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When it comes to analyzing and predicting consumer behavior, advances in neuroscience have started to provide fascinating insight into the brain of the modern consumer.

At the Big Brother in Your Brain: Neuroscience & Marketing panel at SxSW today, the discussion quickly boiled down to one question. Can science trump creative when it comes to getting consumers to react to your brand?

One note for marketers trying to get into neuroscience: there is not magic buy button in the brain that you can target to make consumers purchase your products.

But there are interesting tools at your disposal.

From eye tracking technology to brain scan research, there are increasingly diverse ways to measure and track consumer response. Many neuroscientists are interested to see how people's brains react to specific content and when.

But neuroscience research is not cheap. And can seem like a costly options for those who have been relying on focus groups for a long time.

According to Dr. AK Pradeep, CEO of NeuroFocus Inc.: "If you ask yourself which part of the commercial you enjoyed, it's often impossible to say. It's hard to track that down through question answer."

However, science cannot predict everything. Gary Koepke, founder of Boston-based agency Modernista puts it this way:

"We've been studying the brain for a long time, but there's a time when you need to let your unconscious do the work for you. The eureka moment is both rational and irrational."

Roger Dooley, president of Dooley Direct, LLC and publisher of Neuromarketing, showed a branding study from Advertising Mind that found that most marketing campaigns breakdown into 20% segments. 20% had a very positive impact on consumers, 20% had no impact and 20% had a negative decline.

"That's bottom 20% is the area where neuromarketing can have an impact," he said. "We need tool for measurement, because so often we think we're rational decision makers and we know why we buy something, but we really don't."

That said, neuromeasurement doesn't always work. Dooley pointed out an example during this this past SuperBowl, when measurements showed that GoDaddy's ads featuring scantily dressed females (example at right) had the least level of brand activision out of all advertisers during the game. And yet, the GoDaddy website saw the biggest increase in viewers after the SuperBowl. That doesn't necessarily mean that it was the most effective, but it shows how scientific measurements do not present a complete picture of consumer reactions. And it's not likely that neuroscience ever will.

As Koepke says:

"If we continue to use measurement as a way to say what's good or bad, we'll only be measuring what we know and never discorvering things we don't know. Pet rock is proof that anything can catch on to a trend or the people's consciousness and become successful."

And while neuroscience is not going to function as a direct path to the customer purchase impulse, there are lots of interesting things that it can lead to. Like this video that Pradeep presented. Well, if you're a fan of guys in glasses singing with autotune....

Image: Buyology

Meghan Keane

Published 13 March, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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