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Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing that uses neuroscience, psychology

and other cognitive science techniques to study consumer responses to marketing stimuli.
Some of the responses measured include eye tracking, heart rate, electroencephalography -
EEG, functional magnetic resonance imaging - fMRI, galvonic skin responses and more.

For example, neuromarketing research can tell a seller what a buyer really does
like about a package. Does a sexy packaging really stimulate young men in the way it was
planned? Neuromarketing research can help answer that. Neuromarketing research can tell
a seller if a potential buyer has increased brainwaves in areas of the brain the seller may
want to stimulate, such as the amygdala, an important brain structure heavily involved in
human emotions.

Many of the top companies in the world have already turned to neuromarketing
research to gain an advantage in the advertising world. Much of the rush on
neuromarketing occurred following an article published in the 2004 edition of Neuron.
This study involved the “Pepsi Challenge.”

During a taste test between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, 67 people had their brains
scanned. After studying results showing stronger responses in the brain’s ventromedial
prefrontal cortex after tasting Pepsi, and the lateral prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus
responses after told they were drinking Coke, an interesting conclusion was drawn.

What neuromarketing research showed is that the taste of Pepsi alone should have
allowed it to share about 50% of the market share, but it didn’t. People were choosing
Coca-Cola based on their personal experiences with the Coca-Cola brand name. This could
allow Pepsi to divert money that would have gone into improving taste, into increasing the
positive impression the Pepsi brand has on people

Neuromarketing is an applied extension of neuroscience. The application

of brain-scan technology to marketing, especially the use of fMRI, (functional
Magnetic Resonance Imaging) gave rise to the term. This helped researchers
understand the use of this technology to understand what part of the brain performs
what functions and how this technology can be used for influencing people


Neuromarketing is nothing but mapping people’s thinking process with

devices. In the late 1960’s researchers did this with pupilometers – devices that
measure spontaneous pupil dilation as an indicator of peoples’ interest while they
were looking at packages or print advertisements. Simultaneously people were
using GSR – (Galvanic Skin Response).

Galvanic Skin Response – (GSR)

Later, we engaged with new technology for eye tracking to reveal exactly
where on the page (or a TV scene) people’s eyes were actually looking.

The concept of using these brain mapping technologies for purposes of

marketing is a relatively new concept. Just about 40 years old. The usage of
neuroscientific research techniques, to marketing research, has become quite
common since the late 1960s.

In 1981, came the use of brain wave monitoring using SST (Steady State
Topography). Professor Richard Silberstein at Swinburne University was using
SST in pure and clinical applications and was investigating the ways in which it
can be used beneficially in marketing. Even though the technology at the time had
a long way to go. Today, 25 years later, it has been proved that SST can provide
revealing insights in marketing with the benefit of a quarter century of accumulated
experience in interpreting SST brain wave activity.

Steady State Topography (SST):

Skull Cap Goggles

• Uses lightweight cap and goggles to monitor brain activity (steady-state
visually evoked potentials).
• Records 13 times per second from 64 electrodes in the skull cap.
• MEG and SST have the necessary temporal resolution to monitor brain
reaction to TV ads. (FMRI does not record fast enough so is better for more
static stimuli.)


The newer technologies, fMRI and MEG (magneto-encephalography) are the

latest brain-scan technologies. Their potential to impress clients has made it easier
to put them to good use in the field of marketing research. Though their potential is
tremendous, evidence of deployment of these technologies in marketing remain
quite scarce.

Early Examples:

One of the oldest experiments using the newer technology was by Ambler
and his colleagues at the London Business School. It asked people while they were
in a MEG scanner, which of 3 brands they would purchase and found that familiar
brands stimulate the right parietal cortex. The authors pointed to this area as the
possible ‘location of brand equity’.

What is MEG? – (Magneto-encephalography):

• Similar to fMRI - shows what areas light up

• They both produce a brain ‘snapshot’.
• But MEG is faster (think ‘shutter speed’)

• MEG temporal resolution 1/1000 second.

• fMRI temporal resolution 1-3 seconds

• MEG is much more expensive than fMRI

In the year 2000 A group of scientists, used SST to study brain Waves, while
people watched TV advertisements, and thus they were able to predict which
scenes people would be able to recollect after one week, they found that they could
predict this from the activity going on in the left brain. Till which time it was
thought that it was, in the right brain that the crucial processing of pictorial data
was carried out in the right hemisphere of the brain.

