Neuromarketing: useful or useless?

Robin Wight and Vincent Nolan


It is slightly over 40 years since I entered advertising as a fledgling copywriter. Much has changed since then, from the growth of the web to the explosion of mobile phones.

What hasn't changed, (and that ought to be ringing alarm bells throughout our industry), is the way we measure advertising communication. Good old focus groups and quantitative research, tracking conscious minds, still keep the likes of Millward Brown fat and purring.

Focus groups, in case you've forgotten, were called that because they were meant to allow one to 'focus' on what questions to ask in the ensuing quantitative research. For all their relative inexpensiveness, focus groups are revealed by decades of evidence to be a hugely misleading way to reveal what consumers really think. But they have the advantage of empowering researchers into the role of witch-doctors, reading the 'entrails' of consumer wisdom. So, perhaps it's not surprising that so many market researchers are so out of date about brain scans (exactly as cognitive dissonance theory would predict).