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Monday, February 09, 2009

Report from Cracow Neurocon Panel

From the Neuroconnections 2009 meeting.

The Neurocon panel in Cracow was run live on the Polish CNBC affiliate on Saturday. The object of the debate was to itemize the hopes and threats from the newly developing technology of neuromarketing. I have been on many panels, and I ran this one as a means to get a conversation started with a diverse group of business people, scientists, academics and investors. Can we drive to real solutions?

One of the items that came up very early was the topic of naming. Neuromarketing as a field has created some negative reactions in the press and watchdog groups. The implication that it is manipulative has come up. Should the name be changed? Is there a better term that describes the business and science involved? How do we prevent it from being associated with badly done studies of subliminal advertising?

The neuroscientists in the group pointed out that there were practically no neuroscientists in the audience, and there appeared to be little oversight of claims being made by some NM firms. This naturally led to the topic of ethics. My own experience with how consumers react to more personal kinds of marketing would say that this is a very important topic. Gemma Calvert, neuroscientist at the University of Bath, had reported on how her work included ethical panels for every experiment. The group agreed as a task to create a strong ethics group.

Also much in the discussion was how to validate the results that come from NM studies. This is not an uncommon dilemma for newly forming technology areas. No new ideas evolve without a context. It is unexpected that NM will replace current traditional methods of marketing analysis. So how should the methods be integrated with other methods. Should they be validated in different ways or is the statistics the same? Some panelists said that the evolution of these ideas could take a number of years. Gary Singer of Buyology gave a good perspective of the evolution of these methods and how they could be systematized by critical decision models.

Tim Ambler, of the London Business School, had given the keynote address on Advertising, the Mind and Neuroscience, continued his skeptical view of the combination of advertising and science. Much appreciate this view, because it makes us think critically, not always present in the marketing world.

Dean DeBiase, CEO of TNS Media, provided a CMO's perspective of the field, since his groups will ultimately have to deliver these ideas in settings that deliver results in the same way that traditional methods do. There were comments from the audience by several group that were traditional business consumers of marketing methods, but regrettably none from the usual large companies that drive the use of these methods today. Some of these companies are still leary of the field. I see that changing as the field evolves.

This was a good panel. Great diversity of interest, some good contention among interests. Usually I get snippets of information from panels. This panel positioned some key tracks that need to be strongly driven by NM as it evolves. It also convinced me that this will be an evolution, not just an instant solution. It will combine neuroscientists, marketers, business analysts and consumers to provide help construct a way to deliver better products.

Thanks to all that participated. It could have gone on for many more hours. A wealth of new work has been initiated. Questions and views welcome.

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