#WorldMentalHealthDay: How do the Brain and Body React to a Creative by Calm?

By Nina Miller


“You’re doing better than you think.”


“If you can’t have a good day, just have a day.”


“Step by step. Breath by breath.”


On Monday, October 10, @Calm released these tweets for #WorldMentalHealthDay — a day to recognize, educate, and advocate for mental health awareness. Calm is a software company with a mission of making the world happier and healthier through meditation and sleep.


One of this company’s biggest supporters (and most effective ambassadors) is Lebron James. Together, they released an ad called Greatness Lies on the Other Side of Sleep about the importance of sleep for the mind, body, and soul. So, in honor of World Mental Health Day, we decided to test it.


At Neuro-Insight, we looked to the consumer subconscious to see how effectively Calm was able to communicate their message and spread awareness of their brand. Our patented technology, Steady State Topography (SST), allows us to measure second-by-second brain responses that breach the conscious and get to the root of human emotion and decision-making. Our technology allows us to understand exactly what consumers are encoding into long-term memory. Memory matters because what we subconsciously decide to store in memory today becomes the base for our decision-making in the future. As we explore what consumers are encoding into memory, we also look to the brain to tell us why a particular event or message is being stored – for this we leverage key diagnostic metrics including approach / withdrawal, emotional intensity, and engagement.


Since the mission of Calm (and this ad) is so necessary, we wanted this ad to perform well. Higher SST scores in memory at key moments would mean more Calm app downloads and more people focusing on sleep and mental health. Within the first few seconds, that is exactly what we found:


1) Lebron was a great choice for the job.


As the screen fills with a solo shot of Lebron, both detail* and global** memory metrics spike. People recognize his face and instantly become intrigued. He creates strong interest right off the bat that follows him throughout the ad — A great challenge in the marketing sphere is celebrity-brand pairing. We’ve seen countless ads fail because of the negative perception of either the brand or celebrity; however, we consider this one to be a massive success. What makes it so effective is that fact that Lebron is a world-famous athlete known for his physical health. But he is the first to say that a huge part (if not the biggest part) of his success is sleep. Lebron takes care of his brain just as much as he cares for his body.


2) Sound and music matter.


Since our analysis of Calm’s Greatness Lies on the Other Side of Sleep is completely based on neuroscience, and Neuro-Insight is full of creative thinkers, we decided to investigate the effects of this ad’s sound on viewers’ physiology. An important technique in meditation (and cognition at large) is auditory beat stimulation. Our bodies are smart and constantly adapt based on sounds in the environment.


In the background of this ad, there is a simple beat playing at around 80 beats per minute (bpm). To put that in context, the resting heartbeat of a human is between 60 and 90 bpm and leans toward the lower end of the scale during sleep. Stretching, meditation, yoga, etc. often recruit the help of music around the 80-bpm mark to induce calmness and encourage you to breathe deeper and slower. That is why you might feel relaxed and at ease when watching the ad (despite the funky, fluctuating graphics).


3) End branding crushed.


Our ultimate test for ad success is the effectiveness of end branding. Do viewers leave with a lasting, subconscious memory of the brand? In this creative, Calm’s logo and call to action — “download now” — perform very well. We predict this is because of the movement (Calm is written out and then slides to the left) and Lebron’s inspirational quote in the background: “Greatness lies on the other side of sleep.” Viewers encode this scene, message, and logo into long-term memory — the key to future in-market behavior.


Though World Mental Health Day has passed, it is important we start taking care of our minds every day. Ads like Greatness Lies on the Other Side of Sleep are an important step towards Calm’s mission: to help heal this world breath by breath. Our analysis proves how memorably Calm was able to deliver on their mission with a highly effective creative. So in honor of World Mental Health Day, keep calm and carry on.



* Detail memory encoding measures the consumers’ processing of detail elements in the ad (key messaging, brand logo, call to action, etc.). High scores indicate consumers are actively storing information which correlates with a high likelihood of future action.
** Global memory encoding measures the consumers’ processing of brand thematic elements in the ad (narrative structure, visual style, music, etc.).