Monday, May 19, 2008

Coming to a marketer near you: Brain scamming

Pretty colorful EEG traces and adorable bunnies!

Why, it's every neuromarketer's dream!1 However,
Some are skeptical

Skeptics say despite its scientific aura, neuro-marketing doesn't do much more than confirm what common sense would tell us anyway - don't advertise detergent to men.

"Guess what: Babies and puppies [Editor: and bunnies] do a lot better to sell things than toothless old men," said Jim Meskauskas, vice president for online media with ICON International and advertising industry pundit.
The above quote comes from this article on neuromarketing:

Coming to a marketer near you: Brain scanning

Tom Abate, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, May 19, 2008

. . .

Both NeuroFocus and EmSense base their systems around devices that measure brain activity on the surface of the scalp. NeuroFocus uses a skull cap studded with electrodes. EmSense engineered its sensor into a headband that slips on and off easily. Both firms also track other physiological data - eye motion, for instance - to know what the person is watching.

In practice, the firms pay test subjects to watch commercials. Subjects are wired with the appropriate sensors, which record their reactions. The technology can measure how men and women, for example, perceive scenes differently.

But while NeuroFocus focuses on advertising, EmSense is willing to enter the field of neuropolitical forecasting:

EmSense has focused its brain scans on voters watching both the Democratic and Republican primary races to determine how they react to various candidates. That generated stories - and questions about whether such techniques were appropriate.

Unlike its San Francisco rival, Berkeley's NeuroFocus will not use its brain scanning technology in politics.

"We are perfectly comfortable to help determine whether one kind of cereal advertisement is better than another, but we don't think it is reasonable or right to use tools like ours to help persuade you that one candidate is better for you than another," said Pradeep.

But Elissa Moses, chief analytics officer for EmSense, said neuro-marketing gave better measures of gut-level responses than either focus groups or polls, both of which have long been staples of political contests.

Didn't she read the ill-advised New York Times Op-Ed piece, the critical Letter to the Editor (signed by 17 neuroimaging experts) in reply, and the ensuing fallout?


1 But maybe that approach only works for women...

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At May 26, 2008 6:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would definitely give NeuroFocus, guided by Bob Knight (UCB head of the neuroscience institute) the benefit of the doubt. His work is very solid and this company might represent the first serious attempt at this research application. And having Mark D'Esposito and Earl Miller on the advisory board can't help, either. These three are pillars in the field of cognitive neuroscience. (note that Mark is on the NYT letter critique of bad neuroscams.)

At May 28, 2008 9:00 PM, Blogger The Neurocritic said...

Hi G Elliot,

I do understand your point that NeuroFocus has a stellar scientific advisory board. In fact, NeuroFocus Chief Science Advisor Wins Humboldt Prize:

BERKELEY, Calif., May 9, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX News Network/ ----The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, one of the world's leading sponsors of scientific research, announced that it has named Dr. Robert Knight as a winner of its highly prestigious Humboldt Research Award for 2008 in the area of neurobiology. It is the only prize that the Foundation awarded in that category.

In the same NeuroFocus press release we learn that

NeuroFocus applies its patented technology and proprietary methodologies to a full range of categories, from product design, packaging and pricing to advertising, promotions, sponsorships, branded entertainment, product placement and film and television entertainment. NeuroFocus also offers clients its expertise in evaluating the in-store shopping environment through its novel Total Consumer Experience testing program.

SOURCE NeuroFocus, Inc.

It just seems that peer review is irrelevant in such a venture...


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