The recent “Shopper Brain” Conference in Amsterdam saw the gathering of “neuro marketers” from around the world. Essentially these are the people in our Industry that are trying to uncover and then exploit the way consumers/shoppers brains respond to stimuli, rather than just focussing on the reactions of human beings’ 10% of conscious thinking.
My first learning from the event is that there is a central problem of replacing traditional market research with new methods. The problem of management credibility. The leading edge functional specialists may understand how new measurement techniques can give us important new information but getting that accepted across a business is tough. Partly because this is (often) complex stuff. Partly because there simply isn’t the body of experience and familiarity that existing techniques have behind them.
The second learning is that when you work at the leading edge of science, there can be more uncertainty to live with. Different practitioners have differing opinions on the effectiveness of tools and it’s all too easy to point at holes in what’s being done by others. Add to this the fact that agencies need to sell the solution they have “bet on” then confusion quickly sets in. Claims can be overblown, and on the other side, criticism can be unfair. Old style market research probably has just as much uncertainty but this is now just accepted.
My third learning is that there are, in fact, some very simple implicit measurement tools that everyone in CPG should understand and be using, even if blended with more familiar techniques. It’s no longer the case that cost and variability are good reasons to reject attempts to measure the true reaction of shoppers to what you show them. And figure out how to do better.
Modern marketing recognises the way advertising, displays and packaging truly work. We talk about the way the brain seeks shortcuts and how the subconscious “controls” or “filters” how shoppers respond. Everyone loves throwing around the terms “System 1” and “System 2” even if these don’t really exist as such (see my earlier blog!). So, its beholden on us in market research to change how we do things as well, or we will lose credibility. Shopper Intelligence for one is adapting, now measuring implicit responses not just explicit ones.