Who’s In and Who’s Out

EU Ref Blog 2

Who’s In and Who’s Out?

EU Referendum – II

bigstock--132594740Before looking at these data in more detail, a few words about the way this study, in collaboration with The Guardian, was conducted.

As I explained in my previous Blog we used our proprietary software to explore the ‘feelings’ of 1,000 respondents regarding many aspects of the EU and Referendum. Such feelings arise on the boundary between the conscious and non-conscious mind and comprise a blend, in varying proportions, of emotions and cognition – for further details see my March 23rd Blog Once More With Feeling.

When it comes to the complexity of the issues surrounding ‘stay’ or ‘go’ a lack of precise information either way suggests that emotions play a greater role than knowledge. Because such ‘feelings’ tend to be resistant to change, findings implicit findings are more accurate and durable across time than explicit results.

We found that almost six out of ten respondents (57%) felt the UK should remain a part of the European Union, while 43% of the sample indicated that they would opt to leave. When we included the option ‘I am unsure’, just over one in six (15%) of respondents used this option. Two in five (37%) felt that Brexit was the best option while just under half (47%) indicated a preference for remaining.

One of the main goals of this study was to see if we could use implicit data to further separate these groups. To this end we identified respondents who held strong positions in either direction. For the purposes of this, ‘strong’ opinions were identified as being above 7 on a Likert scale indicating how sure they were (from 1 – ‘I am not certain at all’ to 10 = ‘I am extremely certain’).
Great Britain Leaves The European UnionOnce we had obtained a sample of such participants we then used their implicit positivity, associated with remaining / leaving the EU alongside their attitudes towards the key political issues to build a classifier that could be used to predict the probability that any particular individual would be inclined to vote either in our out.

According to the probability assigned participants were allocated into one of five groups: Strong out, Weak out, Undecided, Weak in and Strong in. Chart 1 below shows the differences between ‘explicitly’ and Implicitly derived answers:

The Tables below show both the percentage of times an issue was prioritised and the feelings they generated. The colours indicate the strongest and weakest sentiments per group. Green represents where the group most aligned, and red the opposite.

Voter preferences by Gender

Table 1 - Gender
As Table 1 shows, a higher percentage of men than women think the UK should remain in the EU, although both sexes were almost equally likely to feel Undecided or vote to leave.

Strong In males felt more strongly and positively about staying than did Strong Out men. Those in the Weak In, Undecided and Weak Out should negative feelings on the issue with the Undecided being most negative of all.

Voter preferences by Age

Table 2 - Age

As other surveys have found, our research confirmed the strong preference to remain among 18 to 24 years old voters with almost half (49%) feeling we should stay in the EU and only 3% feeling strongly that it would be better to leave.  Strong positive feelings were generated among those favouring remain while equally powerful negative associated were found in the Brexiters. Indeed it was only in this age range that equally powerful feelings, for and against, were found. Those most likely to strongly feel like leaving were aged between 50 and 59 (31%) although after the age of forty around one in five held this opinion. Those over eighty were least likely to be undecided (6%) but were far more likely to vote to leave (56%) than remain (39%).

Remain or Leave Preferences by Region

Table 3 - Region
Summary:

The Scots feel most strongly we should remain (41%) in the EU while those in Yorkshire and the Humber being least likely to want to stay in (22%). After Scotland, Londoners (37%) and the Northern Irish (33%) have the highest proportion feeling we should remain. People in the South West feel we should Vote Leave (29%), followed closely by East Midlanders (25%). All regions that are Strongly In have positive feelings about the EU, compared with only two regions (Scotland and Northern Ireland) in the Strong Out group.

  • Those who feel strongly we should either stay in or leave are most likely to be male, while women are more likely to be undecided.
  • Younger participants were more likely to think Britain should say in the EU, while older participants were more likely to want to leave.
  • Finally, people in Scotland and London were most likely to be in the ‘strong in’ group, while those in the South West and the East Midlands were most likely to strongly feel that Britain should leave.

But how important is Europe for a majority of voters? As I will explain in my next EU blog, our research has shown that it is far less of a priority than most in the Westminster Village would have us believe.

