” said Niedziela of the need for this approach, “the simplicity of a mood mapping tool makes it easy to visualize and identify the gaps in product/brand harmonization for product developers and marketers.”

HCD Research is a marketing and consumer sciences company that provides expert recommendations by employing traditional and applied consumer neuroscience to optimize the design of market research projects for our clients. For more information contact Cara Silvestri (

NeuroU To Offer Crash Course On Consumer Neuroscience

Topics will cover neuromarketing, system 1 research, product and media testing

An international symposium for which organizers expect attendees from multiple industries, including large consumer product, healthcare, and media companies as well as market and consumer research providers and academics to attend NeuroU’s 2-day, inaugural event this summer, scheduled for June 7-8 at the Hyatt Regency. NeuroU speakers will cover the basics of Applied Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing with presentations on the latest methods and technologies, workshops on their application, and case studies from academics and researchers.

NeuroU will draw international attendees with a variety of backgrounds. The event will feature expert speakers from Carnegie Mellon & Temple University, as well as industry experts from HCD Research and Interactive Video Productions (IVP).

Symposium co-creator and scientific advisor, Dr. Michelle Niedziela (HCD Research), is planning an unusual session about the uses and abuses in neuromarketing, “In talking with clients and peers over the years and at industry conferences it became clear that there is a lot of confusion about what neuroscience can and can’t do in consumer research.” In her talk she hopes to clear the air and address the skepticism, “We created this event to give people a working knowledge to help navigate the field and make good research choices.”

NeuroU promises a beautiful and vibrant venue with a full agenda to network with peers, learn from experts, & explore the latest in psychological and neuroscientific tools and technologies.

For more information contact Cara Silvestri (

The Empathetic Consumer Product

Empathy is the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions, the ability to share someone else’s feelings ( Further, it is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.

A few weeks ago, I attended the SSP 2016 conference ( SSP has a single focus – the sensory professionals – and this conference is a place where the latest sensory research, methodologies and ideas are discussed.

This year, I noticed a theme that seemed to be threaded through every day of the conference and through many of the talks… Empathy.

However, they weren’t referring to empathy among people. They were referring to empathy from products; empathy between a consumer and a product or brand.

But is that even possible?
Emotional Products

We know that the stronger the emotional impact of the product, the stronger the brand loyalty expressed by the consumer. But how can a consumer product create emotional impact?
Consumers can form emotional bonds with products in many ways. But often a loyalty is built after repeated successful use of a product that is able to connect emotionally with the consumer. How can that be done?

Sensory attributes are a great way to non-consciously and emotionally communicate with a consumer. By appealing to the consumers senses (smell, taste, touch, sound, sight) in a way that is congruent with an emotional concept, it is possible. And when all the senses are communicating in a cohesive way, this emotional message can resonate strongly with the consumer. In fact, when more senses are reached, the brand impact becomes greater, creating more consumer loyalty and emotional connections and associations.

It is important to include empathy (or emotion) when designing your product. Creating a personal bond, an emotional connection, will help the consumer become loyal to the brand. And perhaps more importantly, help fulfill your consumers’ needs.

CRP_021915_403.jpgMethodology to Empathize with the Consumer

Given the complex nature of emotion, it is clear that there is no golden standard method to measure emotions and that each methodology emphasizes a specific part of the phenomenon.

Using a combination of psycho-physiological measures, traditional quantitative questionnaires and conjoint analysis, we aimed to understand the consumer’s experience when exposed to branding, packaging, and sensory elements. Autonomic measures for arousal (skin conductance), motivation (heart rate variability), emotional valence (fEMG), and eye-tracking, we were able to observe consumers’ physiological and behavioral responses. Psychological measures for implicit associations were used to assess how consumers associated products with important product attributes. We also used the traditional market research methods for ranking importance of these attributes to understand what product attributes were most important to consumers for product categories.

Adding neuro and psychological testing to traditional research approaches provides insight into the consumer emotional and implicit reaction to products. The need for understanding the emotional responses in sensory and consumer studies has become more and more frequent and necessary in the last ten years. This can be observed by the increasing number of both scientific papers and approaches developed in private companies to measure emotions alongside traditional consumer testing. The addition of emotional profiling to traditional liking measures and sensory profiling has added a new dimension in product development.

Product experiences can have distinct emotional messages that support brand and positioning, enabling differentiation of samples and product attributes within a product category based on liking, intensity & appropriateness. We have developed a new methodology for differentiating the liking/intensity of similarly liked stimuli by combining traditional with psycho-physiological measures: heart rate (HR), skin conductance (galvanic skin response, GSR), and facial EMG (electromyography). This is an innovative approach that captures the emotional message of products that are not detected by traditional measures of overall liking or fit-to-concept by incorporating physiological measures with psychological measures.

