The gloves are coming off in the debate about which neuromarketing technologies are most effective. The initial “neurostandards” report from the Advertising Research Foundation didn’t pick any winners from the different approaches to measuring consumer response; the draft report was as carefully worded as a negotiated United Nations resolution. But Dan Hill, president of Sensory Logic (an ARF participant) isn’t being as cautious in explaining why facial coding is more effective than brain scan and biometric approaches.

In a post at MyCustomer.com titled Neuromarketing not ready for the mainstream?, Hill talks about competing technologies:

EMG [bio feedback] provides an incomplete reading of brand building preference because it reads only two facial muscles and requires sensors.

…the reality is that these techniques promise more than they can really deliver. EEG [electrical activity on or just below the scalp] is merely a complex arousal measurement tool that can’t access the deeper parts of the brain where emotional reactions are centered. Second, in trying to read valence based on a left brain/right brain split assumes a fundamentally flawed approach/withdrawal model. That’s because anger, which is an approach but a negatively valenced emotion, cannot be identified using EEG or separated from happiness responses. Thus no accurate positive/negative reading can be taken.

Hill continues, characterizing fMRI as expensive, claustrophobic, and in general not ready for prime time. He writes off current fMRI use by saying,

The human brain is our personal 3.5-pound universe, and anybody who tells you that they know precisely what each part of the brain signals when it lights up through reading blood oxygen levels is either a liar or a fool.

While I’m not sure that some of the fascinating fMRI work being done in academic settings like Carnegie Mellon and Stanford can be dismissed that casually, I do hope that Hill’s outspoken commentary stimulates more public debate. Ideally, neuromarketing firms with case studies and data that can withstand scrutiny will be motivated to make some of this information public. If that happens, Hill will have served the nascent and still controversial neuromarketing industry well.

Hill is the author of About Face and Emotionomics, both of which deal with gauging customer emotions to improve marketing and products.

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