Should marketers just give up on traditional consumer research & use neuromarketing in the future?  That was the first question that popped into my mind after reading a book called buy*ology over the weekend.

I’ll get to my second question in a second…

Buy*ology is a very interesting book that I skipped over in 2008, but decided to quickly have a look at into the new year on a tip from Dave Knox over at Hard Knox Life.  The book is basically about a set of neuromarketing experiments conducted by Martin Lindstrom.  Sitting at the crossroads of marketing and science, neuromarketing could be a dream consumer research technique for marketers in the future.  Neuromarketing allows researchers to literally peer into the brains of consumers by using high tech fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technology.

Here is more on the promise of Neuromarketing from Lindstrom’s website:

Until now, most marketing, advertising and branding strategies have been built on qualitative and quantitative market research. The fact is, roughly 90% of our consumer buying behavior is unconscious, and we can’t actually explain our preferences…with any accuracy. So market surveys and customer questionnaires are of dubious value. As brands pour millions of dollars into advertising that may or may not hit the mark, we realize that the time has come for a paradigm shift. Advertisers need to know what directs our buying decisions. NeuroMarketing…circumvents the question and answer approach of conventional research. A non-verbal research method, NeuroMarketing bypasses a subject’s claims by going straight to the source and examining the consumer’s brain responses.

But now my second question: Isn’t neuromarketing somewhat Orwellian?

As I read the book, admittedly I felt somewhat conflicted about this brain scanning technique.  Though I am a Brand Manager, I am also a consumer and I’m not sure if I want “Big Brother” getting deeper into my head in this way.

Lindstrom himself does not deny that their is a big debate around neuromarketing.  On his site, he smartly discusses the issue and even openly links to Commercial Alert, a consumer advocacy group that has petitioned the Senate to end neuromarketing.

Commercial Alert worries that marketers will use neuromarketing to “subjugate the mind.”   They go further to say that the technique could be used as political propaganda “potentially leading to new totalitarian regimes, civil strife, wars, genocide and countless deaths.”

Though I see the potential for neuromarketing…no more failed product launches, less guesswork on which brandline to push, etc. I have a lot of sympathy for Commercial Alert’s cause.  And, as neuromarketing is a young science, the jury is still out if brain scanning really is a better predictor of buying behavior as this blog post points out.

If you are more interested in Neuromarketing, 60 minutes recently did a segment on the topic which you can check out here.

Any thoughts out there on this?

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