A (healthy) reflection on neuromarketing

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We’ve been talking about neuromarketing for a long time, also in relation to the limits of traditional market research tools. We believe that to get a clearer and more accurate overview of the subject it is essential to face a (healthy) reflection about its effectiveness.

Who for the first time approaches the world of neuromarketing, this question will probably arise:

Is neuromarketing really effective?

If the answer were really dry (yes or no), this question would probably have no reason to be formulated. Unfortunately, the answer cannot be dry for the simple fact that implies an enormous amount of implicit considerations, such as: “it is effective for what?”. Even the ruler is an extremely effective measuring instrument, but I invite you to try measuring the liters of water in a barrel with a ruler: mission impossible!

Against the new there is always a natural form of mistrust. It is a defense mechanism that we implement every day to avoid incurring unnecessary risks. But after the first points of contact, the different becomes an element of our world, an element that we begin to know, to frame and not to fear anymore. Once the incubation period has passed, the prejudice slowly disappears against what is different and takes over a much more effective critical mechanism.

Like all the great innovations that have changed the history of our society, even the neuromarketing is still experiencing an incubation phase. Recently, major efforts have been put in place to overcome this phase. For example, in 2011 the ARF – Advertising Research Foundation – an association of advertisers born in 1936 with the mission to improve advertising practices and create more effective marketing – has undertaken the first project to unify the discipline of neuromarketing and develop standards to allow a more informed use: the “NeuroStandards Collaboration Project.

Despite these valuable initiatives, much remains to be done. For example, an obstacle for companies willing to try their hand at neuromarketing is represented by costs not only of biometric instruments, but above all of the specialist training in the field. The fact that, to date, most marketing managers unfortunately do not have solid training in neuromarketing, should make us think.

Another important aspect is the scarcity of scientific publications produced by private companies in the neuromarketing field. Caution: this does not mean that there are no excellent case studies in this regard (we have already seen that of Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi), but many companies are still reluctant to disclose the results of their studies. A caution that is more than understandable: behind these results there are often marketing strategies that no company would be in a hurry to share with its competitors.

The lack of studies and the poor media coverage therefore contribute to fuel the doubts and concerns of the skeptics. Some say, for example, that neuromarketing could represent one threat to consumer autonomy. The possibility of capturing the cognitive processes underlying buying behaviors and the deriving implicit reactions could – according to some critics – be used improperly, turning consumers into unwitting “shopping robots”.

Some have even criticized intrusion of these applications in society. The “Commercial Alert, for example, sent one to the American Congress petition to end neuromarketing, arguing that this discipline aims to “subjugate the mind and use it for commercial profit”. The fear, in a nutshell, is that neuromarketing can be used to manipulate consumers, causing them to purchase goods against their rational will.

Beyond the fact that the same criticism could be directed to any marketing technique, direct experience actually tells us that knowing the consumer better inevitably helps to increase the quality of what is produced. As Raymond Burke, internationally renowned neuromarketing expert, claims, a greater awareness of what is wanted, liked, satisfying the consumer, allows us to improve the product we offer.

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Finally, we take a last question concerning the scientific nature of neuromarketing. Neuromarketing investigations, to be reliable, must absolutely comply with the guidelines that apply to scientific research. The selection and the breadth of the sample, the solidity of the experimental design and the reliability of the instruments to be used represent only some of the elements to be considered in order to constitute a solid basis for drawing reliable conclusions.

We can have an extremely precise and reliable tool, like our ruler, but if we do not know how to use it correctly we risk arriving at wrong conclusions. The research in the neuromarketing field uses numerous tools that allow us, if used properly, to get extremely useful information. They are tools that need knowledge and experience. We need years of study, we need method and continuous updates.

Our team is made up of experts who respond to these needs: given the need for precise requirements, they are scientific rigor and an approach capable of integrating complementary skills and perspectives to make the neuromarketing one of the most effective tools to investigate the market.

riflessione sul neuromarketing

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12 September 2016 Simona Carniato

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