Don’t Get Spooked: Unmasking the Fears of Neuromarketing

Don’t Get Spooked: Unmasking the Fears of Neuromarketing


Don’t Get Spooked: Unmasking the Fears of Neuromarketing

Kathryn Ambroze
Consumer Research Specialist
31 October 2018

With a crisp chill in the air and Halloween right around the corner, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for ghosts and goblins to provide a scare. With the increasing interest to apply traditionally scientific technology to different disciplines, neuromarketing has left more and more people wondering… is it a trick or a treat?


Pumpkin for Halloween on a black background

Neuromarketing subscribes to the notion that in order to gain predictive insights into the customer, both implicit and explicit measurements can be used to provide a more comprehensive assessment of human behavior. In an attempt to predict the emotional components of a consumer, various measurements are implemented to analyze how the consumer is feeling as well as how his or her body is reacting to a marketing stimulus (Lim, 2018). Biometric features like heart rate, eye-tracking, facial expression analysis and sweat response can give an idea of how the body responds to an experience, while traditional marketing research tools like surveys provide the direct answers to a posed question

Research sign

(Thomas, Pop, Iorga, & Ducu, 2018). Neuromarketers are not aspiring to be the three witches from Hocus Pocus. Neuromarketing is not an attempt to gain mind control or brainwash. The goal of neuromarketing research is to advance and improve marketing theory with neuroscientific methods, to provide brands with deeper consumer insights for developing and employing strategies

Many people are cautious of the neuroscientific methods in marketing, specifically focusing on the confidentiality of the test subjects, the validity of the data and transparency of the findings. Participants or consumers must be provided informed consent and the researcher must respect all measures of confidentiality (Thomas, Pop, Iorga, & Ducu, 2018). In order to achieve this privacy while conducting a study, participants should have a full understanding of risks, benefits, rights, and measurements acquired from that session (Lim, 2018). During the recruiting period, participants must be screened for anything that could compromise the health of the participant or the integrity of the data.

Data resulting from neuromarketing studies, as well as the way it is interpreted, should uphold a certain standard of scientific competency. Gross overarching assumptions or underestimating trends from sloppy collection or analytics can result in misreporting. To avoid these falsehoods, protocols have been established by the Neuromarketing Science and Business Association (NMSBA). The Code of Ethics was published to address privacy protection for participants and clients as well as to legitimize neuromarketing practices. The Code of Ethics also eases the concern regarding subliminal persuasion by increasing transparency of employed methodologies (NSMBA Code of Ethics- NSMBA, 2018). Another initiative, known as Neurodata Without Borders (NWB), created a global protocol for neurophysiological data collection to prevent manipulation or negligence of data (Cerf, García, & Kotler, 2017). Literature about neuromarketing creates a space for both academic and civil society to determine the pros and cons. Promoting educational discussions within capacities like the NWB or the NMSBA shifts the power dynamic back in favor of the public. The application of neuromarketing research strives for a more comprehensive view of the consumer’s wants and needs, thus simplifying ways for businesses to perform effectively. To avoid having any scientific monstrosities (I’m looking at you, Frankenstein), neuromarketing must evolve through publishing more literature and continuing a dialogue that promotes transparency—keeping any trapdoors for the haunted houses.

References: Cerf, M., García, M. G., & Kotler, P. (2017). Consumer neuroscience. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Lim, W. M. (2018). Demystifying neuromarketing. Journal of Business Research, 91, 205-220. NMSBA Code of Ethics – NMSBA. (2018). Retrieved October 10, 2018, from Thomas, A. R., Pop, N. A., Iorga, A. M., & Ducu, C. (2018). Ethics and Neuromarketing Implications for Market Research and Business Practice. Cham: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-45609-6