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Thoughts on the 2013 AMSRS National Conference

Neuromarketing for Dummies: a book that knows its target audience

For a couple of weeks now I have been meaning to write a post about behavioral science, or as we seem to want to call it in MR, neuromarketing.  I admit to being a skeptic, driven in part by a belief that it is very complex stuff for MR to get its arms around and by controversies like that surrounding Martin Lindstrom’s iPhone love story, which confirm that belief.  Nonetheless, I attended the first day of The 2013 Applied Educational Alliance Assembly, partly out of curiosity about behavioral science but also because it was happening about 15 minutes from my house.

It was a day well spent with an excellent series of presentations, mostly by academics steeped in theory and a broad literature of peer-reviewed experimental research.  There is a lot that can be done way of measuring emotions in the lab, but even then lots of unanswered questions and dots to be connected.  Measuring emotions outside of the controlled environment of the lab is a good deal more challenging.

Most of the others attendees were marketers interested in leveraging emotions rather than measuring them, so it was not as MR-focused as I might have liked.  But I did get the chance to talk to some of the presenters, especially about how to separate the science from the bullshit.  One of them had this to say: “In academia we have a peer review process that separates out the good research from the bad research; in market research you have the marketplace.” 

By coincidence, that same day the news came out about Google using their glasses to measure emotions via eye pupil dilation.  Although this sounds cool, The Scientific American reminds us that doing this outside of the lab is harder than we might think.

But I digress.  What got me to finally write a post was the release of the new book, Neuromarketing for Dummies.  My first thought was that it was a hoax, a parody.  What fun!  But no, it’s the real deal.  Already being lavished with praise on Greenbook.  And it probably will sell like crazy in MR because this is how the industry learns new things: pop science, not real science.  Always looking for the Cliff Notes.  Boiling it down to a few bullets on a PowerPoint slide.

Behavioral science is the real deal.  Just as big data has the potential to redefine how we describe what people do, behavioral science can transform how we describe why they do it.  We should be digging into it, learning its foundations, and not overselling it.   Unlikely on all three counts.