Venture Capitalists are Investing in Neuromarketing

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A couple of months ago, I blogged about the trend of neuromarketing, which has found its way into the marketing budgets of companies like Microsoft, Google, and A&F. One of our readers (Thanks, Josiah) just found an interesting Forbes article on this topic.  Neuromarketing is the science of reading consumer brain waves to determine how men and women will respond to a specific product, shopping environment or ad campaign. Think of neuromarketing as a focus group on steroids. At least, that is what industry practitioners claim.

The Forbes article mentions that one industry operator, EmSense, has raised $9 million in venture funds. It’s reasonable to think that EmSense and its competitors must be onto something if they managed to get venture money in this grim economic environment.  But Sally Satel, M.D. and Forbes writer, cautions that “the practical dimensions of neuromarketing are far from well-established.”

For one thing, a number of different companies are using devices that enable electroencephalography (EEG)-a technology often used in the medical field to diagnose seizures- to investigate stimulus and consumer response for marketing purposes. Some firms use full caps with numerous nodes while EmSense uses a smaller number of sensors.  The idea is stimulus leads to response such as engagement and finally to brand loyalty.  As Satel points out,  “there is nothing close to a direct path between brain activation and actual consumer behavior.” So we can’t be sure that the activity tracked by these devices can be accurately interpreted and then used to build an ad campaign that lights up a consumer's ‘buy button’.

It’s intriguing that the likes of Microsoft and Google, proven technology disruptors, are delving into the topic of neuromarketing.  But Satel seems convinced that industry operators are better at marketing themselves than actually selling a system that will help clients predict consumer behavior. As a serious scientist, Satel is looking for hard evidence or at least some published data in peer-reviewed publications. The bottom line seems to be, at best, that neuromarketing is a science in its infancy.

[Source: Satel, M.D., Sally, Weird Science — Neuromarketers, Forbes, 12.08.09]
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.