Why donít we entirely trust Neuroscience?
This month, so far, DRNO has featured six news stories on Neuromarketing and Eye-Tracking. No self respecting conference this year has been complete without a paper on the subject. Surely this technology is the Holy Grail for market researchers: it tells us why consumers say one thing and do another. If so then why are we so reluctant to espouse the use of neuroscience for predicting buyer behaviour?
For fairly obvious reasons the earlier adopter agencies are those who measure on behalf of industries in which one false move can cost millions. Retail is using it extensively for packaging and shelf testing, entertainment is using it for ad testing and movie-makers are testing not only the trailers but the films themselves. Procter and Gamble have bought in to it in a big way. If the biggest buyer of market research on the planet thinks it works why arenít we throwing away our questionnaires and diaries and investing heavily in the technology?
One possible answer is the amount we have invested in the paraphernalia of conventional interviewing. Another is the idea that the technology isnít ready. Yet a third is that there are areas of research where these techniques cannot be employed. Or are there researchers out there with serious objections to the information it builds - like for example that my deep-down real feelings about a product might in the end have no more influence over my purchase decision than the shallow things I say in response to simple questions?
Weíd love to know what you think.
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Hear hear Ron. I'd add two more reasons; the first has its genesis in cognitive neuroscience ie we're cognitive misers. The brain doesn't like change because it involves reflective effort which expends energy - and the brain's propensity is to conserve energy (by resorting to the intuitive, automatic, implicit system whenever it can) as it may be needed for something far more important than thinking, like survival. This is, I believe, linked to the cognitive bias known as the Semmelweiss reflex which is the tendency to reject new information that contradicts existing paradigms.
The second reason has already been cited in the piece above - vested interests. What MR supplier is going to rock up to a client and say, 'guess what, that model & those methods we've been selling you for years are flawed so not only have you been misled but we've wasted your money'?!
Co-Founding Sands Research Inc. (www.sandsresearch.com),
I have first hand knowledge of the strengths, weaknesses and misconceptions of applied cognitive neuroscience in the advertising industry. Dr. Steve Sands and I have been deeply involved in supporting the amazing growth of cognitive neuroscience in academic research world over the past two decades. For the last three years we have been active in applying this technology and knowledge in the consumer insight market.
I would quickly state that there are two factors for why neuroscience has not (yet) reached a trusted level for all in the industry. Many top corporations have welcomed and accepted the new information being provided but we are concerned about the level of understanding of what neuroscience can and cannot offer.
First is the misconception which is clearly pointed out in your comments above. Neuroscience is NOT some Holy Grail for market researchers. It is another piece of information combined with existing behavioural data collection to provide a better understanding of your target consumer. Working with Ameritest, Sands Research outlined the benefits of combined research methodologies in an indepth article in Quirks (link can be found on our website's front page). Combining EEG, eye-tracking and conventional interviewing TOGETHER delivers important new consumer insights.
The second trust issue is the failure on the part of the MR industry to vet the growing number of practioners in the neuromarketing field. Seat of the pants claims of defining the "buy button" and dated or black box technology that would never in a hundred years be accepted by scientists in the cognitive neuroscience research community, are presented as the "best" methods for understanding the consumer. The old joke of "trust me I'm a scientist" needs to be changed and challenged with "trust me I'm a peer reviewed neuroscientist and my methodologies are the most current and broadly accepted in the neuroscience community". It's laughable that some neuromarketing firms actually claim to disregard standard accepted research methods which are utilized in every academic EEG research lab. The MR industry needs to educate itself, reach out to the neuroscience community for assistance and put some effort into paying attention to the man (or methods) behind the curtain.
"If it were easy, everyone would do it. Its the hard that makes it great!"
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