Cognitive neuroscience, marketing and research – separating fact from fiction

Graham Page
Millward Brown, United Kingdom

Jane E. Raymond
School of Psychology, University of Wales, Bangor, United Kingdom


Cognitive neuroscience seems to exert a unique pull on our curiosity. Is this because its science and technology seems to offer an objective, unbiased picture of what makes people “tick”? We all love to try to 'work people out', so the idea that there might be an objective way to do this is alluring. In marketing we want to really get at why people buy what they buy, think what they think, and say what they say. Cognitive neuroscience seems to offer us the chance to achieve this goal, to yield a bias-free view of consumers' minds.

Indeed, the new technologies for brain imaging yield beautiful colour 'snapshots' of the brain in action. But what do these pretty pictures mean? To interpret them and apply their lessons to marketing in sensible, appropriate ways, we need to look beyond images of the brain and the high-tech 'toys' that neuroscientists use to generate them. Instead of focusing on the images, we need to examine the theories they help produce because this is the real gold of cognitive neuroscience. The emerging consensus of how the brain works has the power to give us tremendous insight into how consumers respond to marketing messages. Cognitive science can give us lot more than sets of numbers and computer generated images. It can give us a road map.