Has Neuromarketing become mainstream?
The 2018 edition of the Neuromarketing World Forum run by the Neuromarketing and Science Business Association (or NMSBA for short) took us across the globe to Singapore, bringing together agencies and clients to showcase and share cases studies and research to enlighten and inspire. I was privileged enough to present at this conference and you can read all about my talk on generating unique content for brands here.
To set the context, the world of Neuromarketing is continuing to thrive. Elissa Moses from IPSOS seems to have had fun in the past few months delving into the Greenbook data, reporting a 53% use of Neuromarketing methods in 2017 (up from 44% in 2015) – astonishing in its own right, this figure does not even include implicit reaction time techniques (which would no doubt be through the roof). Therefore, to reinforce what we seem to say every year now, Neuromarketing (or as we prefer to call it, consumer neuroscience), is here to stay. The emotional revolution is fully underway and here are a few observations from this year.
What happened to implicit testing?
What struck me this year was the lack of mentions about implicit based techniques. While in previous years you could hardly go for an hour without an online implicit based method being talked about, this year there was a notable absence. Does this mean that we have fallen out of love with these techniques? I think the consensus is – far from it! It is more that these methods have become so prevalent in our industry that they no longer are hot topics, but as Cristina de Balanzo mentioned last year, they have become the new normal for an effective way to measure emotional connection with consumers. However, I would not be surprised if a new wave of implicit applications are on the way. We ourselves have certainly found new avenues for bringing a second layer of insight to standard techniques such as claims research (e.g. Max-Diff) and NPS measurement, so I doubt they will stay out of the limelight for long!
Is 2018 the year of brain measurement?
Conversely, this year seemed to be all about brain and biometric measurement, from heart rate and GSR, to facial coding, EEG, fMRI and even fNIRS. While once mainly applied to TV ad testing, the breadth and depth of application is now far wider as people now seek to understand the underlying neural correlates of other complex parts of decision making such as pricing, store behaviour and advocacy. I think what this suggests is that these techniques cannot be dismissed as a novelty, but an essential insight technique. Their success in helping us make better communications has led to the natural question of ‘what else can they help us with’ and the wide adoption and advocacy from companies such as Facebook who also presented at the conference show that the future is bright.
The key point of Neuromarketing to me has always been to better understand human behaviour by bringing another piece of the puzzle together i.e. the unconscious and emotion, and to use this to produce actionable insights for clients and their brands. The pursuit of science is not the end goal of Neuromarketing, producing actionable insights that help brands better connect with people is. While this point may seem obvious, I raise it because I think we need to keep our eye on the end goal. The pursuit of science is not the end goal of Neuromarketing, producing actionable insights that help brands better connect with people is. One criticism of Neuromarketing in the past was that the science was not translatable to business, the worlds of academia and marketing were too far apart. While it is very important that the tools and methods are scientifically valid and transparent (as much as is commercially feasible). We need to be the bridge between these worlds, the bridge between art and science – take our eye off this and it wont take long to reverse this growth!
A final thought
Once was a time when an illustrator of iceberg images could make a pretty penny at a Neuromarketing conference (the iceberg in case you escaped it, was an illustration of the conscious and unconscious, while the tip of the iceberg is conscious, the bulk is beneath the surface i.e. the unconscious), though now they are a rare sight. However, during another great presentation from Graeme Newell from 602 communications the iceberg reappeared, while not oblivious to the above, he was making a point – people show (or rather do not anymore!) the iceberg and we all nod and agree with what it stands for, yet has the wider marketing and research industry really taken this on board? For example, as David Hearn from Dentsu Mitchell said:
in the advertising industry exploratory research is massively lacking and most research is spent on validation
Yes techniques and applications are growing, yes some elements are becoming mainstream, but is this reflected in how brands invest their budgets? Yes it’s here to stay but in what capacity has it truly been adopted?