Recent Studies employing fMRI:

• Ad agency, Arnold Worldwide used fMRI to “gauge the emotional power

of various images” amongst 25-34 male whiskey drinkers. The images
included college kids drinking cocktails on spring break, people in their
twenties drinking around a campfire, and older guys at a swanky bar. The
results are said to have helped shape the 2007 ad campaign for Jack

• DaimlerChrysler showed pictures of their cars in an fMRI scanner to study

how consumers perceive their cars. They found that sports cars stimulated
the “reward” centre of the brain, which is also reportedly stirred by alcohol,
drugs and sex. The front view of these cars lit up the area of the brain that
handles faces (headlights like eyes)

• Neuromarketers claim that the method is simple to use, fMRI is a technique

for determining which parts of the brain are activated by different types of
physical sensations or activities, such as sight, sound product,
advertisement (Print & broadcasting advertisement).

• The subject in a typical experiment will lie in the magnet and a particular
form of stimulation will be set up. For example, the subject may wear
special glasses so that pictures can be shown during the experiment. Then,
MRI images of the subject's brain are taken. Firstly, a high resolution single
scan is taken. This is used as a background for highlighting the brain areas
which are activated by the stimulus. Next a series of low resolution scans
are taken over time, for example 150 scan on every 5 second. For some of
these scans, the stimulus (in case of moving picture/advertorial) will be
presented, and for some of the scans, the stimulus will be absent. The low
resolution brain images in the two cases can be compared to see which parts
of the brain were activated by the stimulus.

• After the experiment has finished, the set of images are analyzed. Firstly,
the raw input images from the MRI scanner require mathematical
transformation to reconstruct the images into 'real space', so that the images
look like brains. The rest of the analysis is done using a series of tools
which correct for distortions in the images, removes the effect of the subject
moving their head during the experiment, and compare the low resolution
images taken when the stimulus was off with those taken when it was on.
The final statistical image shows a bright in those parts of the brain which
were activated by this experiment. These activated areas are then shown as
colored blobs on the top of the original high resolution scan, for
interpretation of the experiments. This combined activation image can be
rendered in 3D, and the rendering can be calculated from any angle.

Neuro science methods

• Scientific technology is not just tools scientists use to explore areas of

interest. New tools define new scientific fields, and erase old boundaries –
e.g. the telescope created astronomy. Its boundaries have been constantly
reshaped by tools such as mathematical, econometric, and simulation
methods. This section reviews some of these methods.

Brand imaging:

• Brand imaging is currently the most popular neuroscientific tools. Most

brain imaging involves a comparison of people performing different tasks-
an experimental task and control task. The difference between images taken
while subject is performing the two tasks provides an image of the regions
of the brain that are differently activated by the experimental tasks.

• There are there basic imaging methods. The oldest, electro-encephalogram

(EEG) uses electrodes attached to the scalp to measure electrical activity
synchronized to stimulus events or behavioral responses. Like EEG,
positron emission topography (PET) scanning is an old technique in the
rapidly changing time- frame of neuroscience, but is still a useful technique.
PET measures blood flow in the brain, which is a reasonable proxy for
neural activity, since neural activity in a region leads to increased blood
flow to the region. The newest and currently most popular, imaging method
is functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), which tracks activity in
the brain proxied by changes in blood oxygenation.

• However, the technology has improved rapidly and will continue to

improve. Hybrid techniques that combine the strengths of different methods
are particularly promising.

Single – neuron measurement

Even the finest- grained brain imaging techniques only measure activity of
‘circuits’ consisting of thousands of neurons. In single neuron measurement, tiny
electrodes are inserted into the brain, each measuring a single neuron’s firing. As
we discuss below, single neuron measurements studies have produced some
striking findings that, we believe are relevant to economics. A limitation of single
neuron measurement is that, because insertion of the wires damages neurons, it is
largely restricted to animals.