Making Empathy a Product Attribute

Understanding how consumers perceive your brand is paramount and a good first step in uncovering the unmet needs of a product or product line. Knowing how consumers perceive your brand compared to other brands can provide insight into consumer need gaps that can drive innovation and uncover innovation opportunities. Once you identify the need gaps of your brand, it is then possible to make informed decisions on messaging, packaging elements, and sensory attributes that will help build the story you hope to achieve with your product. We propose a combination of methodologies we call “MaxImplicit”, tapping into online qualitative, traditional quantitative (MaxDiff), and psychology (implicit testing) research methodologies.

This powerful combination of research tools informed us how brands are associated and fulfilling (or not fulfilling) these needs (need gaps).

Through identifying the top consumers emotional and product needs and then uncovering how your own product is suiting these needs, it’s possible to make changes and innovations that can better appeal to the consumers emotions and expectations, creating better products.


Real and thoughtful applied consumer neuroscience is about using the right combination of sensitive measures from psychology and neuroscience so we can understand the “why” of consumer behavior, something that can extremely useful for making better products and packaging. In a larger viewpoint, it’s possible to see how understanding consumer needs for can help improve consumer communications.

Emotions are a strong way to bond and communicate with your consumer. It’s no wonder that it was brought up so frequently in the SSP meeting. Please keep it in mind as you design, improve and innovate. Ensure you are communicating emotionally through proper research.

Please contact us if you are interested in how to communicate emotionally and empathetically with your products!

Implicit and Emotional Bias in the 2016 Presidential Election


We conducted a psychological evaluation of voter implicit and emotional responses to current political themes (sexism and racism) and candidate imagery (including positive and negative imagery).


Our goal was to uncover implicit biases across voter demographics (Republicans and Democrats, various age groups, men and women, Clinton/Trump/third party voters, as well as a few other indices).


We used a brief demographic survey followed by validated psychological methodologies: implicit association tests and a self assessment psychological response test. The implicit association test is a psychological measure designed to detect the strength of a person’s automatic association between mental representations of objects and concepts. We used two adapted versions of IATs for gender and racial bias. The self-assessment psychological test is a non-verbal assessment that directly measures a person’s affective response to a wide variety of stimuli (positive and negative images of the primary 2 candidates, lawn signs for all candidates, image of Bill Clinton).

Expected outcome

We expected to understand voter implicit biases more deeply as well as the use of positive and negative imagery. While some findings may be intuitive (i.e. Women voters may be less sexist), we expected that there may be some surprising outcomes as well given that these are implicit associations which can expose surprising biases. Further, by examining the emotional reactions to imagery from the campaigns we expected to uncover interesting findings regarding the effect of imagery currently used in internet and social media memes that have become more important in the current race than in previous presidential races.


Our study revealed the implicit biases and emotions of voters in this 2016 election cycle.

We found that of the biases we examined (gender and racial), we were only able to find an implicit bias for racism (across all voters). While Trump supporters were significantly more biased than the other voters to have negative feelings toward African Americans, all voters were somewhat biased.

Emotionally, when viewing positive imagery of their own candidate, voters felt positive, excited and motivated. This was opposite when presented with positive imagery of the opposing candidate. When viewing negative imagery of their opposing candidate, voters tended to feel more negative; however, when voters viewed negative imagery of their own candidate, they felt more excited and motivated than the viewers voting for other candidates. Additionally, while third party voters were less motivated by Clinton images, they were also less interested in Trump images. Overall, we can say that imagery plays a major role on playing into the emotions of voters, but most interestingly, negative imagery seems to motivate supporting voters more than those voting for opposing candidates.


Implicit bias has been a major piece of this election cycle.

GENDER BIAS: With gender stereotypes being tossed around, including questions of having our first female presidential candidate from a major party and potentially the first female president, questions have been raised as to whether sexism is playing a role in voters’ choices. Interestingly, we found that study participants did not exhibit gender stereotype associations, regardless of who they plan to vote for (Clinton, Trump, or third party).

RACIAL BIAS: We also tested for implicit biases toward race, specifically looking for negative African American biases. Interestingly, all political affiliations exhibited some form of negative bias (moderate) towards African Americans; however, those planning on voting for Trump displayed a significantly higher bias compared to those voting for Clinton or third party. It is important to note here that there were significantly more African American voters planning to vote for Clinton. However, even if these voters were removed from the sample, Trump supporters were still significantly more biased against African Americans.


We also examined voters’ emotional reactions to various imagery currently being experienced in the run up to the election, images of the primary candidates (Clinton and Trump) as well as images of political lawn signs (pro –Trump, -Clinton, -Johnson, -Stein) and an image of former president Bill Clinton (since he has also been of interest in the current election). Most importantly, we wanted to explore the emotional reactions of voters to positive and negative images of the candidates, since such imagery has become more popular on social media and very negative ad campaigns, many featuring memes using exaggerated imagery of each candidate.