Read more on this series

Blog 1 – What Voters REALLY Feel about the EU Referendum

Blog 3 – A Matter of Priorities – What Matters to Voters

Blog 4- How Both BS Susceptibility and EU Knowledge Influence Voters’ Priorities


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What Voters REALLY Feel about the EU Referendum

EU Ref Blog 1

What Voters REALLY Feel about the EU Referendum

 

bigstock--130949024The traditional way of finding out how people will vote in the coming EU referendum is, of course, to ask them. Which is exactly what polling organisations have being doing regularly over the past months.

While their polls – that assign respondents to one of three groups: Vote to remain, vote to leave and undecided – offer a snapshot of voting intentions, such explicit questioning gives no sense of the strength of support for each position. Those marginally in favour of leaving or remaining, who could potentially change their mind, are combined with voters already firmly convinced one way or the other.

In the present study, conducted in collaboration with the Guardian, we adopt a radically different approach. By using a specially developed form of implicit rather than explicit testing, we are able to access both subconscious ‘feelings’ and the strength with which these views are held. This type of research relies upon the fact that for most of our decision-making, we employ mental shortcuts that call upon information that has been ‘absorbed’ into the subconscious. This information does not exist in isolation. Each piece of information is connected with every other in memory.

When presented with new information people generally take time to process the information and form a rationalised response. Over a period attitudes become more automatic as the individual devotes less energy into re-evaluating opinions already firmly established and connected in their minds. If we record the speed of response we obtain an insight into how embedded these opinions are. The more multi-faceted and complicated a decision becomes the more likely voters are to go with their gut feelings.

In this referendum, apart from a minority on either side who are passionate and committed, most voters seem confused and uncertain. A recent letter to the Metro undoubtedly expressed the feelings of many:

“I am educated enough to recognise that I have no hope of understanding and evaluating all the factors affecting this decision demanded of us in the EU referendum,” the writer admitted, adding “I seriously doubt if anyone can.”

In such situations, implicit testing provides a far more powerful and reliable tool of determining voter sentiment.

The present study, conducted in collaboration with the Guardian involved a thousand respondents and combined our new and unique form implicit testing with a number of explicit questionnaires in order to find answers to the following:

  • How positive do voters feel about the United Kingdom and the European Union?
  • How strongly do they associate the UK with leaving or remaining in the EU?
  • How do they prioritise the key political issues?

Over the next two weeks we will be publishing five further blogs each focusing on different findings from the study.
It is important to realise that one can only accurately predict what one cannot control. Weather forecasts are becoming increasingly accurate because their publication has no effect on the weather. The same cannot be said about polling data. This fact that, for example, a widely publicised poll that showed a significant increase or decrease in those supporting a particular position, would be very likely to influence voter decision making in the future.
This was what happened during the Scottish independence referendum after a well-publicised poll indicated an increased vote for the leave section. The government immediately made further promises and concessions, which, together with a surge of support for those in favour of the Union caused supporters of Independence to lose the vote.
In the next blog I will be describing what our research has revealed about the key characteristics of ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ together with the priority they assign to the referendum itself. Given the massive amount of discussion and media attention our finding may well surprise and shock you.

 

Dr David Lewis

Read more on this series

Blog 2 – Who’s In and Who’s Out – Attitudes based on Demographics

Blog 3 – A Matter of Priorities – What Matters to Voters

Blog 4- How Both BS Susceptibility and EU Knowledge Influence Voters’ Priorities

Blog 5 – Why Feelings Hold the Key to EU Referendum Outcome


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Once More with Feeling

 

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Dr David Lewis –David Lewis - Mindlab International Chairman The Chairman’s Blog

The 19th century polymath Dr Thomas Young, who was expert in medicine, mathematics, geometry, vision, light, mechanics, languages, music and Egyptology, has been described as the ‘last man to know everything.’

Today, few can claim such a breadth and depth of knowledge. Indeed, outside our specialist fields, most of us know rather little about almost everything. This does not, of course, prevent us holding robust opinions on virtually any topic. Such views are typically based neither exclusively on from knowledge, which we generally lack, nor on emotions. Rather they arise from our ‘feelings’ of ‘rightness’ and ‘wrongness’.  Take for example the following current issues:

Gay marriage.
Genetically modified food.
Abortion.
Legalising cannabis.
Curbing immigration.
Leaving the EU.