Electrical brain stimulation (EBS)

Electrical brain stimulation is another method that is largely restricted to

animals. In 1954, psychologists James Olds and Peter Milner discovered that rats
would learn and execute novel behaviors, if rewarded by brief pulses of EBS to
certain sites in the brain. Rates will work hard for EBS. For a big series of EBS
pulses, rats will leap over hurdles, cross electrified grids, and forego their only
daily opportunities to eat, drink, or mate. Animals also trade EBS off against
smaller rewards in a sensible fashion- eg. They demand more EBS to forego food
when they are hungry. Despite it’s obvious applications to economics, we know of
only one EBS study by economists (Green and Rachlin).
The quadrants in action:

Quadrant I:

Is in change when you deliberate whether to refinance your house poring

over present value calculations quadrants I I is used by method actors who imagine
previous emotional experiences to fool audiences into thinking they are
experiencing those emotions.

Quadrant III:

Your first task is to figure out what is on the plate. The occipital cortex in
the back of the brain is the first on the scene, drawing in signals from your eyes via
your optic nerves. It decodes the sushi into primitive patterns such as lines and
corners, and then uses a cascading process to discern larger shapes.

Quadrant IV:

This is where affect enters the picture. Neurons in the inferior temporal
visual cortex are sensitive only to the identity of an object; they don’t tell you
whether it will taste good. Outputs of the inferior temporal visual cortex as well as
outputs from other sensory systems feed into the orbitofrontal cortex to determine
the foods reward value. Reward value depends on many factors i.e. if your personal
history with sushi, the reward value of the sushi will depends on your current level
of hunger etc.

Quadrants I and II:

Processing often ends before quadrants I and I I go to work. If you are

hungry, and like sushi, your motor cortex will guide your arm to reach for the sushi
and eat it, drawing on automatic quadrant I I I and I V process. Under some
circumstances, however higher level processing enter the picture. Economics
captures the pats of this process that are best described by quadrant I. the rest of
this section provides future details about automatic and affective processes in
quadrant I I and I V, and describes how processes in the four quadrants interact.


Automatic process

Here, we review of some key principles of neural functioning that

characterize automatic processes. Our short list includes: parallelism, plasticity,
modularity, and specialization. Unpacking this a bit, we would say that; 1) much of
the brains processing involves processes that unfold in parallel and are not
accessible to consciousness, 2) the brain undergoes physical changes as a result of
these processes, 3) it draws upon multiple modules specialized to perform specific
functions, and 4) it figures out how to use existing modules to accomplish new
tasks efficiently, whatever functions they originally evolved to perform.


It is a hallmark of automatic processing, facilitates rapid response and gives

the brain remarkable power when it comes to certain types of tasks, such as visual
identification. It provides the brain with tremendous power because it allows for
massive multitasking. It also provides redundancy that decreases the brains
vulnerability to harm. As a result of this redundancy, when neurons are
progressively destroyed in a region, the consequences are typically gradual rather
than sudden.


Cognitive operations operate through electrochemical interactions between

neurons. Plasticity, like Parallelism lessons the brains vulnerability to
environmental damage by allowing it to recover from damage like strokes and
‘rewire’ itself, particularly early in life. In one study that illustrates the power of
plasticity, the optic nerves of ferrets were discounted a birth and reconnected to the
auditory cortex. The ferrets learned to see using auditory cortex, and some neurons
in their auditory cortex actually took on the physical characteristics of neurons in
the visual cortex. An important implication of plasticity is that information
processing in unlikely to be reversible because the physiology processes that
produce learning are themselves not reversible. However, there are numerous
demonstrations of violations of these principles.


Neurons in different parts of the brain have different shapes and structures,
different functional properties, and assemble themselves into relatively discrete
modules that are functionally specialized. Progress in neuroscience often involves
tracing well known psychological functions to circumscribed brain areas. Beyond
uncovering the modular structure of the brain, neuroscience has led to the
discovery of new functional modules. Beyond the standard modules, such as face
recognition, language and so on, research hints at the existence of some modules
that are quite surprising.


In a process that is not well understood, the brain figures out how to do the
tasks it I assigned, effectively, using the modules it has at its disposal when the
brain is confronted with a new problem it initially drowns heavily on diverse
Affective processes:

modules, including, often the prefrontal cortex. It naturally follow that for a
wide range of problems and tasks, people will rely on cognitive capabilities-
modules that are relatively well developed, such as visual perception and object
recognition rather than operation that we not very good at, like decomposing and
then summing up costs and benefits.

