Successful organisations understand and meet their customers’ needs. Making sure that your Services hit the mark is the difficult bit. However many neuromarketing experts claim to be able to help you do just that using fMRI.
So what is it all about? Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a neuroimaging technique that uses MRI technology to measure brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow.
Neuromarketers claim that fMRI can show how someone feels when your Service, or how hard someone finds a task. There has even been a study that showed that changing the price tag on wine bottles changed how enjoyable participants reported the taste. These are very attractive and interesting claims.
On the flip side, skeptics say that fMRI only registers blood flow; it can’t tell you which specific nerve cells (neurons) are firing, which is critical to mental function. The average human brain contains about 100 billion neurons each of which might have a unique story to tell. So when certain areas light up like Blackpool Illuminations, all it tells us is that the brain is functioning by emitting electrical impulses, but not which emotions are involved.
There are certainly some pretty interesting fMRI studies out there, particularly on Cognitive Fluency – how people use their brains to understand something. They tend to reveal, however, that things which are easy to think about are preferable to mind-boggling complexities – page readability, text size, ease of navigation et al. Sounds like common sense to us! And, other, cheaper techniques would ultimately garner very similar results.
Doubtless, fMRI will become better understood and more useful in the future. Significant improvements in accuracy and the ability to focus on individual neurons and record their electrical activity will enable more complete, precise images of brain activity to be produced.
Until then, we reserve the right to read the marketing case studies with a healthy dose of skepticism.