On all these you are likely to ‘feel’ they are either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

On the Fringe

‘Feelings’ arise on the boundary between our conscious and unconscious mind, in what the 19th century American psychologist William James called the ‘‘fringe’. To gain an insight read the following just once:

“A newspaper is better than a magazine. The seashore is better than the street. At first it is easier to run than to walk. You may need to try several times. It takes some skill but it is easy to learn. Even young children can enjoy it. Once successful, complications are minimal. Birds seldom get too close. Rain, however, soaks in very fast. Too many people doing the same thing can also cause problems. One needs lots of room. If there are no complications it can be very peaceful. A rock will serve as an anchor. If it breaks loose, however, you will not get a second chance.”

On reading this for the first time, most people report a vague and disagreeable ‘feeling of wrongness’.

While all the words make sense and every sentence is grammatically correct, the overall effect is of confusion and incomprehension.

Now re-read the paragraph keeping in mind the word ‘kite’.

Suddenly, despite their being no change in the sensory content, it all makes sense. You will enjoy a Eureka moment as feelings of ‘wrongness’ change in an instant to feelings of ‘rightness’.

Where Feelings Arise

Over the past two years I have been researching the fringe between conscious and non-conscious thought. I term this fringe, and I first described it at a Neuromarketing Science & Business Association conference in Amsterdam in August 2015, the periliminal region.

 

Iceberg

The research currently being undertaking by Mindlab International is into scientifically analyzing periliminal ‘feelings’ in order for advertisers, marketers and retailers to be better able to identify and control them.

Networks in the Brain

Because every memory we have is linked to every other memory, retrieving one brings to mind many others. The word ‘canary,’ for example, is closely linked to such attributes as ‘is yellow’; ‘has wings’; ‘sings’ and ‘can fly’. When people are tested in the laboratory, these responses are given almost instantly. Less closely associated memories, for example ‘is an animal’ or ‘is warm blooded’ usually take slightly longer to come to mind.

Known, in the case of words, as our ‘semantic network’, this aspect of cognition has been extensively studied down the years. Less often appreciated is the fact that every type of sensory input creates networks and that all the networks are interconnected. This means, for example, that a particular aroma will trigger visual, emotional and possibly muscle memories.

There are occasions when these links can lead us into error. If you’d like to demonstrate this – it makes a faintly amusing party trick – ask someone to answer the following questions as quickly as possible:

What is a common abbreviation for Coca-Cola?
Which four-letter word describes an amusing story told by a comedian?
What sound does a frog make on a lily pad?
What’s the white of an egg called?
If they answer fast enough the chances are their responses will be:

Coke – joke – croak – yolk!

Perhaps that’s how you responded to the questions.

What has happened here was that, searching for a pattern among the seemingly disconnected questions, your brain hit on the idea of looking for rhymes. This caused “yolk” to seem the obviously correct response, whereas a moment’s thought would have shown this was wrong. The answer should, of course, have been “albumin”.

Although, within a specific demographic, there will be many commonly shared association, every person also makes sense of the world in a different way. Memory networks are personal to each individual. This means that even seemingly trivial aspects of an advertisement, marketing strategy or retail display can cause a flood of positive or negative associations, both conscious and non-conscious, that directly affect the consumers’ ‘feelings’ about that message. These are formed extremely rapidly and, once established, prove hard to change.

‘Feelings of Rightness’ – The Key to Success

For a product, brand, proposal or, indeed a person, to be successful they must generate ‘feelings of rightness’.

The success of Republican Presidential contender Donald Trump provides a case in point. Not all those who support him agree with many of his statements, indeed some disagree strongly.

At the same time, he is able to generate a ‘feeling of rightness’ strong enough for them to set their objections aside.

‘Feeling’ will nearly always trump reason!

When a campaign, a product or a negotiation fails to hit the mark, this is typically due to its effects on neither the consumer’s conscious nor their unconscious mind, but to a ‘feeling of wrongness’. Equally, success is the result of generating a ‘feeling of rightness’.

The ability to predict which ‘feeling’ is most likely to arise will enable companies and individuals to avoid ‘feelings of wrongness’ so reducing the chances of failure and increasing the likelihood of success.