The fashion in which the brain evolved is critical to understanding human

behavior. In many domains, such as eating, drinking, sex, and even drug use,
human behavior resembles that of our close mammalian relatives, which is not
surprising because we share many of the neural mechanisms that are largely
responsible for these behaviors. Many of the processes that occur in these systems
are affective rather than cognitive; they are directly concerned with motivation.
This might not matter for economics, were it nor for the fact that the principles that
guide the affective system- the way that it operates – is so much at variance with
the standard economic account of behavior.


To understand how the affective system operates, one need to recall that,
human did not evolve to be happy, but to survive and reproduce. An important
process by which the body attempts to achieve these goals is called homeostasis.
Homeostasis involves detectors that monitor when a system departs from a set –
point, and mechanisms that restore equilibrium when such departures are detected.
The role of homeostasis in human behavior poses a fundamental challenge to
economic account of behavior. An important feature of many homeostatic systems
is that they are highly attuned to changes in stimuli rather than their levels.

Interactions between the systems:

Behavior emerges from a continuous interplay between neural systems

supporting activity within each of the four quadrants. Three aspects of this
interaction bear special emphasis, which we labeled collaboration, competition and
sense making.

Although it is heuristically useful to distinguish between cognitive and

affective processes, and between controlled and automatic processes, most
judgments and behaviors result from intersections between them. Collaboration,
delegation of activity, and proper balance across the quadrants are essential to
normal decision making.


When it comes to spending money or delaying gratification, taking or

avoiding risks and behaving kindly or nastily towards other people often find
themselves of two minds; our affective systems drive us in one direction and
cognitive deliberations in another.

Erroneous sense – making:

The brains powerful drive towards sense making leads us to strive to

interpret our own behavior. Such interpretations use quadrant I mechanisms to
make sense of behavior which is caused by all four quadrants and their interaction.
Since quadrants I often does not have conscious access to behavior in the order
quadrants, it is perhaps not surprising that it trends to over attribute behavior to
itself i.e. to a deliberative decision process.

Implication of neuroscience for economics:

To add value to economics, neuroscience needs – at a minimum –to

provoke thought, and suggest interesting, fresh perspectives on old problems. This
section illustrates how the concepts and findings just discussed might affect the
way that two traditional topics in economics- intertemporal choice and decision
making under risk and uncertainty are approached.

Inter-temporal choice and self – control:

The standard perspective in economics views intertemporal choice as a

trade off of utility at different points in time. Individual differences in the way that
people make this trade off are captured by the notion of a discount rate – a rate at
which people discount future utilities as a function of when thy occur.
Collaboration is illustrated by the fact that decisions to delay gratification involve
an admixture of affect and cognition. Competition is illustrated by the ubiquity of
self control problems in which ones cognitive judgment of the best course of
behavior departs from the actions one is affectively motivated to take.

Decision – making under risk and uncertainty:

The expected utility model views decision making under uncertainty as a

trade- off of utility under different states of nature – i.e. different possible
scenarios. But, much a they do to delayed outcomes, people react to risks at two
different levels. Decision – making under risk and uncertainty, like intertemporal
choice, nicely illustrates both collaboration and competition between systems.
When it comes to collaboration, risk taking behavior involves an exquisite
interplay of cognitive and affective processes.


 A real knowledge of consumer perceptions.

 Easy to know the consumer as it’s impossible to know in other marketing


 Each consumer has different stimuli and even creating a standard pattern
it’s difficult to know such a heterogeneous group.
 It’s also difficult to find consumers that agree to be part of a
neuromarketing scientific study.


Our "old" brain often overrides our voice of logic and drives all buying
decisions for reasons beyond our conscious awareness. To influence customer's
buying decisions, we must learn how the "old" brain operates and speak its
"language." Below are 7 key insights about the customer,


Our old brain operates on autopilot i.e., a stimulus response
mechanism. Emotions are automatic responses to sensory stimuli. The smell of
coffee, the sound of the ocean, the view of a setting sun all triggers an unconscious
emotional response.


The two basic drivers of all behavior and decisions are to seek pleasure
and avoid pain. Most people react to the fear of loss and the threat of pain in a
much more profound way than they do for gain. Consumers focus more on not
getting hurt over the need to feel great when making decisions.


Research confirms that the beginning and ending of an event or
experience alters our perception of the entire experience. Our initial impression
becomes the "filter" for how we perceive what is to follow. The most recent
experience leaves a final impression with greater weight.