POSITIVE CLINTON IMAGE. While Clinton voters felt positive, excited and motivated when viewing positive Clinton imagery, Trump and third parties voters felt significantly more negative, disinterested, and passive than Clinton voters.

POSITIVE TRUMP IMAGE. Trump voters felt more positive, excited and motivated while viewing positive Trump imagery than Clinton and Third Party voters. Clinton and third party voters felt significantly more negative and passive (less in control) than Trump voters when viewing the same imagery. Additionally, Trump voters also felt significantly more excited than Hillary and third party voters.

The effect of Trump and Clinton images on third party voters indicated they felt significantly more negative, less interested, and less motivated than Trump voters viewing a Trump image and Clinton voters viewing a Clinton image.

CLINTON/KAINE LAWN SIGN. Clinton voters felt significantly more positive, excited and motivated while viewing Clinton/Kaine lawn signs than Trump and third party voters.

TRUMP/PENCE LAWN SIGN.  While Trump voters felt more pleasant, excited, and motivated than Clinton and Third Party voters, Clinton and third party voters felt significantly less positive, less excited and more passive (less in control) than Trump voters.  In addition, third party voters felt significantly more positive than Hillary voters.

BERNIE SANDERS LAWN SIGN. Clinton and third party voters felt more positive than Trump voters towards Bernie lawn sign imagery. Clinton voters were also more excited towards the sign than Trump voters.

JOHNSON/STEIN LAWN SIGN. Third party voters felt more pleasant, excited, and dominant than Trump or Clinton voters when exposed to either third party candidate sign (Gary Johnson or Jill Stein).

NEGATIVE CLINTON IMAGE. Both Trump and third party voters felt significantly more negative than Clinton voters while viewing negative Clinton imagery, while Clinton supporters were more neutral. Clinton voters did feel more excited and motivated by negative Clinton imagery than either Trump or third party voters.

NEGATIVE TRUMP IMAGE. Clinton and third party voters felt significantly more negative towards negative Trump imagery, while Trump supporters felt more neutral. Trump voters were also significantly more excited and motivated when viewing negative Trump imagery than Clinton or third party voters.

This difference in reaction to the Clinton and Trump angry images reflects that negative imagery has significant negative effects on non-supporters while exciting and empowering supporters.

BILL CLINTON IMAGE.  Both Clinton and third party voters felt more positive about Bill Clinton’s image than Trump supporters.  However, third party supporters felt negative about the image. Trump and third party voters were not excited by the image. Clinton supporters felt more motivated than Trump or third party voters.


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Neuroscience Based User Experience Research Unit

HCD Research has announced the formation of a User Experience division focusing on the integration of applied neuroscience and traditional market research methods to understand user behavior and experience. HCD will be working with User Experience and Product Testing labs to integrate applied neuroscience with their current methods.

The director of the division, Bill Thau stated: “All forms of research have a common goal – an enhanced level of understanding. Whether the question is about metallurgy, medicine, or marketing, every researcher is trying to discover something new.”

Human experience research is no different, and much work has been done in the past with tried and true methodologies such as focus groups, interviews, surveys, and more. Traditional methods have served many industries well, and continue to do so by providing conscious responses to research questions. However, researchers gain a greater depth of knowledge about subconscious processes such as attention, motivation, and emotion when using autonomic measurement tools such as biometrics and eye tracking. “New methodologies that pair traditional self-reported data with these subconscious recordings are proving to be very effective in modeling a respondent’s complete experience, and they provide actionable results that are not obtainable otherwise,” said Thau.

HCD Research specializes in the use of traditional and autonomic research methodologies across a wide range of applications and industries. Companies interested in exploring the topic of biometric/autonomic research further can contact Bill Thau (

Widget salesmen sell Widgets-Neuro Marketing Salesmen sell the one thing they can do

Neuro marketing is not market research and Market Research is not neuroscience. Solving a marketing problem can’t always include the same tool(s) or methods. If you come from a neuroscience background and start a market research company the tendency is to apply your skill to every issue and problem whether or not it makes sense.

You don’t plan to solve a marketing problem by choosing the method before you know the problem. The proper way is to understand the problem and identify the methods which when integrated will answer the question.

As a former buyer of market research services and now a vendor I am always have low confidence in a company that presents their research prowess as a function of one skill. Market research is optimal when experts can rely on multiple tools to answer different questions. Different issues require different tools. That’s why I am always skeptical when I see a “market research” company with a name that starts with “neuro”. Your challenge is not how to use neuroscience to answer the question but how to use marketing research methods to solve a problem. Forget focusing on one method/science and focus on finding the right tools to find the optimal answer to the question.

If you had a headache that wouldn’t stop would you see a crainiotomy expert or a doctor who is a diagnostician related to headaches?