Once More with Feeling

 

Charimans Blog Once more with Feeling

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

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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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Be Strategic – Really?

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Last week I was invited by Digital Annexe and ISBA to talk at ISBA’s Insight and networking event entitled ‘The Next 5 Years in Digital’.

It was great to see such a strong presence from Asda, Morrison’s and Nestle.

Sean Singleton from DA talked about the 7 habits of digital marketers (borrowed from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective people).

The habit that stood out for me was ‘Be Strategic’. This seems blindingly obvious but most people don’t think long 7 Habitsterm. Sean argues that marketers are too focussed on driving more traffic to their websites but then fail to engage customers with the correct approaches to increase site conversion.

I think that this short term thinking is a ubiquitous problem in business and goes some way to explain why traditional market research dominates the market place and why the science of decision-making has not had more of an impact on marketing. This is despite compelling evidence from countless psychologists and neuroscientists that clearly demonstrates that the majority of our decision making processes occur below our conscious radar.

To translate the findings of decision sciences into marketing practices takes time. The fact that the average tenure of Chief Marketing Officers is just 45 months and the continual demand for short term results means that people are more worried about keeping their jobs than fixing the long term problems with a bloated over-emphasis of explicit self-report in market research.

I regularly speak to insight professionals who have read Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman or Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. These people even have a passion for decision sciences and understand that there is a key role in non-conscious processing in decision making but constantly come up against barriers when they discuss ideas of change with colleagues. Marketers need to spend time understanding how people make decisions. This is relevant to all categories but isn’t being done on anything like the scale that it should.

As humans we make mistakes and behave in irrational ways, which is reflected in cognitive biases. The reticence of researchers to change their approaches is, in some way, due to confirmation bias. When we make decisions, such as investing hundreds of thousands of pounds on traditional market research, our brains seek out evidence to make us think that we made the right decision. We are essentially blind to evidence that says the decision was wrong. We like it when a decision feels good.

Sean also states that as a key habit, we should create a culture of experimentation. Too true. New approaches need to be experimented with and validated – a process that takes time. Progressive marketers would be well advised to try out behaviourally based approaches that interrogate our non-conscious minds without post rationalisation. This can easily and cost effectively be done on small projects to introduce new thinking.

‘Be strategic’ may be one of the most overused phrases in business. It may well also be one of the most misunderstood.

Duncan Smith


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An idiot’s guide to neuromarketing – Mental shortcuts

We all know that for certain behaviours, our brain more or less switches to ‘autopilot’. When walking from A to B, you don’t constantly think about every single step that you take, or about how you have to hold up your head, breathe, and balance your body. Similarly, you might remember that the first few times you drove a car, you had to pay close attention to every single action involved in it, while you probably barely remember your last trip home from work.

These behaviours are often explained by saying that ‘your body remembers how to do these things’, or using words such as ‘muscle memory’. So while we understand these shortcuts with physical examples, we often forget that our mind functions in a similar way.

 

Our mental shortcuts influence how we see and perceive the world, how we think and reason, and how we make decisions.

Our behaviours, as well as concepts that have an impact on us, are represented by neural activity in our brains. Every time two behaviours occur at the same time, or two concepts are encountered together, our neural connection between them becomes stronger. This is often described with the sentence ‘cells that fire together, wire together’. In reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but it is true that the connections we make between behaviours and/or concepts are reflected in neural networks, and grow stronger the more we encounter these links. This is why you press the clutch pedal and change gears without having to think about linking these behaviours, but also why you associate the taste of an orange with the colour orange.

 

Associations like these get built and used constantly, without us necessarily being aware of them. Dan Ariely believes we are the sum of our early decisions – the product of what he calls an arbitrary coherence of choices that we made long ago (or were made for us). As a result, in many cases, we make decisions that are simply the reflection of our initial choices.

These initial decisions become anchors that take root and resonate throughout our later lives much more than we would like to acknowledge. Our associations help us learn new concepts and avoid dangerous situations (e.g. walking through a dark alleyway or touching a hob), but are also what makes us prejudiced and jump to conclusions. They do however also help us make choices, and that’s where it gets interesting for market research. The vast amount of visual as well as factual information available to us when making pretty much any purchase decision is overwhelming, and we use the connections we have already established to help us make our choice. This can be reflected in the use of heuristics and biases, but even if the decision seems pretty rational to us (and we might be able to come up with an explanation for our choice afterwards), our behaviour is strongly influenced by these links and associations. It might be something as simple as picking one bottle over another because the label colour reminds us of our childhood home.

What does this mean for market research?

Traditional ‘asking methods’ such as surveys and focus groups require people to reflect on their behaviour, opinions and decisions as well as predict how they would act in the future. However, most of the time we don’t understand the associations and connections that underlie the decision-making processes. We still try to come up with explanations for our behaviour when asked to reflect on it, but the reasons we give often have little to do with what really drove our decision. In order to understand what drives behaviour, we need to understand what connections between concepts and associations are common. This means exploring and quantifying what concepts are connected with a brand or an advert, and how communications can be used to strengthen positive associations as well as weaken undesirable ones. Because these (often emotional) connections are what can make or break a purchase decision, it is important to explore them, rather than relying solely on the post-rationalisations people come up with when asked about their decision.


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