Friday, March 20, 2009

Can we do an MRI in Aisle 11?

Ron writes: The search for the perfect predictor of advertising effectiveness continues. According to a recent story in the New York Times, a Yale undergraduate is using magnetic resource imaging to “study brain waves and determine why people respond to some advertisements but not others.”

Emily Yudofsky became curious about the potential of neuromarketing in high school, when she worked in a laboratory that did research on the consumer response to Coke vs. Pepsi. Yudofsky’s neuromarketing company will specialize in research on public service advertising, hoping to develop anti-smoking or don’t-drink-and-drive campaigns.

The article suggests neuromarketing is “tremendously controversial,” both because it is seen as “creepy” and, as scientists point out, “just because a neuron fires does not mean a consumer likes Coke better than Pepsi.” If neuromarketing is indeed effective, we will see it used for more commercial applications. It is tempting to believe that brain scans can provide a complete understanding of how consumers make decisions. However, no matter how refined this technology gets, it won’t be a substitute for the observation of behavior and the resulting insights that bring true understanding of the consumer. At least not yet.
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