15 FAQs before selecting a neuromarketing master degree program or training course
The consumer does not want to have to choose between quality or price anymore, nor wishes to simply fulfil a need - the consumer nowadays expects to be surprised. There is less faithfulness to brands and therefore the purchase decision is becoming increasingly unpredictable.
We also know that the consumer is more empowered than ever, and the range of products offered is wider every day. Brands fight in an ever-increasing competitive environment and their main objective is to make the consumer fall in love with their product. This is a very difficult and hard task. Traditional market researchers use explicit research methodologies, which obtain information by asking the consumers what influences their buying behavior. However, researchers soon realized that most times the consumer does not say everything he/she thinks or feels, either because he/she does not want to disclose such information, or because he/she cannot access this less-rational part of behavior, thoughts and emotions.
More and more brands, publicity agencies and market research companies are becoming aware of the importance of complementing traditional research with implicit research methodologies. The latter accesses the non-conscious preferences of consumers in a quantitative and reliable manner. Because of this necessity, a new field emerged, known as consumer neuroscience or neuromarketing. This has generated a tsunami of master degree offers, including undergraduate and graduate courses to prepare publicists, marketers, researchers and anyone who wishes to delve into consumer knowledge.
However, this massive amount of information and courses is many times contradictory and incomplete, and thus can generate questions in those who are interested in neuromarketing training. Neuromarketing, despite being a relatively new field, is multidisciplinary: it encompasses areas such as neuroscience, marketing, market research and psychology. This complicates the task of defining what is important to know when studying neuromarketing; not only because of the range of masters and programs available, but also because of the different background knowledge required by each course or program.
At Bitbrain we have wide experience in neuromarketing since we have participated as lecturers and instructors in more than 10 neuromarketing master courses in national and international universities and business centers, such as IE business School, ESCO, The Valley Business, Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Universidad de Barcelona , among others. In our day to day, we have identified that there are still open questions on the background required to be a good professional, and on how this knowledge can have a real application and value in the routine of a company. To this end, at the time of searching and comparing different training offers, it is important to understand a series of key questions, such as...
1. What is neuromarketing?
The field of neuromarketing integrates and applied knowledge and tools from neuroscience to the field of marketing, accessing the non-conscious information layer of consumers. This information cannot be obtained with traditional market investigation, as it taps into different information layers. There are two different types of neuromarketing:
1. Theoretical neuromarketing: refers to the use of applied neuroscience or psychology to the development of new products or services. For example: the application of cognitive biases to publicity design, or the application of color theory to logo design.
2. Practical neuromarketing: refers to the use of neuroscience tools and techniques to access the non-conscious information layer of consumers (implicit research techniques), therefore complementing declarative traditional techniques (explicit research techniques). For example: the use of EEG to detect consumer emotions when watching a specific advertisement.
A neuromarketing course should approach both areas, training the student to utilize existing knowledge and apply neuromarketing techniques and consumer neuroscience research to address questions on concrete materials to be evaluated (packaging, spot, website…).
Balanced training in neuromarketing should equally approach the use of knowledge (theoretical neuromarketing) and the use of research techniques (practical neuromarketing) to solve real market research problems.
2. Will neuromarketing substitute traditional market investigation?
Neuromarketing will not substitute traditional market research because both tools are complementary, accessing different layers of information from the consumer (more details on the challenges of market research): neuromarketing accesses the non-conscious information layer and traditional investigation accesses the conscious information layer. To better understand this statement, we have to know why human beings - and consumers - act in the way they act. To this end, we rely on the human behavior model proposed by Genco in 2013. This is a very simplified model, but it helps us quickly understand the physiological phases and processes involved in a specific action, for example, when purchasing.
The authors divide the actions of the human being, more concretely of the consumer, in three phases: non-conscious, conscious and observable
Non-conscious phase: in this first phase we initially process and filter information that originated from our senses, and then automatically and non-consciously evaluate it to determine its meaning or emotional value.
Conscious phase: we evaluate the stimulus by internal and rational dialog: why do I like this product? is it worth to get three products for the price of two?
Acting phase: after the two previous phases, we make a decision and act on it.
Neuromarketing courses should teach the student how to interpret indicators such as memorization or engagement in each context, and how to compare or add these results to other market research techniques.