It is with developing technology capable of predicting these ‘feelings’ that our research is concerned.


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Decoding the Irrational Consumer, by Darren Bridger – An overview.

blog-decoding-consumerDecoding Irrational Consumer

 

So you’ve heard of this word floating around ‘Neuromarketing’, but what is it? If you are in the marketing profession and looking to expand your market research horizons with something new, it is well worth reading ‘Decoding the Irrational Consumer’ by Darren Bridger, 2015.

 

Bridger provides an easily digestible insight into the world of Neuromarketing and everything that surrounds it in manageable chunks. By the time you have finished you will be clued up and ready to kick off your next campaign with neuromarketing at the heart.

 

This book begins with a useful insight into the way in which we, as humans, think and make decisions, which undoubtedly has an important impact on the way practitioners undertake market research. Bridger states that the irrational thinking of consumers comes from an energy-saving, unconscious ‘System 1’ mode of thinking. He makes the point that markers need to ensure they understand this way of thinking in order to fully understand consumers’ choices and deliver campaigns that appeal. Because marketers are now beginning to understand the limited value in simply asking people what they think and instead, are investigating a whole range of new techniques, also known as neuromarketing.

 

The author explains that the most important elements of neuromarketing are to have a solid understanding of the way in which the brain operation, in particular, the role of memory, attention and emotion. Us humans have a limited attention span meaning we require an awful lot of non-conscious processing to ‘fill in the gaps’. Memories and assumptions bias our perceptions, so with this in mind it becomes clear that marketers need to have a good grasp of non-conscious thought. He describes brands as nothing more than a ‘web of nonconscious memories’ and emotions as a ‘key motivating factor that likely evolved to get us to move’.

 

In terms of behavioural economics, Bridger argues that although consumers are constrained to a certain extent in that they cant be fully rational, they are however,  able to make choices that make rational sense within the contexts they live. He adds to this by suggesting that value is often subjective and that consumers will tend to judge it more on relative comparisons that absolute amounts or costs. He suggests that the everyday consumer will continually come across products or services that they just arent willing to compromise on and others that will do. Meaning that in the end, they tend to come to a choice which is just good enough.

 

He goes on to discuss the mental biases that guide consumer choices on a day to day basis, also known as ‘heuristics’. The idea of these biases is based on the concept that people are more likely to fear loss over the opportunity of gain, unless of course they are ‘nudges’ towards a specific decision.

 

Implicit Association Testing (IAT) is commonly used in Neuromarketing in which instead of directly asking people their opinions, participants are asked to pair two concepts together and see how the different pairings either slow down or speed up simple categorisation tasks.

The book provides an overview of IAT explaining how participants reaction speeds on each pairing becomes a measurement of the degree of association between the two concepts.  The author explains that there are a number of different implicit testing paradigms.

 

Academic – mostly test binary or positive vs. negative type associations whereas many of the market research paradigms test the connection between a wide array of attributes and a brand or ad.

 

Implicit response tests – powerful and versatile way of measuring the degree to which important qualities are being automatically evoked by a brand, ad, service or product.

 

Bridger concludes with a discussion of his thoughts about the future of neuroscience. With costs coming down and awareness of techniques increasing he believes the science will continue with three main areas of interest:

 

  1. More validation

With increasing pressure from clients, the field will be driven into more research into testing these metrics against real world sales data, effectively providing a stronger rationale for use.

 

  1. more understanding and insight

Through more use,a greater understanding about how and why different features in ads and communications perform well or poorly will likely accumulate. This will coincide with an increased understanding of the brain and its workings in relation to real world situations.

 

  1. New measures

More metrics using current techniques will be developed along with more user-friendly outputs. The number of devices consumers now own is growing at a rapid pace and can be used to track commercial messages. With wearable devices being able to monitor reactions and the sensors in smartphones leading allowing brands to track what is viewed online.

 

There’s a whole world of exciting new ways to engage consumers and really understand what drives their buying behaviour, and neuromarketing has the answers. Try giving ‘Decoding the Irrational Consumer’ a read for a real insight into how neuroscience can help improve engagement with your consumer base.

