Introduction to Neuromarketing and Consumer Neuroscience

Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy
Neurons Inc ApS, Denmark
July 2014
US$ 41.71 (eBook)
ISBN: 978-87-997602-0-6

Neuromarketing, in the simplest form, can be defined as the application of neuroscience to
solve the problems of marketing. This is an interdisciplinary area of study which has its
foundations in psychology, neuroscience, psychiatry, cognitive and brain sciences,
economics, business, and other allied fields of study.
There is a growing buzz about this area and it has gained significant interest from academics
and practitioners. This has also led to a sudden overflow of books on the topic by many
authors, most of whom are consultants and practitioners. These books are generally based
on their experience and lack the required rigor. This book is one of the first attempts to fill
this gap. He is a full-time faculty at Copenhagen Business School in the Marketing
Department, where he also has his own neuroscience lab.
The author describes this book as an attempt to provide a foundation as to how we should
think of and discuss concepts such as: attention, memory, choice, consciousness etc. Dr.
Ramsøy, notes, “Most terms in this book have an easy understanding and a hard
understanding. The easy part is that for a term, we know what it is about, but it soon
becomes harder when we try to define the term more specifically” (p. 130). This book is a
bundle of up-to-date knowledge explored by consumer neuroscience researchers across the
globe, though my personal belief is that our current understanding of consumers’ behaviour
is just like the tip of the iceberg, and much more insight is still hidden. Nevertheless, this
book gives a strong direction to think for anyone interested in understanding and exploring
this area further.
The book is divided into ten chapters, including an Epilogue. Chapter One introduces the
readers to the fundamental questions which are dealt with in the book, such as, “How do
we make decisions every day? What makes us remember prior experiences? Why are we
influenced by contexts such as brands, or merely believing that others are observing us?
Why do we have different preferences? Do we really have a free will?” (p. 13). In the section
on conceptual clarifications, the author describes the meanings of the terms,
neuromarketing, consumer neuroscience, neuroscience, applied neuroscience, and
neurology along with describing the applications of neuroscience in marketing and
consumer behaviour. This helps in understanding the nuances of these terms which
otherwise might confuse the readers as these terms are many times used interchangeably in
neuromarketing reports and articles.
Chapter Two, “The Brain”, educates readers on the structure of the human brain. Though a
very complex topic, the author has made it very easy to understand even by readers new to
this area. Relevant diagrams are provided, which makes it easy for readers to comprehend
the text efficiently. The author introduces the readers to the terms dorsal, ventral,
posterior, anterior, medial and lateral. These terms are frequently used in any text dealing
with neuroscientific findings; hence Dr. Ramsøy makes it a point to explain them so that
readers do not get stuck when they come across these terms.
Chapter Three, “The Neuromarketing Toolbox,” explores many different methods that can
be applied to enhance our understanding of consumer psychology and behaviour. Here
readers also learn about the pros and cons of each method and about situations in which
each method should be used based on the research question or the practical problem
marketer intends to solve. As the cost of each of the methods used in neuromarketing
research varies enormously (fMRI may cost up to USD1000/hour while EEG would just be a
fraction of that), the author equips readers with knowledge to choose the most cost-
effective methods to demystify their research problems. He questions, “Is it absolutely
crucial to run an expensive fMRI to study visual attention, or is it more useful to use eye-
tracking and possibly extend with computational neuroscience? The costs will differ
enormously, but the insights might be the same. Or when does it make sense to combine
measures, such as using eye-tracking simultaneously with EEG? “(pn.47). The chapter then
discusses about eye tracking, Galvanic skin response (GSR), Electroencephalography (EEG),
Steady State Topography (SST), Magnetoencephalography (MEG) and Functional Magnetic
Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Though these tools have been discussed in detail earlier by
several other authors, this book gives real-time examples along with the images from the
author’s own research work which makes it immensely helpful to understand the concepts.
Chapter Four, “Senses & Perception”, elucidates the role played by each of our senses such
as vision, smell and sound in formulating our consumption decisions. The neurobiology of
each of the senses is explained, which gives readers an understanding of the neural
processes happening in our brain when we process the stimulus gained through our senses.
Brand managers effectively make use of this to differentiate their products from those of
competitors. To quote the author, “The snappy and fresh sound of Intel; the building
expectation associated with the sound of THX in cinemas, or the direct brand associations
we get from of phrases such as ‘Just do it!’ or ‘I’m loving’ I’”, which automatically makes you
think of Nike and McDonald’s, respectively” (p. 102). The most interesting part of the
chapter is the discussion on how the brain processes the convergence of the sensory
information reaching it through different senses.
Chapter Five, “Attention & Consciousness”, as the name suggests, discusses the role of an
individual’s attention and his/her consciousness in the decision-making process. It is now a
well-known fact that our conscious experience of the outer world is a mere fraction of what
our senses are exposed to. To give the readers an insight into the importance of
understanding the role of consciousness or unconsciousness in decision making, the author
notes that out of 11 million bits of information which human beings get exposed each
second, we are capable of processing only around 50 bits of that information.