From the moment we are born, we are able to see shadows and
associate meaning to them. In communications, we are told that 65% of our how
our message is received is through our visual cues. In each instance, it is our old
brain rapidly responding to visual cues, not words.


Neuroscience tells us that the "pain" in the old brain is most activated
with price. Not in absolute terms but rather in relative terms such as fairness vs.
unfairness, or alternative uses of dollars. Therefore, how we present or frame our
prices could be driving customers away.


The old brain is constantly scanning for what is familiar and tangible. It
does not understand numbers or abstract terms, like "integrated approach" or
"comprehensive solution."


According to market researcher, Clotaire Rapaille, some cultures are
very reptilian, such as the American culture. Americans want instant gratification.
They have a bias for action. Other cultures such as the French and German are
more control-oriented.


Marketing strategies that mirror brain and thinking realities are more likely
to be successful than those which do not. Below are 15 well-researched midbrain
bulls-eye targets for marketing strategies to accommodate.

The Brain Seeks Order and Simplicity:

The brain is actually under-wired to capture complex realities and so it
tends to want to reduce this complexity and chaos down into over simplified,
artificial order. Marketing materials need to be very simple, extremely well
organized and crystal clear. Confusing ideas, visual clutter, extra words,
disorganization and all other distraction need to be eliminated.

We seek to affirm what we already know:

The way the brains develops its information base is to only accept new
information that somehow connects and builds upon what it already knows.
Marketing approaches that present entirely new material will most likely fail. This
means marketers must learn what the audience already knows to connect properly.

We Embrace Strong Beliefs Quickly:

Oddly, we can be very quick to embrace a new belief even with little
evidence to justify the belief. But beliefs need to be a powerful one that will help
give us certainly, simplicity, order and meaning. It must also be presented in a
positive mental package of strong emotionality. This is one area for extreme
creativity that connects with the mid-brain hypothalamus like the success of the
paradigm changing digital time movement.

Our Strong Belief are Resistive to Disproof:

Once we embrace a strong belief, that belief becomes neuro-net hardwired
and almost impervious to unbelieving, despite overwhelming evidence disproving
it. Just think of how long it took people to realize and accept the fact that the world
wasn’t flat. You are fighting a losing battle trying to un-lodge a popular belief a
competitor has advantage with. It would be smarter to create an appealing new

Memory is Faulty:
Human memory is not nearly as good as we want to think it is. New,
complex, fragmented, unemotional and unmeaningful messages won’t be
remembered very well, even the next day. Attention demand is at a fiercely
competitive premium for clear, good, fast and simple but powerful messages via
positive mental imagery. Empty secondhand words and abstract notions get lost in
the mind’s crevices.

We Over-Estimate Our Abilities to Influence Others:

When you can finally adopt a more realistic evaluation of your ability to
influence others, you will then study the situation closer and get a more accurate
picture. Then you will uncover the smaller but more powerful ways you can
persuade the audience positively. Designing sales and marketing sales and
marketing materials according to these other brain realities is a good start.

We Prefer Concrete Things Over Abstract Ones:

People generally prefer real, tangible things that they can see, touch and
know with their own personal senses rather than have to think about something to
understand it. Concrete objects presented visually have a better chance of
conveying the intended message, over abstract, secondhand words that only point
towards a thing from a distance. The further the space is here, the less the
connections and direct impact with the brain.
We Prefer Firsthand Experience Over Secondhand
We can easily use a small, single and firsthand experience to create a
universal law, despite most compelling evidence from a secondhand source. Think
about how quick most people quit smoking when they get lung cancer or have a
family member inflicted. Marketing strategies have to bridge the gap with the
audience and get up close and personal with real people.

We Prefer Certainty Over Ambiguity:

Successful marketing strategies have to portray the certainty of something
the brain wants and remove all possibilities of ambiguity. The certainty has to be
convincing, credible and believable or it will get the opposite results. Despite the
brains flaws, it does have an affinity for recognizing truth and honesty very

Mental impressions Learned with Emotion are Persistent:

Everybody remembers where they were, who they were with and what they
were doing the day of 9-11. When marketing materials are wrapped in a stirring
emotional package with a powerful visual image at the forefront conveying a
simple message, the intended message is a direct hit on the mid brain.

