A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Never more so than is exemplified by the recent trend for medical research to be condensed into simplified blurbs that are reprinted in mainstream media in an effort to drum up publicity. The supposed findings are recalled while the underlying research is ignored.
As marketing increasingly draws on neuroscience and other academic areas, there's a real danger of the same thing happening. Witness the recent tweetstorm about a study in the Journal of Consumer Research and the blogpost about it here. The headline thought that will get marketers overly excited is encapsulated in this statement from the actual paper.
"The participants were unable to recognize that a particular brand had been paired with either negative or positive images. Therefore, we were able to create an 'I like it, but I don't know why' effect,"
That's fine by me. It's another in a long line of academic studies trying to understand the way the brain processes rational and emotional inputs and I'm sure the authors make no more claims for it than that. My concern would be that marketers would leap on it as justification for all sorts of misjudged campaigns simply because they appeal to the emotions without looking at the methodology.
I'm not denying for a moment that low involvement processing hasn't been proven to exist. I just draw different implications from the study. Firstly, it seems to me that the implication is the biggest ad budget wins because it is that which buys you the greatest number of exposures of associations of your brand with goodness. That's hardly mould-breaking.
Secondly, the study comparison was between "good" brands and "bad" brands but in real life you're not going to see many direct associations of badness with brands - even given the possibility of negative advertising. The real life comparison that buyers make is one between an array of brands all claiming goodness. So, to be seeking the title of "most good" may not be much of a differentiator even if you attain it.
If a study could reproduce the results, while comparing paired brands that only had different degrees of good words associated with them (rather than good versus bad), then that would be really interesting.
It's the sort of next level study that will happen, but unthinking marketers won't be waiting for it. They'll already have shown their "scientific justification" presentation slide and be spending the budget in pursuit of this latest meme.