Neuromarketing – using medical technologies to study the brain’s responses to marketing stimuli – is gaining traction and credibility.
Kudos to Jack Neff for his recent Advertising Age article, “Snake Oil No More – Neuromarketing Has Arrived.” An informative overview of this more-credible-than-it-used-do-be discipline. Here are few quick take-aways and excerpts…
- Neuro research emerged because people in surveys and focus groups often don’t say what they really think or feel or will do. They base responses and predicted behavior on rationalizations that don’t reflect how they really make decisions, as shown by behavioral economics studies.
- Procter & Gamble and other marketers now have neuroscientists in-house.
- Nielsen now has 16 neuro labs globally, including five in the U.S. Nielsen is also launching a Behavioral Science Institute to help teach marketers how decisions really get made (which may encourage more neuro research).
- A Mars study in 2016 of 110 TV ads showed that neuro research by MediaScience predicted sales impact from ads accurately 78 percent of the time, versus survey research predicting results only 58 percent of the time (which isn’t much better than guessing).
- Sample sizes tend to be smaller in neuro studies – say 30-150, but that won’t economically reach the statistically-significant sample sizes that surveys do.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG), measuring electrical signals at the scalp
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), tracks blood flow to see what parts of the brain are activated by ads, but it’s expensive and uncomfortable for test subjects
- Eye Tracking and Facial Coding (monitoring how expressions change in response to ads)
- Galvanic Skin Response (changes in electrical resistance caused by an emotional reaction)
- Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), which employs headgear similar to EEGs that can track what part of the brain is active
- There is no “buy button” in the brain that can be activated by ads, according to Joe Willke, president of consumer neuroscience at Nielsen. A big spike in brain activity may just signal confusion, not intent to buy.
- (Surprise, surprise…) Triggering favorable emotions can beat appealing to reason in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, says Elise Temple, VP of Neuroscience at Nielsen. But emotional ads don’t necessarily trigger emotion more than ads built on rational appeals.
- Nielsen has been willing to validate its neuro research against its databases of sales data and survey-based tools such as Bases concept testing, says Willke. Marketers can compare neuro-based predictions to what prior survey-based copy or concept tests predicted (and how accurate those past predictions were).