We Assume Relationship Because of Contiguity:

A common thinking mistake to take advantage of in marketing is to present
one thing contiguously with one another so as to form a direct co-relationship
between the two. The safe assumption will be that the one thing causes the other-
like an expensive suit and business success or eating apples and keeping doctors
away. Of course, this can be used negatively too to influence people not to want to
do something like smoke if they are sure to get cancer.
We think others Think Like We Do:
This is a fatal marketing mistake if you tend to think differently and are
unusually creative, because then you may distance yourself and your message far
away from the audiences brains. The only way to really find out what others think
about a particular aspect of a specific product or service or about what you are
trying to convey is to take the time to study your audience closer. Do this by
getting in the trenches and crevices and asking questions you don’t already have
your own answers to.

We are Paradoxical:
At the same time, we have much in common and are much different. We often
want our cake eat it too-wanting our individuality to be accepted and wanting to be
treated equally at the same time. Successful marketing strategies have to
accommodate both group similarities and the wide range of individual differences
as much as possible.

We Seek to Rather Than Disprove:

People spend much more time and energy trying to prove something is
right, even though they could use much less time and effort looking for disproof
and get the truth easier and quicker. Marketing materials and approaches that focus
on disproving something to the audience can be correct and even effective and yet
not accepted. Focus on proving your service or product.

We think in Threes:
Three is a magic number we like, because it offers a softer alternative
between harsh opposites like yes-no, right-wrong and excellent-poor. The third
category allows for the needed ‘may be’, ‘a little right and a little wrong’ and
‘average’. Food menus that have three sections- appetizers, entrees and desserts hit
pay dirt like the power of the three sided pyramids, movie trilogies and tricycles for
Ethics of neuromarketing:
Neuromarketing is upon us. Companies are springing up to offer their clients
brain-based information about consumer preferences, purporting to bypass focus groups &
other market research techniques on the premise that directly peering into a consumer’s
brain while viewing products or brands is a much better predictor of consumer behaviour.
These technologies raise a range of ethical issues, which fall into two major categories:

1) Protection of various parties who may be harmed or exploited by the research,

marketing & deployment of neuromarketing.
2) Protection of consumer autonomy if neuromarketing reaches a critical level of
The first point is straight-forward. The second point may or may
not be problematic depending upon whether the technology considered is effectively
manipulating consumer behaviour such that consumers are not able to be aware of the

In 1957, the marketing executive, James Vicary announced that he had increased the sales
of food & drink at a movie theater by secretly flashing subliminal messages with the words
“Drink Coco Cola & Eat Popcorn”. The study was never published & may have been a
hoax, but the episode illustrates the public’s strong reaction to convert manipulation. With
growing public understanding that the brain is the mediator of behaviour, the public’s
reaction to neuromarketing intrusions into their brains may prove to be equally vigorous.
The term ‘neuromarketing’ identifies a new field of research championed by both
academics & self-labeled companies using advances in neuroscience that permit powerful
insights into the human brain’s responses to marketing stimuli The goals of
neuromarketing studies are to obtain objective information about the inner workings of the
brains of consumers without resorting to the subjective reports that have long been the
mainstay of marketing studies. Thus neuromarketing should aim to provide qualitatively
different information ostensibly superior to that obtained by traditional means about the
economically valuable topic of consumer preferences.

The market for neuromarketing:

Although the electroencephalography(EEG) has been in use for the study of marketing
preferences for over 35 years, there is little doubt that we have entered a new age of
neuromarketing in which advanced technology is being used in unprecedented ways to
probe consumer preferences. A raft of peer-reviewed papers & books have appeared in
recent years in which Positron emission tomography(PET) Functional magnetic resonance
imaging & quantitative EEG analysis have been used to assess consumer behaviour. The
choice of modality by neuromarketers will no doubt be informed by a priori hypotheses &
pilot research about relevant brain areas & activation patterns useful for predicting actual
consumer behaviour. Atleast ten commercial enterprises have been established with the
explicit objective of using these advanced technologies to provide neuromarketing.

