Is Neuromarketing relevant for business?

Consultancy Scientific Board Psychology
More Thinking

Interpreting and predicting buyer behaviour based on their psychological reactions has seemed far fetched. Wiring up people to technologies, such as Electroencephalography (EEG), and literally trying to read their brainwaves can be seen as outright barmy!

Neuromarketing generally refers to the measurement of physiological and neural signals to gain insight into customers preferences, decision making and motivations. 

Interest in the subject really took off in the mid 2000’s when researchers at Emory University served Coca-Cola and Pepsi to consumers in an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine. When the cola brands were not identified the researchers noted a consistent neural response, but when the consumers saw the branding, the limbic area of their brains (the area associated with emotions, memories and unconscious processing) showed enhanced activity. The study demonstrated how the knowledge of the brand altered how the brain perceived the product. 

Despite the interest this and other similar studies caused, for the next decade or so, neuromarketing languished and was fought over between a battle of over-excitable marketers and cautious academics. The place of neuromarketing was summarised well by UC Berkeley Professor Ming Use, when in a 2017 article he said, ‘neuroscience either tells me what I already know, or it tells me something new that I don't care about.’

Five years later

Skepticism in science is fading fast broadly due to two main reasons. Firstly, the accuracy of the technology has advanced rapidly and is beginning to validate some of the claims made by early researchers and exponents. This includes the development of the technology to assist in making informed decisions in such critical areas as pricing, creative advertising and new product development.

The second reason that businesses are waking up to the potential of neuroscience is that more recent academic studies have demonstrated that brain data can predict the future success of products more accurately than traditional tools such as surveys and focus groups. The cost in new product development is a very large monetary spend and this is motivating businesses to take a much closer look at the potential of neuroscience for marketing and product development.

British endeavour

In response to the growing commercial opportunities for UK businesses, leading Birmingham based marketing agency, Cognition, have joined forces with Aston University’s world renowned Brain Centre to develop practical neuroscience tools for business. The new venture funded by Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Fund (KTP) is already establishing exciting and practical  new marketing approaches.

The KTP project is the largest award ever secured by Aston University and the project will be undertaken by two dedicated PhD researchers supported by academics from Neuroscience, Data Science and Psychology and marketers from Cognition Communications.

Scientific approaches to marketing

The first phase of the project is focused on the evaluation of Electroencephalography (EEG) technologies and their potential applications for advertising, product design and pricing. Leading this phase of the project is EEG Scientist, Georgia Alexandrou. Georgia is currently finishing her PhD in Neuroscience and Psychology from the University of Stirling and has considerable experience at the role of EEG technology specifically in the field of sports psychology and the drive to improve sport people’s performance.

To undertake this trial work a number of the Cognition and University team have joined forces to be tested using the technology. The team is participating in a Paradigm Test using key trigger points on various product price positioning. The testing work is identifying patterns from brain waves being collected via the EEG technology. These in turn will be analysed by data scientists led by Dr Sylvia Wong in the Universities Computer Science Department.

[Time lapse video showing one of the team participating in trials.]

Overseeing all of the work is our Scientific Board comprising of Behavioural Scientists, Neuroscientists, Data Scientists and Psychologists. The Board includes top academics and marketing practitioners, and is already delivering some remarkable projects for some blue chip companies.  

Is your business facing some big choices in creative advertising spend, pricing strategy or new product development? Schedule a call with our in house psychologist Dr Peter Hughes.

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