Helen Ogden


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You Have to Choose between Neuromarketing and Traditional Market Research Methods


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Old School Myths

 

Here’s the fourth post in the Neuromarketing Myths series. Here we will try and remove some of the mystery surrounding our profession, and address the most common misconceptions we encounter on a day-to-day basis.

 

We have definitely criticised certain traditional market research methods in the past , but this doesn’t mean that neuromarketing is trying to completely replace traditional market research. In fact, both approaches compliment each other and it helps taking both the exMarket Researchplicit (what people say) and the implicit (how people subconsciously feel) into account. This doesn’t have to increase your budget – traditional survey questions can easily be included when carrying out cognitive experiments online at no increased cost, and the insight from qualitative and observational research can often inform and optimise the experimental design for neuromarketing studies.

The way we see it is that neuromarketing and traditional market research don’t have to compete against one another – if a combination of both is the best approach to give our clients the answers to their questions, then that’s what we are going  to
suggest.

 

 


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An Interview with Ed Burke – Scent Marketing

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From Chairman Dr David Lewis

Dr Lewis talks to Ed Burke, Director of Communications at ScentAir

In this blog, the second one in which I discuss key retailing and marketing topics with leaders in their field, I’d like to introduce you to Ed Burke Marketing Director of ScentAir, the global leader in scent marketing.

ScentAir was founded in the mid-1990’s by David Martin, an astrophysicist with a background in rocket science. After working for one of the big US firms, he became Disney Imaginer charged with delivering scents for Disney and spent several years developing scents, for everything from rides to shops, before leaving to set up in business for himself. His goal was to develop products and solutions that would help any kind of business deliver scent as part of their customer experience. Today, ScentAir operates in 109 countries, serves more than 50,000 customers world wide and produces some five billion enduring ‘aroma impressions’ each year.

They create the aromas you will encounter in most of the world’s major hotel brands as well as boutique groups and other chains. They also work closely with the casino industry. Whether you’re in Macau or Las Vegas or any other gaming centre in the world, when you walk into a casino you’re going to be surrounded by an aroma from ScentAir.
In his Charlotte, North Carolina, office Ed tells me how they design a bespoke scent to match the mood a client wants to achieve.

“There is an element of science and an element of art,” he explains, citing as an example one of their many success stories, their work with fashion retailer Hugo Boss. “We asked questions like: Why does a customer choose HB? Why would they walk in through the door versus another brand? What does it represent to them? What are the elements of the store and the clothing and the experience which deliver that promise?”
The answers they came up with were that the brand was typified by, “luxury, style, discerning quality and exclusivity”.

With this in mind they began to narrow down fragrances, rejecting anything bright and citrusy as not being sufficiently sexy and anything too floral as too much like perfume.
“We looked at a lot of rich woods and some spices and some notes along those lines, and we finally came up with Pamboti Wood from Africa. It is a very rich, clean, almost decadent fragrance, unique, luxurious and very interesting.”

“What about enhancing the shopping experience?” I ask him.
“In malls we can have one entrance smelling one way and then another area smelling another way. Let’s say you wanted four or five different areas within the mall with different scents, but then you also wanted each retailer to have their own scent. We have a number of different delivery systems that could help accomplish all of that. We can be very precise. We can scent an area as small as a tiny dental office all the way up to the grandest spaces, the largest malls. To see the overall reaction and impression when people walk into spaces and they just feel good and comfortable.

Observing that when your scent is a part of the experience is a very, very cool experience.”
From a neuromarketing viewpoint, one interesting aspect of Scentair’s work is the fact that customers can be powerfully influenced by an the aroma without ever being aware of the fact. In a casino, for example, the right aroma not only makes gambling more exciting and pleasurable but also causes patrons to part with more money!
“We’re taking all these subtle cues into our brain and it’s obviously working overtime to analyse and then emote a response or whatever it is to each of those stimuli. That’s how we perceive environments in general. So much is going on beneath the surface of what we’re actively consciously perceiving. It’s a discussion we have with a lot of our customers where it would be wonderful if every single client or consumer walked into a business and said to themselves: ‘I like being in here and I like being in here because it smells great.’

At the end of the day we think we’re doing our job if customers are really feeling comfortable. Then you’re going to be driving the things you want to drive, if it’s loyalty or repeat visits or longer dwell times or whatever the goal may be.”

