OPINION23 March 2010

The future’s coming: approach with caution

This afternoon’s Research Unlimited session looked at a number of technologies, all of which could easily be described as potential game changers for market research.

Firefish’s Bob Cook began by extolling the virtues of Lifelogging, where a respondent wears a small camera around their neck throughout the course of the day.

Initially used in treating memory disorders, he said there was huge potential for its use in market research. Each camera produces between 2,000 and 3,000 pictures per day – making it a fairly complete record of what the respondent has done and looked at during that time.

But despite his clear support of the technology, Cook was adamant that “it’s not here to replace research, but to be a part of the future”.

This sentiment was echoed by Millward Brown’s new executive vice president of consumer neuroscience, Graham Page. “Are market research companies going to be replaced by neuroscience?” he asked, “No. We will use it but not everyone will have to become a neuroscientist.”

Page said that the results gained from neuroscience studies “don’t stand out on their own” and there are problems with sample sizes because of the size and cost of some of the equipment needed.

He warned that that there was a lot of “hype” around some techniques and that “it’s easy to get carried away”. Page urged companies using neuroscience technologies for the first time to ask: “Do they deliver incremental insight? Are they practical? Are they better predictors of behaviour?” Ask plenty of questions and “be critical” was his over-riding advice to potential buyers.

Rounding out the session was Spring Research’s Steve Phillips, who was on the panel to provide the ‘anti-technology’ viewpoint. He joked that he would only ever use neuromarketing technologies “when Martin Sorrell calls up and gives me a load of money”.

Clearly not a fan, Phillips said: “You go through the hype phase, then the disappointment and then the transformation. We’re waiting for disappointment and transformation now.”