Traditional market investigation focuses on the conscious layer, as it directly asks the consumers their opinions (explicit research methodology). Techniques such as field observation or big data are responsible for analyzing the acting, observable and conductive layers of consumers: what they buy, at what time, where, etc. And neuromarketing is responsible for analyzing the non-conscious layer, with neuroscience techniques and tools.
Each one of these techniques analyzes a part of the acting process and therefore they are complementary and necessary to obtain complete information from the consumer. With neuromarketing we can access this non-conscious layer, which up to a few years back was impossible to analyze in a quantitative and reliable manner.
Neuromarketing training should approach the competences of all three layers of the consumer acting model, and delve on how to complement traditional market research techniques.
3. How much should I know about neuroscience?
Neuromarketing or consumer neuroscience has two areas: theoretical (application of knowledge) and practical (use of tools and techniques to carry out investigation). In the former, theoretical neuromarketing, the required knowledge is very broad and involves several aspects of cognitive neuroscience such as cognitive biases, psychology theory, etc. that describe theoretical aspects of human behavior and how these influence consumer behavior and decision making.
In the second case, practical neuromarketing, the required knowledge encompasses basic aspects of experimental neuroimage or neuro-psychophysiology that comprehend neuroscience instrumentation such as EEG, eye-tracker, etc; and how to utilize them within experimental designs to answer market research questions. It is important to understand that it is not only necessary to learn neuromarketing techniques, but also how to apply these to solve real problems, without introducing the typical biases associated with the incorrect use of devices or bad experimental design. Also, it is important to have a background in psychology and neuroscience (cognitive) to understand all those basic psychological processes involved in how we perceive and develop in the world. Namely, to have knowledge of the perception, attention, memory, learning, reasoning, language, emotion and motivation processes.
Neuromarketing training should approach theoretical aspects of cognitive neuroscience with direct application to market investigation, as well as practical aspects such as techniques and experimental design in neuroimage.
4. How much should I know about neuroanatomy?
Only a few basic neuroanatomy concepts are required, because consumer neuroscience does not approach the physiology of the human brain and body but rather its functionality, to explain the behavior and decisions of the consumer.
This is a typical problem of many books, neuromarketing blogs, master courses, programs and conferences, which dedicate more than half of their content to neuroanatomy. This is because there is a great amount of academic information that is very accessible and well-established, and thus it utilized to pad out. Does this mean that it is not important to know what is the thalamus, and that smell is the only sense that does not travel to the thalamus? No, it does not mean that it is not important to know it, but if you want to dedicate yourself to neuromarketing, obviously delving into neuroanatomy is less useful than what we could think a priori. Moreover, if the neuromarketing course syllabus is similar to radiology or neurology courses, it is highly probable that you will be disappointed or frustrated. In the unlikely event that you cover such content, it will be hardly applicable in real neuromarketing practice.
Basic notions of neuroanatomy and physiology are important, sufficient to understand the functionality of the brain, and very oriented to comprehending what is measured with neuromarketing techniques such as EEG, galvanic skin response, or eye-trackers, among others, and then be able to use them correctly.
Neuromarketing training should include just enough basic neuroanatomy concepts and notions about how body physiology works to utilize and understand the result of what is measured with neuromarketing techniques.
5. What should I know about marketing?
Neuromarketing is an investigation technique, complementary to traditional techniques, and used within market research. Therefore, just like market research, you must know enough to understand the situation and context of the study, understand its strategic objectives, and the reality of the current market. Only then you will be able to interpret the results of neuromarketing studies and integrate them with the results of other techniques, finally providing actionable value and insights to clients. For such, it is essential to be familiarized with marketing and strategy concepts.
Neuromarketing studies should familiarize the student with marketing and strategy concepts, and teach them how to utilize neuromarketing as an additional tool within market research to obtain information on actionable values and insights.
6. Should I learn how to carry out neuronal or physiological analysis?
You do not have to learn how to analyze neuronal data because the translation of crude physiological data to emotional and cognitive indicators is carried out by neuromarketing labs.
Many students believe they need to learn how to translate physiological signals into emotional and cognitive indicators, or, which is the same, translate the zeros and ones recorded by the technology to something that can be interpreted by the person analyzing the results. This work requires advanced knowledge on electronics, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, which has already been accomplished by the scientists who developed the equipment.
