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Wrapping Your Brain around Neuromarketing and Biometric Research Measures

Marketing is getting big on brains! Today’s buzz is about Neuromarketing, a research approach that uses biometric measures to peer inside the brain “on” advertising. There’s a lot of promise in this approach. However, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, there is an equal amount of hype. If marketing researchers are going to tap into the potential of this approach we have to look past the hype and adopt a scientifically valid perspective.

Biometric measures are patterns of nervous system activity reflecting variance in psychological states such as attention and emotional response. Emerging technology has enabled research professionals to conduct studies thatemploy biometric measures almost anywhere by using portable biometriclab equipment. These labs take message optimization research to a new level,offering clients deeper insights into how and why brand messages succeed or fail at accomplishing the desired objectives.

With that said, data obtained from biometric labs will fail to deliver a level of added value that justifies the cost of the research if the approach isn’t grounded in a strong scientific paradigm providing a holistic view of the brain/mind as the “central processor” of advertising.

This paradigm is Psychophysiology, an academic discipline with historicroots dating back to the writings of William James, the father of Psychology.Psychophysiology is the science of the embodied mind. The notion of an“embodied mind” means that all of our on-going mental experience and physicalbehaviour completely exists through the activity of our body. This assumption is critical to the belief that physiological activity recorded by biometric measures enables us to observe important mental states that we believe are crucial to persuasion.

Psychophysiology also assumes that biometric data is only one channel of data describing the experience of processing and responding to a brand message.Biometric measures only index the real-time embodied experience of processinga message. In order to gain true insight, researchers must hold onto a holisticview of the human mind and the interactions consumers have with brandmessages. To accomplish this objective, they must also use traditional toolsto index linguistic responses reflective of more conscious interpretation of amessage as well as behaviour.

The most valuable and effective marketing communication research willconsist of a creative combination of scientific measures and methodologies. Theapproach will incorporate qualitative and quantitative data using biometric data as a foundation for understanding consumer interactions with brand messages.

A major component of the Neuromarketing “hype” is a misguided belief that byrecording unconscious brain activity researchers can determine most, if not all, they need to know to evaluate brand messages. This reflects an approach that is

NOT grounded in a strong scientific paradigm!

I hope this column has given you a useful glimpse into the world of biometric marketing communication research. As I have cautioned marketing professionals during presentations and seminars, I urge you to explore this topic with a healthy level of skepticism.

As scientists advance our understanding of the human brain, it’s only natural that this knowledge will intrigue marketers who want their messages topenetrate and resonate in the brains of consumers. Toward that end, biometriclabs will play a significant role in the future of marketing communicationresearch.

Please feel free to contact me if this column has sparked questions or interesting ideas. I enjoy interacting with marketers and researchers who are interested in this topic. My email address is:

The posting above is an edited version of an article that Dr. Paul Bolls wrote for the newsletter representing the Southern States Chapter of the Marketing Research Association.



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