The author then educates the readers on several concepts and phenomena related on
attention and consciousness. One such intriguing phenomenon is “attentional blink”,
refering to the fact that after something has grabbed our attention, we tend to have a “blind
period” in which nothing is really noticed. For example if we see something on the screen
that grabs our attention, and then stop, there is a period up to 500 milliseconds – half a
second – in which whatever is presented will go unnoticed!.
In the opinion section of this chapter, the readers would find it interesting to read Dr.
Ramsøy,’s reply to a Huffington Post by Deepak Chopra, though the post was a critique, the
author received a dinner invitation from Mr. Chopra !
Chapter Six, “Emotions & Feelings,” deals with how the emotions and feelings of an
individual influence his/her consumption-related decisions. Though it might sound
extremely simple, emotions are probably one of the most important things to understand
and explain. To assert, I would quote author Elizabeth Gilbert: “Your emotions are the slaves to
your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.” Successful brands try to build an
emotional connect with their consumers, leading to enhanced consumer loyalty and in turn
increased profitability. Having understood the importance of understanding consumer’s
emotions in marketing the products and services, it is required to equip ourselves with the
tools for measuring emotions and feeling. In this chapter, Dr. Ramsøy, wonderfully
describes the measures of emotions such as pupil dilation, posture, galvanic skin response,
respiration, pulse, EEG, fMRI, facial expressions and blush response along with their relative
costs and their benefits and shortcomings.
Chapter Seven, “Learning & Memory”, begins with a short case of a patient who had lost her
ability to store long-term (and intermediate) memories. This makes the readers aware of the
fact that different parts in the brain are responsible for performing different kinds of
functions. Further, in this chapter the readers are introduced to different kinds of memories
such as long term memory, working memory and short term memory. These concepts then
help the readers to understand the concepts of brand association, brand recall etc. The
author explains the applications of these concepts in marketing with the help of examples
from the research studies performed in his lab. In one of such studies quoted in this chapter
the researchers found that, “our (consumers’) product preferences are amenable to change
by mere information that has really nothing to do with the product. If we believe that the
product is French and expensive, we are automatically led to enjoy the product more and be
willing to pay more money for the product – even though the quality of the product has
never changed.” (p. 202)
Chapter Eight, “Wanting, Liking & Deciding”, address the basic question, What drives
consumer choice?. This chapter briefs readers with lot of interesting eye tracking, EEG, and
fMRI studies done by researchers across the globe. In a study done by the author (along
with his team of researchers), inside the store environment, participants were given money
prior to entering the store and were instructed to purchase items they wanted, or save the
money. Then the author used mobile eye-tracking and EEG to extract the neural responses
while people were looking at particular products or signs, or were in a particular region of
the store. After analysing the first 500 milliseconds of product viewing, the author found
that it did not even need half a second to make the predictions if the consumer will buy the
product or not. More interestingly, the author found that even when consumers had only
looked at a product for 100 milliseconds, it could be determined whether they would buy
the product with over 70% accuracy. The readers would find several other similar studies
which will give them a new dimension to understand consumer shopping behaviour.
Chapter Nine, “Consumer Aberrations,” is yet another topic which differentiates this book
from others in this area. The author mentions two reasons to study aberrant consumers.
“First, a better understanding of when consumption behaviours go wrong may help us
better detect, diagnose, understand and treat such problems. Second, the study of
abnormal behaviours can allow us a better understanding of ‘healthy’ consumer choices” (p.
235). It educates readers about compulsive buying disorder (CBD), which is a condition
characterised by an obsession with shopping and a chronic, repetitive purchasing behaviour
that has adverse consequences both for the sufferer and their social surroundings. It is
estimated that around 5% to 7% of the population suffers from this disorder. Readers
would find it interesting to study the consumer behaviour research done on the CBD
population.
Chapter Ten, “Epilogue” briefly gives the readers an idea of the future of this area of
research (Neuromarketing & Consumer Neuroscience). It also talks about the ethical
concerns of neuromarketing. Though the author agrees with some of the ethical concerns
raised by other scholars, he urges readers to look towards the positive side, mentionsing
“Better than focusing on these pointless and anachronistic assumptions is to use
neuromarketing for the sake of improving the life of people” (p.252)
Though readers can very well start with this book, I would suggest the serious readers to
also go through Neuromarketing for Dummies by Stephen Genco, Andrew Pohlmann and
Peter Steidl. This would help them to understand the basic theoretical foundations of
psychology and cognitive science such as Daniel Kahenman’s System 1 & system 2 theory.
The book also provides references to the studies at the end; interested readers can explore
these texts for detailed descriptions of the experiments referred in the chapters of this
book. The author also provides web links to many concepts, introduced in the book; these
can be explored just by clicking on the links (in e-book) and act as an easy and authentic
source of information. The book certainly has a positive impact on both commercial and
academic applications of neuroscience in consumer behaviour and marketing. The book can be
used as textbook for advanced undergraduate and postgraduate management students. It is
also a suggested read for professionals in the function of marketing, especially those
required to understand their consumer behaviour such as brand managers, new product
development executives, consumer researchers etc.
Sharad Agarwal
Doctoral Student (Marketing & Neuro-Marketing)
IIM Ranchi
Sharad.agarwal12fpm@iimranchi.ac.in