Neuromarketing – Is it Ethical?


I have posted a couple of articles on Neuromarketing and how it can revolutionize the entire marketing industry. Neuromarketing – A branch of neuroscience blending marketing and science, in layman’s terms, reading someone’s mind to sell products. Thousands and thousands of dollars are being spent on researching Neuromarketing and now big brands are also embracing this technology. The question arises, Is Neuromarketing Ethical?

Neuroscience, MRI and brain scanning have being used since ages to determine truth, to understand the mind set of killers, rapists and criminals. So, scanning the brain of a person to know what goes inside his head is not a new concept. Even movies have been made on this theory, if you have seen the movie Minority Report by Tom Cruise you would understand. In the movie Tom Cruise is walking in the mall and have products directly pitched at him.

There are almost 90 firms today that are offering mind reading services in the form of Neuromarketing research. As part of this research, companies use MRIs, EEGs, and other brain-scan technology to read the mind of the consumers in hopes to design their messages in order to shift buying habits.  This is not just simple eye tracking or scanning user behavior when they visit a website. These technologies measure the pre-conscious brain of the consumers.

When we go to a store to buy a product, we look for brands not the product. Brands have used this habit of the consumers to influence the consumer’s decision about what to buy and what not to buy. We don’t make decisions unconsciously. When we see a product we automatically relate to its brand, quality, reviews, price, all based on our recollection of that product from past encounters.

Before marketers used to craft messages in a highly cognitive ways. They felt that if they could make people think about their brand, then they can think differently and respond. But recent studies has proved that our attentiveness is dependent on our emotions. Our emotions guide whether we will respond and pay attention to a brand or not, thereby influencing our purchasing habits.

Using Neuromarketing, companies are looking for ways to craft their messaging in a way that will bypass our conscious mind and will create an impression on our unconscious mind which would be sticky and irresistible. Whether it is ethical or not is a personal opinion and may differ from one person to another. How successful brands are in influencing our unconscious mind to affect our rational decision making will only be told in times to come. Lets wait and watch.