neuromarketing_neuroscience, Andrew_Stein, MBA, Chief_Marketing_Officer, Global_CMO, VP, Marketing_Strategy, Operations, Outside_Director, Board_Member, Technology, Services, Energy, Oil_&_Gas, Geologist, Mining, SteinVox, Design_ThinkingToday, a colleague asked if I believed in “neuromarketing?” Not the emotive-response kind, where brain activity is measured in response to imagery and advertising, the tactical kind of neuromarketing that structures marketing’s activities, programs, and efforts.

I do think there is value to neuromarketing as a way to bring marketing to the table as part of the solution to drive growth for business and entire economies.

Let’s first ground the discussion in a concrete definition of what marketing really is. Then, let’s define neuromarketing.

In business and economics, marketing is the transformational engine of growth. Marketing is about people, understanding their interests and problems, anticipating future (sometimes unknown) needs, developing products and services to satisfy those needs, articulating claims in terms specific to customers’ interests and needs, and delivering in a way that exceeds customer expectations. This is all done in order to generate repeat business and grow a community of users for a sustained, profitable and long-term enterprise.

Were you thinking that marketing was brochures, PowerPoint presentations, websites, social media and logo branded pens? If you were, then you may have missed Marketing 101, where the lifecycle, and the five functions of marketing were outlined in terms of the 4Ps, 5Cs, positioning, and messaging, and other fundamentals required to create value, capture value, and sustain value in successful business. In three words: marketing is strategy. Good strategy we know is a pervasive strategy. What then, is neuromarketing?

According to Wikipedia, neuromarketing is “a new field of marketing research that studies consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive and affective response to marketing stimuli.” The concept, Wikipedia says “was developed by psychologists at Harvard University in 1990. The technology is based on a model whereby the major thinking part of human activity, over 90%, including emotion, takes place in the subconscious area that is below the levels of controlled awareness.”

Neuromarketing Becomes Vogue

Recently a number of marketing agencies and in-house teams have adopted a codified form of this Harvard concept. This codified form focuses on the psychology of the customer’s pain point, and the claims to which the solution offered will reduce that emotionally driven pain point for them. Neuromarketing agencies often follow these basic steps in developing neuromarketing strategies, tactics and deliverables for their clients:

  1. Listen to the customer
  2. Understand their business
  3. Identify and understand pain points that can be solved for them
  4. Show that you have a solution for their pain
  5. Prove that it works with evidence-based positioning and messaging
  6. Deliver and exceed service-level expectations
  7. Listen for feedback (repeat cycle)

These steps them frame and form the resulting marketing strategy, tactics and deliverables.

The Good – Neuromarketing Codified

I think neuromarketing is a good and well-named differentiator for agencies and practitioners that use it. Some agencies have even branded their process around neuromarketing. I believe that is good especially when it is used to define, support, and drive core marketing tenets, processes, and fundamentals. As a result, businesses may recognize, reemphasize and amplify the contribution of the marketing profession in a positive way.

The fundamental underneath neuromarketing, is “real marketing” like we all learned in business school. There’s really nothing profoundly new – neuromarketing in vogue today reignites the “focus on the customer, his/her needs, and positioning and messaging to serve those needs.” It redirects old inward looking feature-function-benefit approaches to an outward-looking market-understanding and customer-pain-solving approaches. Neuromarketing legitimately demonstrates our interest in reducing customer pain more than listening to ourselves spew product specifications. That’s a brief analysis, but like many things it’s the necessary essence.

The Value – Grounded In Fundamentals

Kotler and Drucker have been rallying this exact (neuromarketing) cry for marketing, as both a domain and a profession, for over 50 years. Only they used different, perhaps academic terms in texts, lectures, books, articles and more. All too many leaders have missed these fundamental points from Kotler and Drucker. Some leaders, thinking that marketing is broken, dead, or somehow replaceable are looking at neuromarketing as if it were something different than what they perceive marketing to be. They are unaware that it’s really just the fundamentals, done under a moniker that helps focus on the customer’s emotional response!

For this reason, I like “neuromarketing.” It can and is used to redirect and correct broken perceptions of marketing in the executive suite. It starts the conversation around “what is missing or needs to be changed in terms of leadership, organization, company-culture and especially team collaboration. It re-frames the marketing-as-strategy conversations necessary to build a core marketing competency while elevating the value of the profession, its processes and organizational investment required.

The Bad – Not A Panacea

Neuromarketing is bad when it is thought incorrectly to be a panacea, or some kind of replacement for marketing in general. It is bad when a CxO, VP, manager or function (account managers, finance people, weak marketers, or anyone else) who lacks deep understanding of marketing as strategy, looks to neuromarketing as a solution to failed leadership. Leadership must first elevate “marketing” as a core competency if neuromarketing is going to be effective.

