The Contributions of Neuromarketing in Marketing Research: Neuromarketing’s Limitations

The implementation of neuromarketing techniques holds a promising future for marketing research; nevertheless, this new practice is facing numerous limitations, including cost, complexity, and sometimes the size of the equipment, such as the fMRI scanners. According to Kenning et al., a typical fMRI scanner can cost between 1 to 2 million Euros ($1.3 to $2.6 millions) depending on the resolution and some other variables, such as the cost of the software, hardware maintenance, professional charges, as well as the costly process utilized to cool down the magnetic coils in the machine, which can increase the total cost per study much higher than any other conventional market research methodologies. Damon Collins, executive creative director of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, stated, “Conventional research is expensive enough. Having to stick every respondent into an MRI scanner at £1,000 a pop might be pushing clients’ budgets a little”.
Complexity of fMRI machines represents an arduous challenge for marketers and researchers because it recommends sophisticated experimental designs compared to simple designs presented in conventional market research. fMRI relies also on a wide range of stimulus presentation repetitions as a way to reduce the noise in the fMRI signal through averaging across a large number of trials that will definitely limit the effectiveness of complicated studies. Complex studies have to come up with special methods to ensure the accuracy of results. For example, a Coke and Pepsi fMRI study used cooled plastic tubes held with plastic mouthpieces to enable participants to fully taste a sufficient volume of both sodas while lying inside the scanner. A computer-controlled syringe pump allowed precise and accurate delivery of both sodas. Consumers’ motivation

The medical environment, the gigantic size of the machine, and the highly clustered space may also impede the perceived fruitfulness of real-world marketing stimuli. For example, an fMRI study examining the perceived trustworthiness of eBay offers is difficult to conduct within a real environment. Such a study recommends that the online shoppers sit in front of their computers in a comfortable and calm environment to examine eBay offers, which is impossible to implement in real experimental life because of the size of the van as well as the subsistence of a special room to control the safety of both subjects and researchers. Some researchers perceive that neuromarketing studies will be translated to pure scientific projects rather than marketing ones, arguing that the implementation of such techniques will convert the art of selling to an absolute scientific task.
Like traditional market research, there must be accurate requirements for different control conditions. Yet the complexity of neurophysiol ogical processes dictates a comprehensive understanding of the specific neuroscientific techniques in order to properly test a suggested hypothesis and evaluate the study’s findings. Hence, researchers may have difficulty testing all subjects to ensure that they are free from any medical or behavioral disorder and controlling the movements of the subject’s body, mainly the head, which might affect the scanning pictures. The subject has to remain immobile while being surrounded by an acoustically noisy scanner for at least 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the study in question, which may discomfit the subject. According to Kenning et al., to process and interpret neuroimaging data is much more complex than doing the same for general behavioral data or information-based data derived from questionnaires, since the brain itself is extremely complex. Kenning et al. also affirmed not only that the nature of the neuroimaging technique is complicated but also that the affiliation between performance and the underlying humankind physiology is considered a new issue for market researchers.
Neuromarketing has elicited controversial ethical concerns, since some critics argued that neuromarketing will not only take pure information from customers but also use it to extract their freedom. Lovell argued that neuromarketing will enable big firms to monitor customers’ freedom and treat them as laboratory rats if used offensively and impertinently. The integration of neuroscience in marketing alerted various critics who feared that the discovery of the buy button could turn individuals into buying robots. Numerous researchers claimed that advertisements and marketing activities may be displayed in order to produce dangerous impacts, such as overconsumption. Once the buy button is determined, unethical companies will unscrupulously take advantage of the existing information to create addiction for their products and brands to the detriment of consumers’ physical and mental health, according to Gary Ruskin, executive director at Commercial Alert.