you have no choice…

Posted on December 16, 2009
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from  Forbes Magazine

Neuromarketers are becoming the next generation of Mad Men. They are working for companies like Google, Frito-Lay and Disney. But instead of directly asking consumers whether they like a product, neuromarketers are asking their brains.

Using electroencephalography (EEG)–a technology typically used by neurologists to diagnose seizures–marketers measure brain wave activity in response to advertisements and products. Electrodes placed on the subject’s scalp collect the data. The consumer herself doesn’t say a thing.

And that’s the point. In the new world of neuromarketing, it is the more immediate, unedited emotional brain-level reaction to a product or ad that presumably indicates what the consumer really wants, even if she doesn’t really know it. The rational and deliberate responses elicited in focus groups are considered unreliable.

No wonder EmSense, a San Francisco-based market research company, succeeded in raising $9 million in capital last month. (…)

Brain activation detected through the band’s sensors is believed to signal the consumer’s emotional engagement with a product. Engagement, in turn, is essential to sustaining interest and in enhancing memorability, important for developing brand loyalty. Yet the practical dimensions of neuromarketing are far from well-established.

First, how well does EEG detect emotion? It can gauge alertness, yes, but the more subtle kinds of mental states that relate to purchasing decisions–such as attraction, disgust, nostalgia or aspirational fantasy–are not accessible via brain wave analysis.

Second, the notion of a discrete “buy button in the brain,” as marketers call the holy grail of marketing, is deeply naive. Response to the shape, smell and color of a product is the culmination of complex processes that engage many areas of the brain.

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