Protection of vulnerable parties in research, selling &

representation of neuromarketing:

We first consider a set of issues that merit ethical analysis irrespective of whether
the most speculative claims of neuromarketing hold up to rigorous scientific analysis.
Ethical development of neuromarketing requires protection of research subjects,
responsible business-to-business advertising & accurate representation of the state of the
art of the technology to the public. Each of these duties can be ensconced in an industry-
wide code of ethics that we propose be adopted by all researchers & vendors of
neuromarketing & enforced by a discerning marketplace of neuromarketing consumers
doing business with companies voluntarily adhering to the code of ethics.

Human subjects protection:

It is well established that federally funded scientists working in an academic,

government & commercial settings have both ethical & legal responsibilities to obtain
informed consent & protect the privacy of research subjects whose brain function is probed
with imaging technologies. The legal framework for such privacy protection in the US is
covered under Privacy Rule of the department of health & human services, while this
applies in some instances, it is notable that such protections are apparently absent when the
subject is participating in a study being carried out marketing purposes. A key initiative for
neuroethics in neuromarketing is to develop published codes of subject protections equal to
those requires by academic & medical research centers. Even thornier than the issue of
subject protection is the notion that advanced technology in the neurosciences in particular
FMRI, might allow invasion of the inner sanctum of private thought.

Preventing exploitation of niche populations

Special ethics review should be a minimum standard for neuromarketing research that
either involves or targets vulnerable populations. Among the individuals that would fall
under this umbrella are persons with neurological disease or psychological disorders,
children & other members of legally protected groups. Our neuroethical concern is about
potential harm to vulnerable persons as:

1) Subjects in unregulated neuromarketing research

2) Targeted populations who may be especially sensitive to trumped-up claims of
product effectiveness based on information derived from advanced neuroscience
3) People particularly exposed to stealth neuromarketing techniques.

Responsible business to business advertising & public


It is perhaps not surprising that neuromarketing oversells its wares. Independent

critics have openly & quite rightly condemned neuromarketing efforts that overstate the
benefits of the approach. The editors of the high-impact journal ‘Nature Neuroscience’
often reviewed the dangers of over interpretation of neuromarketing results. The traditional
skeptical approach of scientific enquiry is being displaced by a wave of media hype which
suggests the ‘FMRI’ is on the verge of creating advertising campaigns that we will be
unable to resist. Scientists working in the field of neurobiology recognize the considerable
challenge involved in the translation the brain’s extraordinary connectivity-the human is
the most complex biological organ in the known universe, with tens of billions of cells.
This tension leads to situation where highly sophisticated scientists, subject to both public
adulation & profit motive are tempted to provide simplistic answers to what in reality are
highly nuanced questions.

Stealth neuromarketing

The most vexing of the issues raised by neuromarketing is in the realm of autonomy. One
could argue that the essential objective of marketing as a discipline is to manipulate
consumer behaviour-effectively, a soft attack on autonomy. Moreover, many of the
traditional tools of marketing such as focus groups & polls rely upon nuanced
interpretations of human psychology to draw conclusions about consumer behaviour &
then use that information to inform marketing decisions. The implicit question is whether
the new tools of neuromarketing will provide sufficient insight into human neural function
to allow manipulation of the brain such that manipulations result in the desired behaviour
in atleast some exposed persons.

Full disclosure of goals, risks & benefits

Disclosure can be achieved through the publication of ethics principles that have
been adopted to protect the privacy & autonomy of human subjects & consumers.
Publication infers all aspects of the process from consent documents to reporting &
advertising & applies to both verbal & written communication.


Neuromarketing is opening up a whole new world of understanding of the mind.

As it develops, neuroscience will deliver increasingly powerful marketing insights. Its
immediate application to general marketing requires businesses to tread carefully &
disentangle the scientific substance from the promotional hype. Businesses prepared to
exercise this caution & engage with it now have an advantage for early mover advantage
before its application of neuromarketing gets constrained by regulation. In the long term
neuromarketing will be far more socially welcome for applications that focus on products
& causes with a clear social benefit-applications like road safety messages & persuading
people to give up smoking or to resist over-eating. Developing & testing strategies that are
designed to cure rather than create social pathologies is hard to argue with. Used in this
type of application, neuromarketing will be refined to public applause rather than public

Website:, last Accessed on: 7th March, 2009

Reference Book:

Neuromarketing – An Introduction, edited by: Nasreen Taher, published

by: The ICFAI University Press, Hyderabad, Edition: 2006. Pg. 61-84.