What is neuromarketing?
My name is Elena and I am one of the writers of the Braynz blog. This is my first blog entry. As an introductory post, I had some doubts on how to start. You see, Braynz was conceived with a common goal to make neuromarketing the marketing strategy of choice for companies. And for a year now, I have convinced myself that neuromarketing is the way to go. But you see, there’s big fuzz around this field. Many don’t know what it stands for, plenty that work with it have a vague idea of the value it brings (even Microsoft Word underlines the term with a red line, suggesting that it’s a made up term). So, I, decided to start from the bottom – how did neuromarketing come about? Where did it come from? Was it someone’s invention? Is it just a pure manipulation? This is the beginning of my thought process as I ask myself what do I know about neuromarketing, and what I think my reader should learn. So, let us begin!
The term neuromarketing:
The field of neuromarketing was first mentioned by Ale Smidts in 2002. Smidts is a Dutch organization theorist who officially established a definition of neuromarketing, such that it “designates the use of identification techniques of cerebral mechanisms to understand the consumer’s behaviour, in order to improve the marketing strategies” (Boricean, 2009). This may have been the formal introduction of the growing field of neuromarketing in 2002. Since then, academics and marketers began to describe the role of neuromarketing by looking at the objectives of this discipline, which is “to reveal the processes between perception and action by investigating the neurobiological mechanisms through which decisions were made” (Ulman, Cakar, & Yildiz, 2014). This defines the sphere of neuromarketing and the extent to which it can go. And that extent is no bigger than where marketing can go. That is because neuromarketing is not exactly a new field, or a revelation in the marketing practice. It is merely an application of the knowledge on the human decision process to consumer choices, which in their very essence are nothing more than different terms.
How did it come about?
The understanding of the functioning of the brain has come a long way since we thought its main use is to cool the blood and help us keep a “cool head”. Since then, the human brain has been explored by many, and different parts of it were found to be relevant for different functions. The neuro wave took force around the 1950’s. The brain was heavily investigated, which resulted in forming a separate field dedicated for it, namely neuroscience as we know it today. This wave was further supported by the establishment of neuroscience and neurobiology related departments in MIT and Harvard in the mid-20th century. The scope of neuroscience research was growing heavily during the early 2000’s, and therefore the appearance of neuromarketing came as no surprise.
The neuro tag was a popular one, and the functions of the brain were soon investigated with regard to many other disciplines: neurobiology, neuroeconomics, and neuropsychology among others. This neuro bubble started forming in the early 2000’s and hasn’t stopped since. Research on the brain took even a bigger force when the two largest and most heavily funded projects concerning the brain were announced: the Human Brain Project in Europe and the BRAIN initiative in the US. Both of these projects invest heavily in mapping the brain and defining the communication within the brain. They are intended to be decades-long projects, where several research institutes and Universities combine their forces and deliver the most sophisticated research techniques and knowledge on the brain.
This recent wave is what fuels the neuro-bubble. But there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a bubble, as long as we strive to understand what the neuro- part of a field is and what value it brings. Take neuromarketing for example. The neuro addition to marketing is there to sophisticate the conclusions used to deliver marketing strategies. And no, it’s not a mind reading technique; it’s more of a live stream of the brain. The goal of marketing is to better deliver products and services to those that need those products and services. Anything beyond that is outside of the scope of marketing. Neuromarketing helps marketers find better solutions for communication by investigating subconscious decision-making processes. In that way, we drive away from the traditional techniques (surveys and focus groups) on which marketing has relied, and which are prone to give biased results and a skewed view on the position of the customer.
Is it of any value?
Neuroscience techniques capture a subconscious level of immediate effect – there’s far less doubt in determining what the accurate position to a subject is, rather than relying on the reported one. Neuromarketing is a model improvement – where the decisions are based on more precise, more sophisticated conclusions about consumer choice.
The disadvantages of the bubble are the challenges on neuromarketing. Discoveries in neuroscience need a careful interpretation and one needs to be cautious when using them for marketing decisions (Carmichael, 2004). It’s worrying that many marketers take the neuroscience findings as facts, and don’t review them as scientific findings which must to be carefully adopted.
Contributors to the field need to be careful of the way they use the findings from different sciences. We need to be understanding of the young stage at which the field is, and that means to approach with an open mind and a strive to deliver educated opinions.
This concludes the first blog entry. I look forward to exploring more topics around neuromarketing, and you can read about them all on this blog.
Boricean, V. (2009). Brief History of Neuromarketing. In The International Conference on Administration and Business. Buchurest. Retrieved from http://documents.mx/documents/brief-history-of-neuromarketing.html
Carmichael, M. (2004). Neuromarketing | The Persuaders | FRONTLINE | PBS. Pbs.org. Retrieved 4 November 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/persuaders/etc/neuro.html
Godwin, D. & Cham, J. (2013). Mind In Pictures. Scientificamerican.com. Retrieved 5 November 2016, from https://www.scientificamerican.c2014om/article/aristotle-thought-the-brain-was-a-radiator/
Ulman, Y., Cakar, T., & Yildiz, G. (). Ethical Issues in Neuromarketing: “I Consume, Therefore I am!”. Sci Eng Ethics, 21(5), 1271-1284. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11948-014-9581-5