End

This is an edited version of a longer interview that can be found at www.the-brainsell.com

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An interview with Professor Geraint Rees


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Dr David Lewis –David Lewis - Mindlab International Chairman The Chairman’s Blog

 

An Interview with Professor Geraint Rees

As professionals we should constantly be learning about, and frequently learning from, the knowledge and experience of others in the field. For the next few of my blogs I will be presenting edited interviews with some of the leading players in the field of neuroscience, marketing, and retailing. In the first of these Professor Geraint Rees, Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, discusses the two main technologies used by neuromarketing companies – EEG and fMRI. How, in his opinion, had these advanced over the last decade?  



Professor Geraint Rees: “EEG is a stable, mature technology that has been around – [he pauses to think] – well since a very long time. There have not been many technical developments within EEG in the last 10 years. I would have thought that the main developments have been in the way data can be analysed and, in particular, putting the data into frameworks where it can be combined with data from other imaging techniques – such as functional MRI. The software packages now used to analyse functional imaging data, like SPM, or Statistical Parametric Mapping can also be used now to analyse EEG or MEG (1) data. That facilitates data fusion, that is, looking at how a mental process in the human brain operates, combining data from two different techniques. That was quite fashionable, five years ago. With functional MRI, in the last decade, I think it’s a technology that’s rapidly matured. Twenty years ago, it was brand new –it was the new-new thing and it was super hot. And that meant a lot of exploratory studies got done, a lot of things got found out very rapidly. At the same time, there was a lot more heterogeneity in how people analysed their data, and how people reached the conclusions they were going to reach. Perhaps the second phase of that has been, as with any technology, not only has the hardware matured, but also the way in which the data analysed has converged internationally into widely agreed standards, that are – not universally – but near-universally applied. So the field feels a lot more mature in terms of that respect. The hardware has continued to evolve, but I would describe it as incremental, rather than revolutionary. The revolution was inventing B.O.L.D (2) contrast functional MRI in the first place. Since then, there have been repeated advances in terms of the field strength of magnets at which data can be acquired and that, in turn, either increases your sensitivity to detect more subtle effects in the brain, or you keep the same sensitivity, but can get higher spatial resolution. So you can see more bits of the brain and in more detail.



That’s probably the biggest drive, together also with something called parallel imaging, where you can acquire more data, faster, that again allows the same improvement, so the end user is seeing data that are either more sensitive to small changes in the brain, or are more spatially fine-grained, compared to previously. Those have been the main technological developments.

Professor Rees



In EEG, the intrinsic problem is you can never fully determine the pattern of sources in the brain that produce a pattern of EEG waves. For a mathematical reason that is unfixable. This problem is not solvable, or not uniquely solvable. That doesn’t mean that one can’t guess at what pattern of sources, or patterns of activity in the brain made the particular pattern of activity at the scalp that you observe. It just means it’s not uniquely determined, which means you can’t ever be precisely certain. A second, intrinsic, barrier to the nature of the EEG signal is that it’s relatively insensitive to deep brain structures. So the nuclei that live in the middle of our brains that, for example, are affected in Parkinson’s (disease) are not easily accessible to any technique that records the scalp EEG – [which is] much more sensitive to stuff on the surface of the brain. And those are intrinsic and are probably not going to be overcome anytime soon. With functional MRI, the mostly widely used form of functional MRI, B.O.L.D. or Blood-Oxygen Level Dependant, is contingent on the level of deoxyhaemoglobin in the blood. The intrinsic limitation there, whatever the special scale at which blood flow is regulated, is the ultimate spatial resolution on functional MRI, because you are not going to get below that – or you’re going to get below that with difficulty, and inferences, and assumptions. We’ve known for a long time, since experiments in the 19th century, that blood flow changes in the brain are very closely localised to where neural activity changes, to within a millimetre or two. Now a millimetre or two is great – right? I mean, absolutely fantastic for the kind of science I do. But on the other hand, to some people, a millimetre or two is hundreds of thousands of nerve cells, and so that’s a huge distance. It reflects the fact that the brain has these multiple levels of organisation at different spatial scales.