What is really important is to understand what the indicators and their metrics mean in each context such as branding, retails, etc. For example, how to interpret 25% emotional activation in an usability analysis of a website and how this can be compared with other conscious (such as a survey) or observable techniques (such as recording the movements of the mouse on the screen during the website study). The objective is to find the answers you need from a study.
7. Should I learn more theoretical or practical neuromarketing?
Theoretical neuromarketing (in some contexts it is called consumer neuroscience) is responsible for answering the most general questions on consumer behavior. Practical neuromarketing (in some contexts referred to as neuroresearch) answers the more specific questions of companies. More concretely, theoretical neuromarketing includes studies published in scientific journals or successful cases with conclusions that can help us better understand the behavior of consumers in general. Practical neuromarketing studies use research methods to answer more specific questions of a specific brand, and to this end, carries out ad-hoc studies that consider the current situation of the brand, its surroundings and objectives.
For example, theoretical neuromarketing and, more specifically, color theory, mentions that “the blue color is usually associated with technology” but, it is true that the logo of my brand, with a specific graphic design and shades of blue, is non-consciously associated with technology? If we apply theoretical neuromarketing, the “formula” of utilizing the blue color can be successful or not. One of the most frequent cases that we come across in our courses is that many students are searching for “formulas” that can be applied in different contexts, without the necessity of testing the results. However, this cannot be generalized and practical neuromarketing studies should also be carried out.
Neuromarketing training should approach aspects of theoretical neuromarketing, but it is very important to put the focus on practical neuromarketing as a tool to solve concrete, specific problems of the day to day of brands.
8. Are practical neuromarketing cases important or are research cases sufficient?
Scientific research is always the propelling force behind knowledge, but the questions answered with scientific cases, although necessary in the process of generating theoretical knowledge, are far from the practical questions asked by the brands. As usual, universities detain more theoretical and scientific knowledge, while companies and specialized consultancies detain practical knowledge of what is being applied to the market.
It is important to distinguish and understand that, for example, scientific neuroscience case studies have taught us that facial expressions attract attention and usually generate high engagement through a bottom-up attentional process. Nevertheless, this does not mean that creativities should always be designed with a big face in the middle as each client has a different context and necessities, and therefore, a specific strategy must be adopted for each situation.
At a pedagogical level, it is important that training includes a considerable share of real practical cases to understand how the concepts are applied to solve the problems of the brands. Usually this practical knowledge is held by consultants and neuromarketing companies, because their survival depends on the offer of valuable products to the brands. Also, they must be always up to speed regarding specialization and professional retraining, adopting new techniques and procedures to remain competitive in the market. A common problem in academic master courses is the limited amount of practical cases, which in the long term limits significantly the performance of students.
Neuromarketing training should approach aspects of theoretical neuromarketing (scientific cases), but a considerable share of the workload should be focused on real practical cases, so that the student learns how to apply the concepts and solve business cases.
9. Is equipment necessary to carry out neuromarketing practices?
If your objective is to work in neuromarketing projects and consultancy, it is advisable that your training includes access to equipment and supervised solution of practical cases or, alternatively, the possibility to carry out an internship in a specialized company or at a location that has this type of technology. In the latter, look for traditional market research companies or brands that utilize neuromarketing techniques to test their advertisement and products.
Ignoring the practical cases with hands-on work is like learning how to drive without actually driving a car. This is a problem that master courses and online courses are attempting to correct with internships, in-person practical sessions with instrumentation, and supervised practical cases.
Neuromarketing training should include the supervised solution of practical cases or internships in specialized companies to understand how to apply the knowledge acquired.
10. Is the type of neuromarketing laboratory important?
Practical neuromarketing consists on the application of neuroscience tools (neuroimage and experimental neuro-psychophysiology techniques) to market research and, as all market researchers know, selection of the laboratory is fundamental. If the laboratory counts with unreliable, low-cost technology and instrumentation, all data obtained are unreliable and therefore, results and interpretation are not valid.
It is essential that when carrying out a study for a specific client, you use reliable technology. You cannot obtain valid results with technology that gives you mistaken or uncertain measurements. Learning how to carry out a neuromarketing study (design a methodology that can answer some research questions), with experimentation (carry out the tests), drawing some conclusions and learning how to provide the client with valuable information does not require the use of the best commercially available equipment, but it is recommended so you can be familiarized with the equipment.
