Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Last night saw Thom Noble take to the stage at King's College London for Warc's Neuroscience event. An esteemed neuromarketer, Thom's work strives to better explain consumer behaviour and to predict what people are going to buy. Both concepts that are undeniably useful from an advertising perspective.

i would like to buy one
just the same as that
Traditional methods of market research have been able to measure the conscious but neuroscience aims to blend techniques in order to access the vast unknown territory of the non-conscious.

The role for planners would appear to be in generating ways of exploiting this data and in drawing insights from it and Thom feels that it is necessary for planners to develop the consultant side of the neuromarketing industry.

baby imitating facial movements
baby see, baby do
Bringing a wider range of senses to the evaluation of an effective piece of communication is a compelling idea and the field of mirror-neurons, which are said to explain the evolution of language, is an area of particular interest. It also happens to be a part of the brain that is supposedly easier to trigger in women. This is why women respond to faces and direct eye contact and all of a sudden every fashion mag I've ever flicked through makes sense.

Although what starts as a conscious thought and evaluation depreciates to something less conscious throughout a given task, it is impossible to totally switch off from the fact that your responses are being monitored. Even when the technology becomes smaller and more integrated this awareness will be unavoidable.

It reminds me of how Big Brother housemates become less able to keep up a front as the fact that their every move is being watched slips to the back of their minds. They are however, always conscious that they are in an artificial set up and this is a variable that cannot be controlled. Sci-Fi human guinea pigs just won't do the trick.

I believe that in its current state neuromarketing is at its most useful when combined with other forms of monitoring, such as social media, where it can be used in order to measure people's desire to share. Despite the massive recent advances in market research and neuroscience, these methods still have a way to go before the variables are minimised and the data that they produce provides reliable insights into the behaviour of the human mind.

For the time being I have to side with the neuro-sceptics and back the corner of the more philosophical, qualitatively backed ways of reaching into the minds of consumers.

You can find out more about Thom and his work on the Neurostrata website.
You can also see his presentation slides here.

Cited books:
Descartes' Error - Antonio Damasio
Unconscious Branding - Douglas Van Praet
Thinking Fast and Slow (of course) - Daniel Kahneman