By September 3, 2014 Blog, Marketing, Thinking No Comments

Should we throw out traditional research methods? A response to the Marketing Week 2014 session.

Nuro is the first (and only) company in Australia to connect contemporary consumer and brand theory with leading-edge data and insights from the neurosciences. The result is a deep connection between brand strategy and its impact on customer decisions.

Wow, what a session. A real eye opener on the types of research techniques available to measure human biological responses to (but not limited to) brands and advertising. It really made me question (and doubt) mainstream research and how accurate it is. I’ll expand on this later with an example.

The presentation was made by Dr Phil Harris (Director of Nuro Brand) about Brain Science and Marketing – Neuromarketing.

Neuromarketing (aka consumer neuroscience) is an exciting and rapidly developing field that draws on insights from neuroscience and psychology to inform marketing practice. There is an assumption that neuromarketing is leading edge and a new technology, however it is becoming more mainstream. It is also most heavily used by the FMCG and consumer sectors. By no means an exhaustive list, research is used for identifying where to place products on shelves to get the most traffic; how to plan layouts of shops by monitoring behaviour and movement; testing effectiveness of press and TV advertising by following eye movement and measuring biological and emotional changes.

With marketers increasingly aware that consumers have limited understanding of their own reactions to marketing and branding, neuromarketing techniques are becoming an important tool in many global marketers’ decision-making armoury. Drawing on an understanding of how consumers are wired to think about and choose brands, products and packaging, marketers are increasingly connecting with neuromarketing insights to enhance the effectiveness of marketing decisions.

So why do we need these research techniques?

Because we are biased individuals and so many things in our subconscious affect the decisions we make. We are affected by our surroundings and we aren’t even aware of it. And that leads me to the example Dr Harris used that made me question traditional research….

STUDY: Subliminal techniques used in wine choices at a bottle shop

A bottle shop wanted to test whether the music they played in the shop affected the sales of particular wine. The results are enlightening and made me question whether traditional research questionnaires and focus groups were all that effective.

As part of the study, they played French music one day (listen to this) then German music the next (listen to this). On the French music day, they sold 300% more French wine compared to other wine. On the German music day they sold 300% more German wine compared to other wine. I think that’s pretty conclusive… the music subliminally led the choices made on the day.

But… the interesting thing is that consumers who took part in a questionnaire after their purchase at this very bottle shop were asked ‘Did the music lead you to choose either French or German wine’ and 86% of respondents said ‘no’. Hmm… I wonder how many true answers we really get when performing market research. Respondents may think they are providing a true answer, but their behaviour may not align with that answer.

In the above example, their behaviour alone was the factor measured and was very conclusive. Studies like this indicate that we are very sensory beings but we don’t necessarily understand the behavioural changes we experience when we have an emotional reaction.

The kinds of techniques Nuro Brand use:

Eye Tracking Study

This technique follows a person’s eye movements via a set of glasses. They scan the eye and record where it moves on a newspaper page, on a TV whilst watching an ad, big budget films use it to optimise promotional content; stores use it to establish the best layouts and how shelves should be organised. It is also used in the design of packaging, and could extend to the design development of outdoor advertising, billboards and the like.

Emotional responses

Simple measures are used to reflect changes in the sympathetic nervous system to measure emotional response. They measure the brain, facial movements and expressions, lungs – breathing, heart rate, sweat glands – via the skin on hands.

For those (like me) who didn’t know what the sympathetic nervous system was – it is involved in the stimulation of activities that prepare the body for action, such as increasing the heart rate, increasing the release of sugar from the liver into the blood, and other reactions generally considered as fight-or-flight responses. An exciting NEW technique has only very recently become available that can tell us visually via [what looks like] body heat mapping – which emotion a person is feeling.

Emotions in one’s body display differently via blue (a feeling of heaviness) or red (heat) highlights in particular areas of the body. For example –

  • Anger:  red in head, shoulders and arms.
  • Love:  red in head, chest and stomach.
  • Depression:  blue in arms and legs
  • Happiness:  red in head, shoulders, arms and legs

Having read the above examples, now YOU imagine those emotions now or catch yourself feeling them later and reflect where it is you feel heat or heaviness in your body – you will be surprised. The amazing thing is – Nuro Brand’s technique doesn’t require someone to tell them where they feel an emotion, it reads the body and the body doesn’t lie.

Measurement of Brain Activity (through MRI)

MRI is another technique Nuro Brand use to measure brain activity via oxygen and blood rushing to particular parts of the brain. This study assumes we know what each part of the brain does – which is a big assumption. The research is done while asking questions of a person and seeing what the brain looks like when making decisions in response to the questions.

The brain fires off what they call ‘Value Signals’ and clearly responds to what we like or dislike. For example, a favoured brand like Apple fires off MORE value signals that a less liked brand. Interestingly, some major car brands have invested in MRI machines to measure people’s responses to car designs as they develop new models.

This gives them assurance that their target market will like the model when it hits the market. I guess it’s a wise form or risk management.

EEG (Electroencephalography) technique

The recording of electrical activity or neural signals along the scalp via a cap. This technique has been around for a while and provides useful insights into choosing imagery, colours, music and even personalities to resonate with a chosen audience of a brand. Believe it or not, you can train people to choose a brand by associating it with images or things they like and resonate with.

For example: Link beautiful women, fast paced activity and a manly, fit body with the Lynx brand. Or happy, friends, fun, partying people with Coca Cola. Memories of these images lead people to choose the product and brand that’s associated with these preferences. By using the EEG technique and getting a brand image right from the start, over time a brand can build equity and position itself very favourably to take market share from its competitors.

How much?

All of the above techniques sound awesome. Hey, I’d love to use them at some stage in my marketing career…. but how much are they? Well, they’re not cheap… But no rigorous qualitative combined with quantitative research ever is.  The Eye Tracking Study starts at $10,000 and the more neurally complex studies start at $25,000 and keep going up.

More great video talking about NeuroMarketing:

Karina Kuss

About Karina Kuss

With over 10 years experience in advertising and marketing with some of SA’s biggest brands, like Radio Rentals, Elders and UniSA, Karina understands both ends of the brand and consumer spectrum and knows cut-through when she sees it.

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