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Can neuromarketing be considered a science?

To answer this question it is necessary to define the conceptual elements implicit in the question, namely: science, marketing and “neuro”.

The science empirical, based on facts, can be defined as a rational methodology that seeks to understand reality -from observation and experimentation- to then explain it through a series of statements (knowledge) that must meet the condition of being verifiable, reproducible, not immutable and even predictable.

Scientific method

Marketing, for its part, can be defined as a set of activities, methodologies and processes that allow a company or organization to identify the needs or desires of customers or consumers and then satisfy them in the best possible way in exchange for a utility or benefit for the company or organization that implements it.

Brands

Can marketing be considered an empirical science? Although marketing professionals use research methods supported by inferential statistics to validate whether there are significant differences in the data collected on consumer preferences, their approximation to reality remains imprecise and their predictive capacity remains low. .

And it is not because market research methods are not very rigorous, but because the type of phenomena that it studies (human preferences, needs and desires) are not easy to measure, quantify or predict, since they belong to the realm of emotions and human subconscious, a territory difficult to access by traditional methods of inquiry. In fact, predictability in marketing is so low that it has led to many failed new product launches.

Is neuromarketing more scientific than marketing? To study consumer preferences, consumer behavior researchers use a series of methodologies from neurophysiology and brain scanning that allow them to study in a more verifiable, quantifiable and even predictable way the mental processes that are associated with consumer needs. consumers, as well as decision-making and emotional processes underlying such decisions.

Brain

According to the Neuromarketing Business and Science Association (NMSBA), neuromarketing studies which emotions are relevant in human decision-making and uses this knowledge to make marketing more effective. That is why, in all neuromarketing studies, emphasis is placed on the role that emotions play in the decision-making process of consumers.

When reviewing the origins of neuromarketing we see that it arose from scientific research. Two relevant publications show this:

1. Patent US6099319A of Zaltman and Kosslyn from the year 2000 Neuroimaging as a marketing tool, registered neuroimaging as a means to validate whether advertising, communication or product stimuli were capable of evoking certain mental responses such as emotion, preference or memory, and to predict the consequences of such stimuli on subsequent behaviors such as consumption or purchase. From this patent, neuromarketing would emerge as a scientific discipline, although its name was coined two years later by Ale Smidts.

2. The research paper by McClure, Montague, and colleagues, published in 2004 in the journal Neuron, in which they conducted taste tests and passive experiments with Coca-Cola and Pepsi on human subjects during fMRI (fMRI) in two types of tests: anonymous tastings and tastings where the brand was indicated, finding variations in the neuronal responses when the subjects were indicated the brand.

Pepsy tail

Despite its scientific origin, neuromarketing soon diversified in the face of the enormous potential it meant and led to the three approaches that dominate its activity today:

Neuromarketing

1. The academic approach, which focuses on conducting market and consumer behavior research with neurophysiology and brain imaging techniques to decipher the neural foundations of the decision-making process related to consumer preferences and needs, as well as as the underlying emotional responses.

2. The approach of service companies, which includes hundreds of neuromarketing companies worldwide, with various levels of credibility, that offer their assistance to various companies with neuro-biometric techniques, to optimize and make product launches profitable , advertising campaigns, logos, brands, packaging, etc. The information from these studies is kept confidential, except for some promotional advertisements that are disclosed to attract new clients.

3. The so-called influencers or neuromarketing gurus, who usually offer a series of "tailor-made" solutions, through conferences, books or consultancies to companies, easily understood by the general public due to their recommendations such as pills or prescriptions. They have contributed to the spread of neuromarketing with a mixture of truths and half-truths, without sufficient empirical evidence, for example: 95% of our decisions are unconscious, we have 3 brains, we have to sell to the reptilian brain, there is a buy button in the brain , etc.

In summary, and despite the distortions that neuromarketing has suffered to try to turn it into a kind of recipe book to manipulate the minds of consumers, its origins as a scientific discipline are still valid and are what will allow it to continue consolidating, to the extent that continue to do quality research, capable of being verified, reproducible and applicable.

It is worth highlighting the important role that the Neuromarketing Science & Business Association (NMSBA) is playing in consolidating neuromarketing as a scientific discipline. Likewise, the role of various universities around the world that offer postgraduate courses in neuromarketing (including the NBS), as well as research congresses in this discipline, such as the I Ibero-American Congress of Neuromarketing, recently held (March 2021) at the University of Valladolid, Spain, in which papers were presented on various research topics in the field of neuromarketing.

Editorial: A manifesto for neuromarketing science

Neuromarketing Fundamentals Exam

Written by: Ruben Carvajal                                               

Date: April 6, 2021

Related programs:

Master in Neuromarketing

Master in Neuroleadership

MBA in Digital Marketing

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