Younger Marketors’ Debate in October 2020 - Neuromarketing: Hype or Game-Changing?

We enjoyed a lively motion debate with Liveryman Jenny Ashmore, Portfolio NED & Consultant and Liveryman Chloe Webb, Senior Marketing Operations Manager, EMEA, FTI Consulting. The topic of debate was the motion “Neuromarketing fills our profession with quackery”.

The event started with a poll to the audience before a persuasive debate began.

Pre-debate poll results:
14% Agree
54% Disagree
32% Don’t know

Chloe began by explaining what neuromarketing is. It focusses on the way the brain functions and therefore the behaviour, responses and thoughts that people have. The Harvard Business School definition is here.

Jenny then showed the example of an experiment with 8-week-old babies who were exposed to a picture of a smiling face and that of a snake, proved that we are hardwired to engage with friendly signals and recoil from dangers. She suggested that neuroscience is not about brain scanning, but is more about patterns of behaviour in real-life situations:

In a marketing context we were given examples of responses to pricing structures and also choice architecture showing that more choice is not always better. Examples being Tesco tomatoes and specifying your BMW!

Chloe put forward statements arguing why she is against neuromarketing. In the main it is defined by loose terms and that targets of neuromarketing are marketing professional themselves, as opposed to the tools and practices themselves.

Chloe argued that Neuromarketing does not force customers to buy unless other nefarious tactics are also employed. 

Jenny argued that we as humans are excellent at post-rationalising the decisions that we have made- but that in the moment, the buying decision is emotional. Therefore, understanding universal human responses through neuroscience is useful.

Points from the floors included probing the ethics of neuromarketing; Elon Musk wants to link computers directly to human brains. People are being hand chipped in Sweden which acts as a smart chip and can be used like a debit card or for ID. Is this genius, for the greater good or intrusive?

Post-debate poll results;
30% Agree
70% Disagree
0% Don’t know

Conclusion: Compared to the poll taken earlier, both debaters persuaded the audience to change their opinion by the same percentage points of 16% each. This meant the debate ended in a tie.


  • Good science is powerful, but that does not mean that science is always used for good. Nuclear physicists will be the first to tell you that
  • Can consumers' minds be really hacked? Watch Netflix’s programme called the Social Dilemma
  • Design the ‘choice structure’ of your brand with care and ongoing testing
  • It is our job as marketers to position offerings to the right targets, but ultimately our targets are human beings, not human doings

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The Worshipful Company of Marketors is a City Livery Company. Members of the Company are on the way to achieving, or have achieved, mastery and excellence within the Marketing profession.