Consumer Neuroscience: Neuromarketing Rebranded?


No, I’m not rebranding my blog Neuromarketing. But, with my broad focus on an all-encompassing definition of neuromarketing, I may be part of what some perceive as a problem – a too-inclusive use of the term. The biggest firm in the neuromarketing space, Nielsen’s NeuroFocus unit, is trying to sharpen the distinction between research approaches that use direct brain activity measurements (NeuroFocus uses EEG) and those that use techniques like biometrics, facial coding, and behavior metrics.

According to Caroline Winnett, Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder of NeuroFocus, the problem with the term “neuromarketing” isn’t just the “neuro” part. Providers like her firm go beyond purely marketing topics and engage in product testing, brand development, technology development, and R&D. Their proposed term, “consumer neuroscience,” would both emphasize the direct measurement of brain activity and avoid the limits imposed by a marketing-only focus.

One question that comes to mind is whether “consumer” might make B2B marketers feel excluded, but at the moment virtually all neuromarketing activity is consumer-focused.

I’m not planning on rebranding the blog, as I prefer a broadly inclusive definition of neuromarketing. Many of the strategies I discuss here and in my book Brainfluence are based on research using techniques other than EEG and fMRI. In a later post, I’ll get into this in more depth and maybe even update my own neuromarketing definition. That definition dates back to 2006, and both the industry and my own thinking have evolved since then.

What do you think? Does consumer neuroscience work for the industry?

  1. dale says

    Neuromarketing, public relations and propaganda seem to have a lot in common. Hopefully as we evolve we will move past the roles of consumers and marketeers, where much of marketing and consumerism creates competition and seperation, rather, using some of that same neurological realestate to develope a greater sense of connection and compassion as a platform to take humanity to the next level of being.

  2. Giancarlo Mirmillo says

    consumer neuroscience is a term that is used for some time
    I always thought that there should be difference between the results of neuroscience research and the use of neuroscience techniques (EEG, fMRI, Heg …..) outside the laboratories.
    With a strong convergence with the approach of Roger, at we are, perhaps, the first company that offers solutions based on neuroscience research B2B
    We create a space through which professionals engaged in neuroscience research and social research can interact and develop new visions for understanding people, social dynamics and cultures, not just consumers.
    We think that this is more important than renaming.

  3. social networking says

    I had always been excited about the neurobiological basis of personality types. This post will be followed by more on the neural basis of personality.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Ron Wright says

    Roger –

    Caroline is correct. There is tremendous confusion for the individual that is trying to navigate the various services offered that all fall under the term “neuromarketing”. Sands Research also moved to using the term consumer neuroscience in the past couple years due to our intensive work in shopper insight, new product development and testing (R&D) besides the TVCMs and print / packaging work.

    The ARF NeuroStandards Study helped clarify the confusion a little by only focusing on vendors that performed some form of biological measurement as compared to vendors offering neuromarketing consulting services. But they failed to provide a strong distinction between instantaneous direct brain response measurements, i.e. EEG and fMRI, and older periphery measurements like galvanic skin response (sweat) and heart rate. Whether a shinny new wrist band or fancy EKG vest, the bottom line is that these are late measures, difficult to sink with the media, require a large emotional response and little has changed in this area of biometrics since the 1970s. Measurements that few academic neuroscience researchers utilize. More cardiology related for monitoring heart function not brain response.

    Hope this helps.
    Ron Wright
    Sands Research Inc.

  5. I don’t want to bring up a discussion about marketing, but in my opinion it is about better understanding of the market, improve your ideas, services and products accordingly and communicate this to the right people.

    If we agree on this marketing definition, then product testing, packaging and branding is part of marketing, isn’t it?

    I agree on you with a broadly inclusive definition of Neuromarketing, whether we measure direct from the brain or not, it is all about “the idea” that our unconscious is in charge of a lot product preferences and decisions.

    By the way: there is some great B2B research coming up next year.

  6. Laura Grace says

    What about commercial neuroscience? I know it sounds very…well…commercial, but that seems to be where we are going with this. I also like the existing blanket term “decision science.”

  7. Pedro Camargo says

    Dear Roger and colleagues, in my opinion there is a clear difference between “neuromarketing” and “consumer neuroscience”. First of all “neuromarketing” is just a research method, a little part of marketing studies. “Neuromarketing research” is focused on consumer behavior for companies that has profitable goals ( profitable interests in the results). From companies for companies and “consumer neuroscience” must be apply just for that research made in universities that has interests only in a cientific discovery ( no profitable interests on the results). From University for government and citizens Just to understand how and why consumer choose and buy products. This kind of research is academic and adressed to understand consumption and posible anomaly. And for the others kinds of researches “those that use techniques like biometrics, facial coding, and behavior metrics.” including behavioral endocrinology and behavioral genetics I created “Biology of Consumer Behavior” in portuguese “Biologia do Comportamento do Consumidor.” This denomination can hold all kind of biology research.

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