Boys and toys

The title of this post is an expression a friend uses to describe the apparent male affinity for gadgets of all kinds—computers, cars, mobile phones, power tools and consumer electronics in generl. I'm not saying that MR or even specifically the NewMR is a male dominated business, but nothing excites us more than cool new toys.

This came to mind when I read Jeffrey Henning's latest post over on the Affinnova blog about still another presentation about neuroscience. Now I am completely on board with the idea that emotions play a much larger role in consumer decision making than our methods generally have acknowledged, and that we need to find ways to evolve those methods to take that into account. But, as I hinted in a previous post, I have concerns about whether neuroscience, or at least our imperfect understanding of it, is the right solution. Neuroscience is difficult stuff, even for people who do it all the time and it's not at all clear that we really know how to accurately interpret the reactions of different parts of the brain to different stimuli.

So as I was reading Jeffrey's post I kept wondering whether wiring up focus group participants like Alex in A Clockwork Orange offered insights above and beyond what we have been doing the past 25 years with dial testing. Clockwork In dial sessions people may not be able to clearly express why they feel more positive or negative about an ad as it plays out but the squiggly line probably will tell you when they started to feel it and by how much. With a little probing they can probably tell you what in the ad triggered that feeling.

What's missing from the presentation that Jeffrey describes (or at least in his telling of it) is the controlled experiment that demonstrates why what we learn from one technique is better than what we learn from another. IMHO, too much of the NewMR is built on assertions that this is better than that but with too little data to make the case.