In his talk ‘Datafication of decision making towards cognitive marketing’, Professor Yi-ke Guo, Director of the Data Science Institute, told us that as consumers, we are exposed to over two million adverts during our lifetime and that over 50% of all our purchasing decisions are made unconsciously.
The unconscious purchase is usually entrained, the easy option or by force of habit, yet traditional research methods focus on conscious and often post-rationalised or influenced responses by consumers.
With that in mind it is clear that brands need to look again at how they understand consumers and do something special to stand out. Even if people do cast their eyes over your advertising messages, whether they take any notice or process the information is a different matter. Furthermore, how they feel about the message is crucial to whether it influences their buying behaviour or brand perception. So while it may be easy for brands to keep track of what we buy, it’s much harder to figure out why, and then go on to change habits and perceptions.
Why we measure the brain’s response to stimuli
Neuromarketing is an emerging field where neuroscience techniques can help us to understand those hidden elements of the decision process. Professor Guo took an in-depth look at using the data from our neuroscience responses to marketing – what it means, how we can use it and a future new approach to how we go about marketing.
Neuroscience studies help in understanding how the brain responds to different stimuli and making decisions. It seeks to answer questions such as; How do we decide? Why do we buy what we buy? Why do we remember certain things and not others? And how can we write so that the brain can understand clearly?
In addition, neuroscience provides fresh thinking and new viewpoints, as it has a very different perspective from traditional research. For example, it can measure the lower level effects of designs (such as print ads) and videos (such as TV and web ads) in terms of people’s attention, emotion and memory responses.
Case example – the Valentine’s experiment
In a small-scale pilot study for the purposes of demonstrating the power of the Data Observatory for the launch of Jaywing’s collaboration with the Data Science Institute, together we took six 2016 Valentine’s Day adverts and tested them using the Data Observatory as a controlled research environment. We chose three jewellery adverts from similar brands, two online card retailers and a condom and sex products brand. We showed three each to two groups of 10 different subjects individually while capturing their brain function using an electroencephalograph (EEG). We also asked a variety of questions before and after showing the ads to determine stated attitudes to Valentine’s Day, the brands in question and the adverts consumed.
We wanted to know whether factors such as gender, age, being in a relationship, sexual orientation, attitudes to Valentine’s Day and brand preferences made a difference to their brain signals during exposure to the advertising.
While this is a pilot, we found some interesting insights. We were able to dig deep into the output of the EEG to analyse the subjects’ responses second by second. The data confirmed some gender stereotypes (men like sex and looking at attractive women, women like romance and the anticipation of sex) and that humour and a relatable story engage audiences.
But we also found that:
· subjects showed different brain activity from their post-testing stated preferences;
· even though advertising about sex is the most exciting, cards are more exciting than jewellery;
· the timing of the introduction of a brand logo or blatant product shot may be relevant to the point at which a subject switches off, especially when they have a pre-conceived dislike for the brand in question.
More importantly, as we shared our findings with each other, not only did we develop interesting hypotheses to investigate in the existing data, we also developed lots of new ideas for additional detailed lines of enquiry.
Why neuroscience is the ‘new now’ for marketers
The pilot study provided a glimpse into its data science powered potential in marketing. Professor Guo told us: “Neuromarketing is an exciting research field with the potential to make a huge impact on our society and the marketing industry as a whole. Neuroscience techniques make it possible to visualise the workings of the human brain in unprecedented detail and precision. With an objective window into the working of the brain, marketers could neatly bypass many of the problems associated with traditional research techniques to improve marketing response significantly.”
Professor Guo went on to explain how the Jaywing sponsored research will use the Data Science Institute’s state of the art data observatory with neuroscience technology, such as EEGs and powerful eye trackers, to collect and analyse millions of data points. The research is designed to determine a framework to predict how different people will react to different stimuli, both in the moment and long-term and will look at behaviour and attitudinal change over time.
Jaywing is actively seeking client opportunities to take part in the research. Research may be smaller scale or longer term, will ideally be designed to make large-scale change to behaviour or attitudes, such as major shifts in brand perception or cultural beliefs and cover a range of media.
Do let us know if you are interested in participating, whether you are currently working with us on such projects or have been inspired to explore a new angle, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, if you would like to dig a little deeper into this exciting research field then please visit our dedicated Jaywing Futures website to find out more about our collaboration with Imperial College London and read further content.