NeuroFocus, a California neuromarketing firm, has so far successfully persuaded several major corporations to adopt their services. Among Neurofocus clients are Google, Walt Disney Co., and Hyundai, companies that have been willing to try using brain wave responses measured by EEG to improve advertising effectiveness and the quality of their products. However, there is a dearth of published studies on the effectiveness of neuromarketing with EEG, and most of the evidence NeuroFocus cites to prove their legitimacy comes from indirect studies that apparently have much to say about neuromarketing.
Realizing that many people remain skeptical about neuromarketing, NeuroFocus has taken several steps toward enhancing their image of trustworthiness and legitimacy.
Most recently Eric Kandel, the highly-respected Nobel Prize winner for his work on determining the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons, has joined the NeuroFocus advisory board. Doing so, Kandel joins a number of renowned neuroscientists from all over the world who are already on the board.
The addition of Kandel will certainly help improve the academic view of neuromarketing, a field that has raised concerns over its effectiveness and ethics. The involvement of academics may help encourage further academic research on neuromarketing.
Proponents of neuromarketing have been celebrating Kandel’s involvement. However, the skeptic should question what it means to have scientists like Kandel on the NeuroFocus advisory board. Does this mean that neuromarketing must be legitimate, or is this just a marketing ploy? Will Kandel actually advocate for and contribute to neuromarketing, or is he simply getting paid to have his name attached to neuromarketing? Additionally, do neuromarketing firms actually want more academic research on their business, or do they simply want to be viewed as comfortably associated with academia? What if future studies report that neuromarketing is not all that is hyped up to be?
I admit that seeing Kandel support neuromarketing makes me emotionally inclined to see neuromarketing in a more positive light, but whether his backing will result in any meaningful effect on the legitimacy of the field remains to be seen. If having Kandel on board is simply an advertising strategy, comparable to having Tiger Woods or LeBron James represent Nike, a scan of my brain would probably reveal that it works.