Understanding how the brain works is playing an increasingly significant role in marketing communications as marketers strive to improve the effectiveness of their advertising. Consumer neuroscience involves a range of different technologies aimed at measuring consumers’ brain activity in order to analyse subconscious reactions to advertising. These are difficult to assess objectively through conventional research techniques, such as focus groups or online surveys, which rely on conscious responses.
As with many fields of growing popularity, neuroscience-based research in advertising can be subject to hyperbole, which makes it hard to determine what is feasible and what isn’t. So how can marketers use consumer neuroscience to deliver more effective brand marketing? Here are four top tips.
Be clear about your research goals:
Clarify whether your research objective is better addressed via consumer neuroscience or by conventional research. Neuroscience can add real value over traditional methodologies when the research question is about people’s underlying feelings and motivations (rather than their behaviour) or where it’s seeking to understand influences that a person would find hard to articulate; for example, how seeing an ad in different contexts—on TV, online or on mobile devices—can impact the effectiveness of its message.
Get to grips with the methodologies:
Understanding the different consumer neuroscience methods on offer is an important factor to commissioning suitable research for your brand’s campaign. For instance, fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) is fantastic for giving a detailed 3-D picture of the brain but it involves placing participants in a machine, an unfamiliar situation which will inevitably affect the way they respond. FMRI also can’t capture very rapid changes in response because it measures variations in blood flow, which happens more slowly than other reactions in the brain (e.g. changes in electrical activity).
Methodologies measuring electrical response, such as steady state topography and electroencephalogram (EEG) technologies can’t look as deeply into the brain but they offer a much more natural environment for respondents and will track fast changes in brain response. Therefore, these methods are more suitable for studying the impact of TV ads on a second-by-second basis in a setting similar to a home.
Ask for evidence:
Take time to review the evidence behind a company’s methodology. For instance, how does a company measure what it says it can measure? Look for evidence that has been published and peer-reviewed. Can the company demonstrate that the metrics they use deliver actionable insight that can translate into results in the real world? Seek information from independent sources
Neuroscience requires a big enough sample to be representative of the target audience. Everyone’s brain is structured in the same way, but people all have different thoughts and feelings, so a sample of 10 or 20 people is rarely going to be big enough to accurately reflect the natural range of response within a given audience.
Involve your creative agencies:
Once the research goal and ideal methodology have been established, involving the right people will help everyone get the most out of the research. If you’re considering using neuroscience to investigate creative work, involve the agency so the study findings can be used in the best possible way. Neuroscience lends itself to a constructive approach – it’s less about “scoring” a piece of creative than about understanding how it’s working. Therefore, working closely with the creatives will ally their skills with the detailed findings of research to hone the final product.
Originally published here