How to teach neuromarketing?

 In cognitive science, education, neuroeconomics, neuroethics, neuromarketing, neuroscience

For a few semesters now, I have been running a course entitled "Neuromarketing – Pleasures and decisions of consumers’ brains". It’s been a great success every semester, with just under 200 students every time. The course has been running at the Copenhagen Business School, but only half of the students are Danish. The other half come from a variety of other countries, and some tell that they have come all the way (from e.g. Australia, USA or Singapore) to take my classes.

As a matter of fact, I used the hype word "neuromarketing" to do some marketing of my own course. I soon realised that the students came with their minds set on one thing: learning about the quick fix and the buy button of the brain. My lectures have developed as a response to this, and the final round of lectures now have a full plan that divides the course into two: one part in which students learn about basic cognitive neuroscience, and one part in which other lecturers and researchers present their own work and focus.

For teaching the cognitive neuroscience part, I have chosen to use (of course) the textbook by Baars and Gage entitled "Cognition, Brain and Consciousness", not only because I have my own contributions here, but because the book is so impressively sown together to attract attention and retain the reader’s fascination.

Each course lecture typically included a paper or two that were relevant for the lecture topic (e.g. attention), but from a consumer behaviour or marketing point of view.

The second half of the lecture series included guest lectures about: consumer neuroscience; neuroaesthetics, creativity and innovation, neuroeconomics, and eye-tracking. This is the point at which the students can make use of the newly acquired knowledge about congnitive neuroscience at a more specific topic.

I should mention that I really think that this should be a large chunk of the future of neuromarketing, or consumer neuroscience as one may also call it. While the vast majority of times that the term "neuromarketing" is used is in a commercial setting, I am convinced that one place in which neuroscience can combine with marketing, is through employing the knowledge now gained in cognitive neuroscience. In this way, learning that memory is a reconstructive, associative process should inform marketers  about certain things. Having a neurobiological orientation suggests that one should have more specific knowledge about the biological changes going on in ageing (e.g., what if your segment of older adults respond less emotionally than their younger counterpart?), or within the individual (e.g. what if women respond emotionally and mnemonically differently across their ovarian cycle?). I firmly believe that this knowledge has a much larger potential to improve marketing efforts and consumer choice alike, than merely believing in a wonder-brainscan-solution that cannot exist in any valid or scalable way. This is the backbone motivation for my courses: teaching students the multidisciplinary understanding of preference formation and decision making.

My experience in teaching this course is almost only positive. First, students are interested, engaged and motivated. The papers handed in are in general of a very high quality (I most often have the assignment be about trying to combine neuroscience with marketing and consumer behaviour).

Another benefit from the course has been the very motivated Masther Thesis projects that students have initiated. Many of the results from these student projects are of such a quality that they may be published in peer-reviewed journals, and mentioned on this blog (of course).

Will I offer the course again? Certainly! Along with the regular course on neuroeconomics, I will continue to offer a course on neuromarketing, and now starting to offer course on e.g. "Testing ideas of consumption".

…and BTW, I should not forget to mention that based on my experiences, I am now in the process of making a book on neuromarketing…


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