Why Now Isn’t the Time for Neuromarketing

neuromarketing, neuro marketing, neuroscience marketing

In our previous blog, we discussed the exciting new technology advancing neuroscience marketing. Neuromarketing combines electric signals off the skin, biometrics, eye tracking, and facial coding to capture reactions to materials in real time. Each technique on its own is only slightly helpful, but combined create a holistic picture of how someone responds. We can now quantitatively gauge attention, sentiment, and emotions.

If you’re like me, you wanted to run off to the nearest vendor and start doing neuromarketing work on your next project. But the reality is that neuromarketing is more sparkle in 2018 than an accurate marketing tool. Two things prevent neuromarketing from becoming a staple rather than a fad: 1) Evidence 2) Fit.

Evidence, or lack thereof

We would like to believe that we truly understand the brain and that an MRI is like reading a map with no bias, but the truth is, we still don’t know much about how the brain works. Lack of confidence in the science as well as secrecy has hindered neuroscience marketing from taking hold.  The science behind neuromarketing has remained mostly corporate and proprietary rather than academically reviewed and agreed upon. Only recently have we begun to see articles like Temple University’s that created an unbiased study reviewed by peers. The 2015 study found that when comparing inputs from neuromarketing techniques and traditional surveys, only an MRI was significantly more predictive than traditional surveys. Studies continue to look at the validity of neuromarketing.  Now, this doesn’t discredit all the firms that specialize in neuroscience marketing. Neuromarketing still offers insight, but is not the magic bullet that we were all hoping for.


The most important reason neuromarketing hasn’t moved beyond a fad in the past 10 years is fit. Does neuromarketing make sense for your promotional question? Or can you answer the same question with a quantitative survey for a fraction of the cost? Neuroscience marketing is expensive and equipment heavy, despite continual effort of neuromarketing companies to push down costs. What’s free in the neuromarketing world, like Brown’s free webcam eye tracking, Webgazers, lacks accuracy. But it’s easy to look past the price tag for the excitement of novel research. Like every trend, it’s easy to get into the “me too” mentality. But is that really the research objective you are trying to solve for? Answering the research questions with well-structured research and hypotheses will get you more bang for your buck than the glitz and glamour of the newest methodology.

While neuromarketing begins to tackle our problems with self-reporting, for many it’s not cost-effective or well-established enough to solve the problem in 2018. But this shiny new technology is here to stay and maybe by 2025, with reduced costs and greater research, we can begin to answer research questions we never thought were possible.