Ground-breaking research by two academics from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) has been recognised with the Insight Scientist of the Year award from the Dutch centre of expertise for marketing professionals, MOA. The work of Professor Ale Smidts and Associate Professor Dr Maarten Boksem shows how marketers can leverage new methods from neuroscience, big data and machine learning techniques to better understand consumer behaviour, and to more accurately predict this behaviour, based on insights from data recorded from the brain. The award was presented to Prof Smidts and Dr Boksem on July 1st during the MOA Awards ceremony which focused on the theme of ‘Tools for capturing information to improve business insights’.

Prof. Smidts and Dr Boksem use neuroscience methods such as electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to better understand and predict consumer behaviour. With their research, they answer questions such as: can we measure emotions in the brain, can we measure a brand’s image in the brain, and can these brain measurements better predict purchasing behaviour? The answers to these questions are highly relevant for practice, since it has proven quite difficult to measure implicit processes such as emotions with traditional methods, while at the same time they have a substantial impact on consumer behaviour.

Pioneering and expanding the field

Ale Smidts was an international pioneer in neuromarketing in 2002 with his inaugural address ‘Looking into the brain: About the possibilities of neuromarketing’. He subsequently built up a research group to develop the field of neuromarketing, since 2011 together with Maarten Boksem. It is the first time in the history of the MOA Awards that a duo has been nominated, recognizing the collaborative effort of building up a multidisciplinary team of scientist that has expanded the field of neuromarketing over the past 10 years. As a team, they have trained several PhD students and have co-authored multiple high-impact academic papers, both in the field of marketing as well as in neuroscience. One of these papers won the ERIM Top Article Award 2019, with researcher Dr Hang-Yee Chan (then a PhD candidate): Neural Profiling of Brands: Mapping Brand Image in Consumers’ Brains with Visual Templates. Journal of Marketing Research, 55(4), 600-615.

Over the past 5 years, Smidts and Boksem have worked with the neuromarketing company Alpha.One on projects and knowledge sharing to build an important bridge between practice and science. They have several joint publications in leading journals and the methods developed by the team led by Boksem and Smidts are actively used in neuromarketing practice by Alpha.One.

Effective transfer of knowledge to managers

The jury of the MOA award remarked: “This team shows that collaboration in an interdisciplinary field is crucial, they demonstrate the added value of neuroscientific methods and insights for marketing and market research, they apply the latest imaging techniques and statistical methods in their research and transfer their knowledge effectively to future marketing managers through education and direct interaction with practice.

RSM’s Professor of marketing, Stefano Puntoni commented: “It’s great to see our work having an impact on practice.”

Judges scored the nominated candidates on their work’s scientific quality and the strength of its links to practice. The were looking for innovations, quality data, important implications and clearly written work with a clear link to MOA’s theme. Smidt and Boksem’s research stood out for the innovativeness of new research methods which can lead to better business insights.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at