Neuromarketing Research: A Tale of Two Approaches

Is Neuromarketing weird science, or cutting edge, valid, science?  At the risk of dating myself and revealing my inner nerd, I am sharing the following image from the 1980’s movie “Weird Science” which I have used in past presentations to depict how some of my academic colleagues’ view Neuromarketing research as reported in the industry press.

That being said, the answer to the question I posed in the first sentence depends largely on whether the emphasis in the Neuromarketing effort is focused on the measurement technology and data, or on generating insight from data collected using a scientifically rigorous and valid research approach.

The emphasis will differentiate research providers who hype measures and research technologies that supposedly provide a new window into the mind of the consumer from those providers who, despite the Neuromarketing hype, realize that the most valuable research-based insight is produced by data that is representative of EVERY channel of human experience – brain activity, language and behavior.

Companies in the research-based insight business use a multi-faceted approach that is grounded in communication science and media psychophysiology, and complemented by academic disciplines that consist of scientists dedicated to combining biometric/psychophysiological measures (e.g. heart rate, EEG, fMRI). This model measures aspects of the human experience that no single biometric measure can capture. This holistic approach to communication research has produced valuable insights for all types of media, including brand messaging since the mid-80’s, and I’ve had the pleasure of being part of this community of scholars since 1994.

In my opinion, research providers whose objective is to offer the most comprehensive insights to clients will adopt a communication science approach that incorporates ALL measures and data to deliver a holistic and actionable view of consumers’ experience with brand communications.  Conversely, research companies that hype measurement technology and data will likely lack the intellectual substance to provide true communication science based insight into how the human mind processes brand communication. And, as a result, clients will not have the data they need to design and execute the most effective communication efforts.

The most competent research providers will be led by research scientists, not technicians, who understand that measurement technology is only as valuable as the researchers who guide the valid application of the technology in conducting effective brand communication research.  These providers will remain focused on being in the BRAND COMMUNICATION RESEARCH BUSINESS rather than Neuromarketing business!