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  • Glenn Kessler

HCD Research: Proudly, we are not a “neuromarketing company.”

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

There is not one single tool that can answer all market research problems.

A segment of market research vendors call themselves, “neuro” this or “neuro” that, but often, they only use one technique to solve all problems. Is this a problem? Potentially. If you have stomach pain, do you visit your local radiologist? The answer is no. You should really visit your general practitioner to help understand the problem and decide which specialty care would be best for you. Similarly, if you have a market research question, why would you choose a solution that may not best address your problem. Focusing on only one approach may not address research in the best way possible.

A market research company that solves problems with one methodology probably should be called something other than a market research company. Having been in the business for nearly 30 years, we find ourselves acting more like problem solvers, hearing out clients’ needs and helping them navigate the best way to answer their questions within budget, within timelines, and with the most appropriate tools. Some people use the term “neuromarketing,” referring to the use of neuroscience tools to understand consumer response. But neuromarketing is often one dimensional, suggesting that cognitive self-report is unnecessary. “Qualitative,” is another area of research focusing on non-numerical data, such as language, but this too becomes a one dimensional research path, lacking the numbers to be representative. Are these fields within market research or should they be considered tools which should be part of a comprehensive tool kit necessary to understand cognitive and non-cognitive motivations, perceptions and responses to consumer experiences.

Back to a medical analogy… To address a medical complaint, a physician will often use a combination of tests, like hematology, blood chemistry, physical exam, radiology, blood pressure, as well as ask questions to address other physical and psychological symptoms and information. If a physician were to make their diagnosis based solely on one tool, it would probably be time to find another provider.

Different research challenges require different approaches, finding the right tool for the right question. This leads to a list of evaluative criteria and considerations research clients should use when selecting a research partner.

  • You are buying an answer to a business question, not a vendor’s technology preference which may or may not solve the problem.

  • A vendor’s experience in a market space can be helpful but does not replace taking an objective look at the market landscape using a multidimensional approach to solving the problem.

  • If a supplier offers newer, high-tech services, such as employing applied neuroscience, confirm they have staff with academic training in the science and their tools are validated.

  • Don’t accept results based on secret, black box algorithms or hidden behind proprietary smokescreens used to predict the future. Providers should be able to defend their approach and openly answer client questions about tools and analysis.

    • Regarding this, I once attended a presentation by a highly educated professor representing a large company that described themselves as a “neuromarketing company.” The speaker claimed that any movie trailer that got a score of 80 out of 100 on their neuro scale would indicate that the movie would earn revenues of 10 Mil or more the first weekend. I asked, “Did you control for ad spend, number of theaters for which it will be released, environmental issues such as important or impactful world events, etc.” The answer was no. Looking at trailers that received 80 points or more, we know it is likely they will sell at least 10 Mil in tickets the first weekend after release. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t believe it!!

So why listen to me? These are my opinions based on being a client for some years and founding a market research company 30 years ago. I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go, and I’ve seen a lot of different types of companies come and go too. I am proud not to be running a neuromarketing company; rather, I am proud to be leading a market research company that employs the best and most appropriate tool for the client question.



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