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Firming Up the Foundations of Neuromarketing: Thomas Ramsøy’s Introduction to Neuromarketing and Consumer Neuroscience

August 12, 2014 0 Comments

An Introduction to Neuromarketing and Consumer Neuroscience by Thomas Ramsøy — the most thorough, yet accessible, scientific introduction to the field yet written.

Originally posted on GreenBook Blog, August 12, 2014.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Thomas Ramsøy is a friend, frequent blog contributor, and one of the most brilliant people that I have ever met. It’s with very great pleasure that I post this review of his new book by another brilliant blog contributor, friend, author and researcher Dr. Steve Genco. I have not read the book yet myself, but if Thomas wrote it and Steve is praising it, you can bet it should be considered required reading for both researchers and marketers. Plus, as someone with a neurological condition myself, anything related to understanding how the brain functions is going to be inherently interesting.

Besides my personal connections, why am I pushing this, even going so far to have a direct ad in the introduction? Because I remain firmly convinced that despite the slow penetration of early EEG and fMRI neuromarketing applications in MR we are entering an era where alternate approaches like implicit techniques, facial coding, biometrics via device sensors, voice and text analytics, and yes, even EEG readings will become highly scalable, cost effective, and ubiquitous in MR. We’re seeing it happen already and with most consumer electronics devices have these capabilities built right into them it will only increase. Research will no longer have to rely on recall and stated intent or perceptions but will truly become behaviorally evidence based. That vision is one sought after by client-side researchers, and anyone involved with MR would do well to begin educating themselves on what this emerging future looks like and beginning the shift to embed it in their toolkit now.

Here is Steve’s review, as well as a link to a free Coursera course linked to Thomas’s book. I encourage everyone who regularly reads this blog to get the book and check out the course. — Leonard Murphy

ramsoy-ebook-coverThomas Ramsøy is unusual in the neuromarketing community in that he is both the CEO of a commercial research company, Neurons Inc., and also a full-time faculty member with expertise in both neuroscience and marketing. At the Copenhagen Business School, he has created one of the most successful neuromarketing programs in Europe, with over 400 students enrolled in classes, and has established his own research lab, the Center for Decision Neuroscience, which has over several years produced a consistent flow of innovative, peer-reviewed research on such diverse topics as the cognitive role of brands, the nature of consciousness, the sources of consumer choice, and the causes of compulsive buying disorder.

So it was with great anticipation that I awaited my preview copy of Dr. Ramsøy’s new ebook, An Introduction to Neuromarketing and Consumer Neuroscience (hereafter, INCN). Having now consumed the book in full, I’m pleased to say my expectations were not disappointed. With INCN, Ramsøy has provided neuromarketers with the most thorough, yet accessible, scientific introduction to the field yet written. As he states in the introduction, “the models of choice and how we can assess causal mechanisms of consumer choice is what this book is about.”

Before summarizing the content of INCN, I want to emphasize, and applaud, a very important point made in the last chapter. In a section titled “Dodging the One-Sided Approach to Neuromarketing,” Ramsøy observes that neuromarketing companies today are operating in a kind of scientific vacuum. In established scientific fields like pharmaceuticals, no one would allow a commercial company to market a product that had not been rigorously and publicly tested for efficacy (and of course safety). Yet in neuromarketing, companies are able to make claims about predictive or diagnostic efficacy for which no publicly available tests of validity are required. What is missing in our field, Ramsøy argues, is an equally robust and active academic side of neuromarketing from which commercial claims can be drawn and against which they can be assessed. This is the model in fields as diverse as marketing and medicine, which host academic and commercial approaches simultaneously, and it needs to develop in neuromarketing as well if this field is going to achieve its full potential as an applied science of consumer choice.

Ramsøy does much to further this goal of “academic neuromarketing” in INCN. In eight chapters and an Epilogue, he provides an example-rich, copiously-illustrated and well-documented tour of neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience. The book begins with three foundational chapters that set the stage. The first chapter is a survey of brain regions and their relevance to consumer choice and behavior. I have to say, as a non-neuroscientist, I tend to zone out when people start talking about the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex or the medial temporal lobe region, and usually I sleep through these obligatory “brain anatomy” lessons. But somehow this overview stuck with me. Starting with the basic navigational nomenclature — anterior-posterior, dorsal-ventral, medial-lateral — I actually started to understand (at a rookie level, I admit) how the complex architecture of the brain fits together. When regions started popping up in later chapters, they made sense to me in a way they had not before.

Chapter 2 is a thorough survey of “the neuromarketing toolbox.” As one would expect from a neuroscientist, Ramsøy devotes the requisite pages to the high-tech tools, EEG and fMRI, and actually provides understandable explanations of how and why they work, but he also spends considerable time on the less flashy techniques that can produce meaningful and highly useful results — reaction time studies, eye tracking, biometrics, and computational neuroscience approaches, to name a few. The last topic introduces something really new in research methodology, the use of simulation software to predict the allocation of “bottom up” visual attention to a scene, image, or video, all done automatically based on what scientists know about how the visual system works.

Chapter 3 provides another tour, similar to Chapter 1, but this time of the sensory systems (vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch) which so fundamentally determine how marketing, brands, products, and shopping experiences enter our brains. The key lesson here: we do not passively absorb inputs from any of these systems. The impressions, meanings, and implications our brains derive from sensory inputs are all constructed, not passively observed, and much of this process goes on outside our conscious awareness. The brain is an active yet often silent player in constructing the world we perceive, and marketers ignore this fundamental fact at their peril.

With the foundation laid down, INCN devotes a chapter to each of five fundamental issues at the core neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience — attention and consciousness; emotions and feelings; learning and memory; wanting, liking, and deciding; and consumer aberrations. I will not spoil the story by describing each of these chapters in detail. Suffice it to say that each topic is covered in fascinating detail and is accompanied by a surprising number of published studies conducted by Ramsøy and his students (and many seminal studies by other scientists as well). This adds a degree of credibility to the narrative that would be hard for a less-experienced author to communicate. With this book, Thomas Ramsøy is putting a stake in the ground — academic neuromarketing is much further along that most observers might realize, and the foundations for real scientific progress in neuromarketing are there to be taken advantage of. More than any other book about brain science and consumer behavior I have read recently, this one is a loud declaration that the “Wild West” days of neuromarketing hype and over-claiming are dead, and a real revolution in market research is on the horizon.

Introduction to Neuromarketing and Consumer Neuroscience, by Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy, is available in ebook form from Amazon here. In addition to being a standalone publication, it is also a recommended companion volume for a free online neuromarketing course Dr. Ramsøy is teaching on Coursera, starting on October 27, 2014. More information and a sign-up form for the class are available here.

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About the Author:

Steve is a writer, speaker, researcher, and marketing consultant. He is author of Intuitive Marketing (2019), a study of persuasion and influence in marketing theory and practice, and co-author of Neuromarketing for Dummies (2013), a comprehensive overview of neuromarketing science, applications, methodologies, and ethics. He is Managing Partner at Intuitive Consumer Insights, where he focuses on marketing education and consulting.

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