November 23, 2015 – Marketers Should Pay Attention to fMRI
Despite its popularity in academic settings, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines are rarely used as a marketing tool in the corporate world. When we surveyed 64 individuals from neuromarketing firms, only 31% reported ever using fMRI machines — and, of course, only a minority of companies engage such firms in the first place. This stands in stark contrast to results from a survey of 59 consumer neuroscience researchers in business schools; 71% reported using, or having used, the neuroimaging technique.
Why the gap? Academic researchers are often attracted to fMRI for its comprehensive ability to investigate a range of neural activity across the entire brain. But for a CMO weighing costs against immediate benefits, the cost of an fMRI-based study might seem prohibitive. fMRI studies depend on access to specialized equipment most commonly found in medical or university settings, and the scanners require significant training to operate. Analyzing the resulting data also takes expertise and time. What’s more, despite being at least three times more expensive than traditional methods, there has been scant evidence that fMRI reveals anything beyond what could be learned by just asking people for their opinions, making the technique hard to justify in a commercial setting.
We believe that may be about to change.