All neuromarketing courses or masters should provide the student with the necessary capabilities to select a reliable laboratory that is adapted to the type of consultancy or research he/she intends to carry out.
11. What neuromarketing techniques and tools are necessary?
The neuromarketing techniques and tools most utilized by companies and research centers and that the student should be fully trained on are the following:
Skin galvanic response (GSR) and heart rate (HR)
Eye tracking (ET)
Implicit Response Test (IRT)
Other tools such as functional magnetic resonance (FMR) or Positron Emission Tomography (PET) are not currently very used due to their high cost, difficulty of access, introduction of bias in the natural consumer behaviour, and rejection by some participants.
Neuromarketing training should approach the most employed techniques and tools such as EEG, eye-trackers and implicit response tests, and how to apply them in the solution of real problems.
12. What aspects are important for a company?
The routine of a company is to provide neuromarketing consultancy to brands and this task is very practical and applied. Therefore it is important to learn how to:
Interpret client briefings to understand their necessities and comprehend the scope of the project.
Realize experimental designs that actually solve the client’s problems and that are free of biases such as familiarization, lack of calibration, instrumentation, etc.
Interact with the participant, obtain informed consents, and utilize instrumentation correctly.
Interpret the results of the metrics and integrate these with other investigation techniques to make valuable recommendations to the final client.
Training should approach in detail all practical aspects of a neuromarketing study, from the initial briefing to the strategic recommendations to the client.
13. What career options do I have with neuromarketing?
Although the most “expected” career would be to work for a neuromarketing consultancy company, many people choose to work for the Marketing Intelligence departments of the brands, or in traditional market research companies. Usually the objective is to incorporate this new research methodology to the company.
Large institutions such as Kantar, Millward Brown and Ipsos offer neuromarketing studies directly or through consultancy companies that outsource them as backoffices for these services. Also, many small and medium market research companies (and even companies dedicated to other markets, such as usability, customer experience and digital marketing) are now starting to incorporate neuromarketing services.
Neuromarketing studies provide knowledge to help your company or a market research company incorporate these new investigation methodologies to obtain valuable, complementary results.
14. What marketing areas are employing neuromarketing?
Neuromarketing is being currently employed in all areas of marketing. The most frequent neuromarketing projects are branding, publicity, packaging, product testing, point of sale, usability, retail, customer experience, marketing and product development. Communication and public relations actions are also carried out in events and fairs, as for example gastronomic and nutritional neuromarketing.
The most common neuromarketing actions are branding, publicity, packaging, product testing, point of sale, usability, retail and customer experience.
15. Is the participation of companies important in neuromarketing courses?
Collaborating companies are very important for two reasons. The first is that they hold market knowledge, as they solve real cases on a daily basis. The second reason is that neuromarketing companies, as well as publicity agencies and market research companies, can provide their perspective on the reality of the sector and the requirements demanded. Thus, the participation of companies is the only way to incorporate the latest market trends to a course or training.
Neuromarketing training should benefit from the practical knowledge of companies and consultancies, which accumulate wide experience in practice and market.
Yes, now it’s time to select a neuromarketing master degree, course or training program...
Unfortunately, with the boom of neuromarketing, there is also incorrect information being disseminated, not only on the internet but also in books and conferences. Studying neuromarketing and delving into neuroscience and scientific research offers a dose of reality on the possibilities of the area and help to know what can be obtained and not: you will let go of concepts such as the “purchase button” of the brain, or that people lose their individuality and capacity of deciding whether to buy a product or not.
Neuromarketing is a field that receives inputs from other areas, but above all it is utilized to carry out market research, following scientific methodology and employing techniques and knowledge from neuroscience. Neuromarketing is a tool that helps us complement other investigation methods such as focus groups, interviews, surveys, field observation and big data, and therefore does not intend to and cannot substitute these.
When studying neuromarketing you should obtain knowledge not only on the different techniques and tools, but also of scientific methodology, neuroscience and consumer psychology, marketing and market research. You will have knowledge on the design and execution of experimental studies, interpretation of results, and will extract valuable information, providing clear and useful recommendations. At the end, you will have the skills required to have a clear, critical vision of what we can and cannot obtain with neuromarketing.