Posts Tagged ‘Financial Times’

Buyology, the book by Martin Lindstrom, got critically reviewed yesterday in the Financial Times. The key paragraph is:

Unfortunately, Lindstrom’s book is more speculation than serious science. Little of it actually reports on his own neuro-research; the rest consists of marketing war stories that are rehashed with speculative spin on unrelated topics such as mirror neurons and neurotransmitters.

The reviewer, Alan Mitchell, makes several points. He first finds the whole fMRI methodology dubious. This is not because a consumer’s brain lights up in regions related to religious feelings in previous studies that buying and praying are related.

Second, he mentions that according to the very researchers who did the studies for Lindstrom, the reported results are not statistically significant.  Finally, Mitchell points to the rhetorical power of brain science, the reference to the “brain” bringing immediately an argument of authority that biases judgment, even in informed persons.

The reviewer concludes by warning that the brash claims of Lindstrom’s neuromarketing can in fact “blind” executives. Ironic I find, for a science so full of visuals.

To put this review in perspective, it is good to know that Alan Mitchell is involved in an academic and business project aiming at putting the consumer at the center of marketing practices. He calls that “VRM“, or vendor relationship management, in a 180 degree twist of the usual CRM.

Alan Mitchell

Alan Mitchell

As I understand it, the basic idea is simply to start with the consumer. When you start thinking marketing from the firm’s side of the buying relationship, you end up sweating on market studies, harassing prospects on the phone, and doing a lot of guess-work about buyer’s intentions. VRM says that it would be much simpler to let consumers voice their preferences, and facilitate their finding a matching offer. This insures to be right on target, it is cost-effective since firms cease to blind-search for customers (they stand up voluntarily), and it is more ethical, as consumers willingly share their private information about their tastes and buying intentions.

It is clearer to me now why Mitchell could be skeptical of the whole neuromarketing thing, even if he reserves for it some soothing words at the end of his review. If one sees marketing as an activity that should empower the consumer, then Lindstrom’s insistence that the consumer is not aware of its own desires must be discomforting. What do you make of a consumer who states that s/he prefers not to smoke, and who actually craves for a cigarette? Or somebody who expresses the wish to eat healthy food, but who would be actually disappointed if served vegetables instead of French fries? It is certainly not easy for a firm to take action based on these mixed signals.

Maybe that neuromarketing could help disentangling explicit from implicit wishes of the consumer, actually making a contribution to the VRM that Mitchell is trying to promote.


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