There has been a hype about neuromarketing in the mid-2000s. Impressive brain images from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) started appearing in marketing journals and respondents got electrodes attached to their scalps while they watched TV commercials to capture their brain waves. These tools allow observations of the brain at work – but which new insights can be derived for market research?

The fundamental research department of the GfK Verein has explored the potential different neuroscientific tools have to offer for consumer research. In a cooperation project with Prof. Lutz Jäncke from the University of Zurich, for instance, we have studied the neural basis of brand preferences. In particular, we were interested in the question to what extend traditional self-report tools correlate with neural indicators. Indeed we found a clear relationship between the reported preferences for different brands and activation in brain regions associated for emotion and motivation processing.

At this point in time we do not actively pursue neuroscientific studies for market research purposes. While there is no doubt that neuroscientific tools can offer fascinating insights in our brain, we think that most often results confirm established findings rather than generating new, revolutionary knowledge. At the same time, application of these tools is expensive, laborious and often in transparent for marketing experts – unlike tools for automatic analysis of facial and vocal expressions on which we focus in ongoing research projects.


Koeneke, S., Pedroni, A. F., Dieckmann, A., Bosch, V., & Jäncke, L. (2008). Individual preferences modulate incentive values: Evidence from functional MRI. Behavioral and Brain Functions, 4(1), 55.

Pedroni, A., Mérillat, S., Dieckmann, A., Bosch, V., & Jäncke, L. (2016). Brand preferences modulate neural activity during expectation and evaluation of an uncertain reward. GfK Verein Working Paper Series, 4.