Ethical issues in neuromarketing: perceptions of university students

Bilgin Turna G., Babuş L.



Changing economic conditions, technology and consumer expectations have brought new perspectives to marketing. Marketers have turned to new research methods such as “neuromarketing” that can explain the underlying reasons for purchasing decisions that cannot be explained by traditional methods. Neuromarketing is a science that examines the subconscious reactions of human brain’s responses to a marketing stimuli such as advertisements, music, brand names and slogans. Neuroscience research uses brain images obtained by connecting medical devices to the participants’ body. Based on the assumption that individuals’ statements may be misleading, neuroscience is utilized to study the biological responses of the brain. Most of our behaviors are governed by the brain below humans’ level of consciousness. Consumers do not make a purchase decision about a product simply because it is good quality or price since the brain does not always act according to rational decisions. The neuromarketing approach mainly deals with irrational and subconscious part helping producers to create brand value in accordance with consumer preferences. Today, many companies benefit from neuromarketing methods especially in politics, advertising, entertainment, logo and product design. The most important advantage of neuromarketing research over traditional research techniques is that it demonstrates the difference between the consumers’ declaration and what they actually think. Neuromarketing allows to monitor what is actually going through people’s minds which leads to mutually beneficial relationships. However, there is a disagreement about whether neuromarketing is ethical and the medical devices used on humans are healthy or not. Some neuroscientists are in favor but some are against using neuromarketing techniques in marketing. The techniques are costly and violation of the privacy is an ethical concern despite the fact that the results are meant to be beneficial to humanity. The aim of this study was to determine the perceptions of university students about neuromarketing. A questionnaire was created to measure three dimensions about neuromarketing: knowledge and awareness, interest and willingness to participation, and ethical issues. It was applied to the university students (n=346) in 2018 in Rize/Turkey. According to the results, students’ perspectives on neuromarketing do not differ according to their gender or income. Majority of the participants have heard the concept of neuromarketing, they have knowledge about it and believe it is a scientific technique. They find the techniques very exciting but they are undecided about being a participant in such research because of the ethical issues and possible side effects of the medical devices.