For a technique at one spatial scale to talk, or inform another spatial scale is not always possible, or is more challenging if there are intrinsic limits like this… there have been repeated attempts to get round that; some people have tried to devise MR sequences that, for example, are sensitive to electrical currents. But these generally have not entered wide usage, and are generally speaking, highly technical and not as powerful. Why B.O.L.D contrast fMRI has become the de facto standard is not because it’s the best signal, but it’s because it’s the signal that’s easiest to produce and is jolly reliable. As these things go. So there’s an intrinsic limit of course that many people appreciate, because it’s a blood flow response, which is also temporal. So the timing of the blood flow response lags neural activity by several seconds. But…we don’t know for sure, because people haven’t done a kind of mapping experiment to map out that latency across the whole brain. The reason they haven’t done that is because you’d need to be able to precisely activate every single portion of the brain and you don’t know precisely what to do to do that, to actually make the measurements in the first place. There’s no particular reason to expect wild differences because, of course, given that brains have grown, like the rest of us, from very small numbers of cells, in the embryo. That said, there are some regions of the brain, like, say the cerebellum, where the architecture of the nerve cells is quite different. So you might expect or anticipate or hypothesise that the blood flow response is different. Usually that isn’t a problem for experimenting, because you’re comparing an experimental manipulation in that brain region – you’re not normally comparing what’s happening in one brain region, to another.



You’re looking at what’s happening in a brain region, under two different circumstances. So there are ways round that particular problem – it’s recognised in the field, basically. Within marketing, generally, with honourable exceptions, there’s often a surprising lack of knowledge about whether it works. So for example, I went to a conference where one company gave a very interesting presentation about how difficult they found it, working out whether advertising made any difference to sales. They went to the trouble of essentially randomising half the customers in one town, to receive adverts for one store, or not. Then working with that store to actually determine whether that made a difference in sales. So a really good experiment – well controlled. The challenge they had, was they did observe an effect, a positive effect, but it was so small, and the variability in what people spent at this store, because it was a general – I presume – department store, was so big, that the effect size they were measuring, even with tens of thousands of customers, they found it very difficult to actually say this is definitively a statistically significant difference in marketing. But that said…that difference, multiplied by the number of consumers, was a big difference to their bottom line. So very relevant. That’s not Neuro marketing – they were just doing classic marketing. But I had a lot of sympathy for the challenge they faced in determining whether a large-scale intervention has a very small effect on a very heterogeneous population. It’s not easy. Of course, recording EEG in the wild is always going to be worse than recording EEG in controlled laboratory conditions. Not so much because of the uncontrolled nature of the environment, but because of the electrical interference of everything around us that is electrical…as long as the signal is reflecting the EEG signals, fine. It’s then just a pragmatic issue of, is the signal enough to provide something useful that can correlate, or provide insight, into some behaviour? If it is, it doesn’t matter that it’s not the best in the world.



I was reading a Psych-science paper showing that fMRI responses in a focus group predicted the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. I thought that was a good paper – and it was really interesting. Because that was conceptually doing a really interesting thing, which was saying you can do a high quality laboratory based fMRI study, and a focus group, and it generalises to a large-scale phone survey. Again, from the conceptual issues, that is interesting because that says you don’t have to collect lots of data, badly, from lots of people, and draw a conclusion from noisy data. You can actually do this, but under these kind of circumstances. So if you could understand, for example, the circumstances under which that generalisation works, then that becomes a very useful tool. In the same way that presumably focus groups are useful tools in marketing generally, because the focus group can be generalised to the population.” End





[1] Magnetoencephalography (MEG) a technique for mapping brain activity by recording the magnetic fields produced by naturally occurring electrical currents.

[2] BOLD – Blood Oxygen Level Dependent. A technique for mapping brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow to different regions. The full version of this interview, conducted by Mindlab’s Tom Dixon, can be found at www.the-brainsell.com 


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Neuromarketing Myths (No. 3) – It’s too inaccessible and expensive

neuromarketing myths

Old School MythsHere’s the third post in the Neuromarketing Myths series.  Here we will try and remove some of the mystery surrounding our profession, and address the most common misconceptions we encounter on a day-to-day basis.