Equally bad, is when a marketing agency, makes statements that “’marketing is dead’, now we all need to replace it with the new thing, neuromarketing.” This only drives fear in decision makers, leaders and people as they try to keep up. It also propagates doubt and risks ROI from marketing among members in the executive suite. This is one place that marketing needs more confidence, not more doubt.

Ponder Your Position

I may be an outlier. I have deep interest in revealing the fundamental connection between marketing and strategy for business. Be it a start-up or Fortune 50 corporation, it is in the best interest of the economy to elevate marketing as a critical core competency that delivers sustained value. Marketing requires an equal voice in the executive suite when it is based on long-understood fundamentals. Now you know the good, the bad, and the value of Neuromarketing.

I’ve spent a good amount of time in the C-suite, helping executives understand marketing-as-strategy. And the marketing profession itself has a lot to do with the failures where “marketing” is defined as “promotions” instead of real “value-creation, value-capture, and value-sustaining business” activities lead by trained marketing leaders with an equal seat at the table in the c-suite. However, we all own the responsibility to collaborate, and improve marketing on all fronts. Leverage marketing fundamentals and neuromarketing, or what is vogue for your business.

Please leave a comment, and share your thoughts with others so they can learn from you.

Image credit: Ian Ruotsala via photopin cc

10 Responses to Neuromarketing In Vogue – The Good, The Bad & The Value

  1. Achal Asawa says:

    Andrew, your blog gives a good insight into neuromarketing but isn’t it exactly what we learn in school. The best marketing for any product or service is one which solves problems for customers which they are – or makes them – emotional about.

    On another important note, what are your thoughts on neuro-leadership (don’t know if this is a word but it explains my thoughts due to current context) In my experiences from school and life, I have found that when people are emotional about you (love, respect, hate) they are more impressionable and resonate more effectively to your leadership. Can you touch upon this in your blog next time?


    • Andrew Stein says:

      Thank you for your comment, Achal. I think you have found my point! With so many new developments in Marketing (strategies, tactics, and more), it’s easy to lose track of the core principles of marketing. I try to make that point that chasing the next shiny object is not “the next” marketing, nor does it “change everything.” Instead it helps us re-apply the principles that we already know.

      As for Neuro-leadership – I see your point. And I’ll think about how this might manifest in a future blog post.

      Thank you for the input and comment.

  2. […] Tactical neuromarketing is no panacea for bad leadership, bad marketers, bad organization or bad culture. Effective on Marketing Fundamentals foundation.  […]

  3. I don’t know why we need new terminology. Empathy? Imagination? Ethics? Got all three? Go!!!!

  4. jdgershbein says:

    Andrew, this is high-end thinking. Outstanding piece!

    I’m a big proponent of neuromarketing. It is making a comeback, maybe not by name, but certainly by action. I think it scares some people (too science-y), but there’s never been a more opportune time for marketers to capitalize on available media and gain a direct route to the amygdala.

    • Andrew Stein says:

      I think you pegged it. There is an opportunity here. And, as professional marketers, a responsibility to get it right. The risk is high, and the reward even higher. Thank you for your insight!

  5. […] Tactical neuromarketing is no panacea for bad leadership, bad marketers, bad organization or bad culture. Effective on Marketing Fundamentals foundation.  […]

  6. Jim Matorin says:

    Andrew: When I first learned about neuromarketing, I thought: “Oh here we go, marketeres over processing why consumers consume.” However, as you know, with the advent of social media and proper utilization of Big Data looming on the horizon, I think neuromarketing is just heating up since it is still in its infantcy. Marketing is definitely about creating sustainable value, but now I want to add one other factor to the puzzle that has yet been identified by neuromarketers – the dopamines factor in consumerism, the chemicals released in our brains that stimulate us, make us feel good. Case in point: Starbucks – Is there real value in their expensive cups of coffee (better flavor, service, etc.) or their consumer gets a rush knowing they are having (can afford) the experience and their experience lingers on when they proudly display their cup with logo on their desks all day long vs. the Dunkin Donuts consumer – good cup of coffee at the right price, drink and move on.

    • Andrew Stein says:

      Thank you Jim, and I agree. Underneath Dunkin’s and Starbucks’ value are core marketing fundamentals. Their CMO’s have figured out the messages to broadcast through social channels such that they resonate with their target audience. Too often, a social media strategy is to just fill the channel with noise. This is like hiring marketing to do activity, without a strategy that plugs into the executive team, and the goals for the company. Dunkin’ and Starbucks clearly have made the connection.

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