The Challenge of Neuromarketing

The Challenge of Neuromarketing

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4834-8.ch002


The global market research spending increased in 2013 to US 30 billion. However, only 1% of the global market research expenditure is spent on Neuromarketing (~US 330 million). The number of buyers who report using Neuromarketing has remained steady at around 10% in almost every poll since 2010. However, each year a higher percentage of respondents say they are considering using Neuromarketing at some point in the future (e.g. in 2013 in total 21%), but when the next survey comes in, actual usage has not really changed (Sousa, 2016). Therefore, in spite of Neuromarketing is at early stage, statistics show that this science needs to be improved in terms of technology. In fact, Neuromarketing comprises neuroscience, biometrics, and facial recognition for marketing purposes, and currently the main technology is EEG, fMRI and eye-tracking. These technologies are not new in marketing; however, Neuromarketing feels the need to improve the usability and the portability of the technology, as well as the associated software (Sousa, 2016). This chapter intends to present some Neuromarketing challenges and some opportunities namely regarding policy recommendations.
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The Challenges

According to GreenBook, there are four requirements that Neuromarketing is falling for becoming a mainstream category. The four requirements are (Murphy, Pospichal, & Kosar, 2014):

The Scalability

The scalability is one of the most issues in Neuromarketing. Large mainstream buyers indicate that classic Neuromarketing studies using lab-based EEG and fMRI methodologies are too labor-intensive, too slow, and too expensive to scale to meet their global research needs. So, they have relegated these techniques, if they adopt them at all, to the sidelines of small-scale, “experimental,” and one-off studies. Only the largest early-adopter companies with the deepest pockets have been willing to foot the bill for intensive Neuromarketing as it is sold today, and their results have not convinced their more mainstream competitors that matching investments are required to remain competitive. Until Neuromarketing can meet the challenge of scalability along all three dimensions – greater standardization, faster turnaround times, and lower cost – it will remain a niche specialty nibbling at the edges of market research budgets.


Even if Neuromarketing were faster, better, and cheaper, it would still face a major obstacle to wide-scale adoption: many potential buyers do not trust it. Here are the top two reasons why.

First, in the early days of Neuromarketing, some proponents tarnished the field’s reputation by making exaggerated, unverified, and scientifically irresponsible claims. Promising to push “buy buttons” in the brain, claiming to provide irresistible appeals to the nonconscious, and hinting at an ability to read consumers’ minds, these proponents went overboard in their efforts to attract attention to the newly emerging field. Overly enthusiastic or appropriately skeptical business journalists created an echo chamber for the more outrageous claims. Mainstream buyers didn’t believe it, scientists were appalled, and consumers were frightened.

Second, instead of educating the market about the long-established scientific foundations of their new field, neuromarketers hid behind proprietary methodologies in the name of protecting confidential intellectual property. Despite their lack of traction in the marketplace, these “black box” firms failed to realize that mainstream research buyers would not make multimillion-dollar marketing or product decisions based on findings from research methodologies they did not understand intimately.

To the average mainstream research buyer, this combination of exaggeration and secrecy was a toxic brew to be avoided, not embraced.

Connecting to Behavior and Real Business Outcomes

Many Neuromarketing firms offer promising new ways to measure consumer responses using signals from the body and brain that are grounded in solid and verifiable science. But their methods too often stop at measuring mental reactions, without connecting those reactions to subsequent choices and outcomes. Neuromarketing studies might pinpoint with great precision that attention is happening here, or emotional engagement is peaking there, but buyers are often left to figure out for themselves what it all means. What is a “good” level of each of these variables? How do these measures help us explain and predict consumers’ later choices and actions? These questions have not been answered satisfactorily for most mainstream research buyers.

Unlike many traditional research providers, neuromarketers have failed to invest in collecting and publicizing normative data that connects their measures to business-relevant outcomes. Or at least they have failed to publicize any large-sample, statistically-significant results that back up their claims to predict business outcomes better than traditional self-report measures. This is a huge negative for traditional research buyers, who buy research solutions because they can be shown to reliably improve business results, not because they are new and different.

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