I could argue that if the research is really good then there’s going to be an excellent ROI. Fair point, but if you spend all of your research budget on new fangled neuromarketing and get no insight then you’ll soon be looking for a new job. PeoplBrain With Arms, Legs And Magnet On Hands, Catch Many Euro Bankne are loss averse (I know you knew that already). Insight specialists are no different. The status quo bias reminds us that change can seem as a loss so shifting over to new approaches is difficult enough but shifting to expensive new approaches is too big a step to take.

One of the reasons that fMRI and EEG based research isn’t as popular as the press actually suggests is that it’s expensive to do right. This is especially so if the testing is to be done on more than 100 people. The anchoring effect of neuromarketing prices from 10 years ago lingers but the truth is that you can now get comprehensive quantitative insight into emotions, attitudes and perceptions for the cost of many traditional market research approaches.


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Neuromarketing Myths (No. 2) – It’s all about brain scans

neuromarketing myths

 

Old School Myths

Here’s the second installment to our Neuromarketing Myths series. Neuromarketing techniques are increasingly being used by companies in order to test their brand perceptions, new concepts, products, packaging, communications and much more. Its use is so widespread that it is surprising how much misunderstanding there still is around neuromarketing. Here we will try and remove some of the mystery surrounding our profession, and address the most common misconceptions we encounter on a day-to-day basis.

 

It’s all about brain scansModern Examination In The Hospital

It is true that neuromarketing started out with a strong focus on technologies such as fMRI (brain scans) and EEG (measuring electrical brain activity). Modern neuromarketing now however is much more about scalable psychological and cognitive tests that can be carried out online. This is not just because they are cheaper,  faster to turn around and allow us to test many more participants, but also because they tend to provide clear and comparable data that can directly answer many market research questions. Automated facial encoding using webcam and implicit testing (refered to as IAT or IRT) is now becoming mainstream.

 

Neurobollocks

Many people who don’t have a background in psychology and neuroscience seem to believe that brain imaging techniques such as fMRI will give them better answers. Research has shown that people are more likely to be convinced by statements if these are presented next to a brain image and they seem to be similarly seduced by the idea of brain scanning in market research. But results from these studies are often much less clear than they may appear.

Neuromarketing has had some bad press, quite rightly at times. One particular neuromarketing study was lambasted after a New York Times OP-Ed piece compared iPhone addiction to cocaine use and falling in love because the insula’ lit up. The problem is that the insula lights up for loads of things. The same brain area may also be involved in working memory, physical pain, disgust, anger, visual perception, motor sequencing, and memory retrieval.

Insight professionals want to better understand the mechanisms of decision making and neuromarketing can and does help. It’s just a shame that some people get it so very very wrong and make the industry look stupid.


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Neuromarketing Myths (No. 1) – We can brainwash you!

neuromarketing myths

Old School Myths  Neuromarketing techniques are increasingly being used by companies in order to test their brand perceptions, new concepts, products, packaging, communications and much more. Its use is so widespread that it is surprising how much misunderstanding there still is around neuromarketing. Here we will try and remove some of the mystery surrounding our profession, and address the most common misconceptions we encounter on a day-to-day basis.

 

We can read minds (and brainwash you)

One of the most common things we hear when new clients first get in touch with us (or even when we just talk to friends about our jobs) is that they feel there is something ‘spooky’ or ‘scary’ about what we do. People either seem to think that we try and ‘read their mind’ to uncover aspects of themselves that they weren’t even aware of, or brainwash them into buying the latest product, or both.

Let’s be clear here: WhileMind Control it’s flattering that you put this much faith into our abilities as psychologists, neuroscientists, market researchers and data analysts, we’re really not that great. What seems to create this fear in people is neither currently possible nor desirable. Fundamentally, we try to answer the same questions as traditional market research, we just believe we have a better approach to it. Instead of just asking people for their opinion, we measure things such as their gut feelings about a product, how their opinion about a brand has been (very subtly) changed by communications, and whether they pay attention to an advert or not.

None of this has anything to do with brainwashing (not any more than advertising always has) or subliminal messaging. We are simply capturing people’s opinions and attitudes in a more effective way than traditional market research alone does.

Every year $billions are spent on ineffective market research. The aim of neuromarketing is to make market research spend more effective.

 Mindlab offers the most accurate and effective market research available because we don’t just ask people what they think, we find out how they feel.


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