When digital and traditional marketers face a debate about whose advertising philosophy is superior (which would likely get more heated than an argument between NSYNC and Backstreet Boys), one of the things digital marketers could hang over the heads of traditional marketers is their ability to measure the performance of a campaign – and the opponent’s inability to do the same.
Whether it’s views, social shares, scroll depth, subscriptions, leads, and sometimes even ROI, digital marketers can measure it all. While we have access to a laundry list of metrics, we still can’t measure what is arguably the most important indicator of a campaign’s performance – emotional response.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to see a surge in traffic just like the next blogger. In an industry where skimming a page for 10 seconds is considered a view, leaving your desk to pick up string cheese results in five minutes on the page and 50% of web traffic and engagement is from bots and Chinese click farms claim digital metrics are a surefire way to measure the emotional impact of your content.
But what if we could actually measure the emotional response? What if we could place a resonance value next to a piece of content, just like we do with views?
Interestingly, there are companies out there leading this movement developing technology that can measure people’s emotional response to your content without the need to draw blood or scan their brains.
What is neuromarketing?
Neuromarketing combines neuroscience and marketing to help brands gauge the emotional response of their current and future marketing campaigns. To this end, companies like Immersion Neuroscience and Spark Neuro have developed technologies that can measure specific neurochemical and physiological responses that both signal emotional engagement and consume marketing content.
In 2017, Immersion Neuroscience developed the INBand, a bracelet that allows you to measure your brain’s oxytocin levels by tracking the cadence of your vagus – a nerve that controls your heartbeat.
Oxytocin is known as an empathy chemical. As it flows through your brain, you relate to, care for, and feel the urge to help others more. And when your brain is synthesizing the chemical while consuming marketing materials, it is one of the best indicators of emotional engagement, and therefore quality content.
In 2018, Immersion Neuroscience wanted to compare people’s oxytocin levels while watching Superbowl ads with their self-reported preference for the same ads. So they hooked eight people to the INBand and measured their neurochemical responses to 17 ads from the 2018 Superbowl. They then compared the immersion values of each ad with their ranking on USA Today’s Ad Meter, which is rated by the public.
What they found was pretty shocking – their results were almost the exact opposite of USA Today’s Ad Meter rankings. In fact, the ad that generated the most emotional engagement in the study was ranked the least popular ad on USA Today’s Ad Meter.
The results from Immersion Neuroscience suggest that knowing what the brain is actually resonating with is far more important than knowing what people are saying they like, especially when testing ideas in focus groups. Participants tend to protect their true opinion from groupthink and the urge to please figures of authority.
In order to accurately measure the emotional resonance of our content, and hence its ability to grab people’s attention, make them feel and force them to act, we need to focus more on neuroscience and less on web metrics and face-to-face interviews.
Neuromarketing research commonly uses either brain scanning technology or physiological measurements to assess subconscious preferences of consumers and can help inform advertising, product development, or marketing materials.
This is usually done by brain scanning – either with fMRI or EEG technology – or physiological tracking, including eye movement measurements, face coding, or measurements related to body temperature and heart rate.
fMRI and EEG technology have different strengths. For example Dr. Roeland Dietvorst, Scientific Director at Alpha, said the Neuromarketing Science and Business Association“We usually use the EEG to measure dynamic stimuli such as videos, TV shows, commercials, and online user experiences. In such cases, it’s interesting to see how the brain reacts moment to moment. We mainly use fMRI for static stimuli.” , such as packaging design, campaign slogans, payouts, outdoor news. “
Measuring physiological tracking is usually much easier. Tools are available to the market including FaceReader from Nolduswho have favourited facial expressions, or various Eye tracking software.
While using neuroscience to learn about your marketing strategy is an ideal and exciting opportunity, the tactic still seems better suited for a time when Black Mirror’s storylines are a reality.
In fact, one of the main questions people ask is, “Is neuromarketing even ethical?”
Let’s address this question below.
While the purpose of neuromarketing is to determine how consumers react to brands or campaigns, a fairly innocuous study does not convince everyone that it is ethical.
The study “Is Neuromarketing Ethical? Consumers Say Yes. Consumers Say No” looks at ethical issues such as: “Will brands be able to influence buyer decisions too much?” and “Is Neuromarketing Manipulative?”
Neuromarketing is not unethical in and of itself. However, it is important that companies adhere to a high ethical standard when researching their consumers.
For example, brands should not intentionally advertise anything that is harmful, misleading, or illegal. In addition, you shouldn’t investigate minors to see how you can hook them up to a product.
Neuromarketing should be used to create effective ads and remove ads that just don’t work, and that’s all.
The most important ethical questions have more to do with your product or service and less with the way in which you are marketing it. If ever in doubt, ask yourself if the product or service is good for the customer.
In fact, neuromarketing has already made its way into the content space. Netflix, Hulu, and some TV networks use Neurotracker to predict how successful their shows will be – with an accuracy of 84% – and this method could soon penetrate the marketing industry.
To help you imagine a world where neuromarketing is rampant, here are five handy ways brands can use neuroscience to nail their marketing into place.
Examples of neuromarketing
- Brands can tell more compelling stories.
- Businesses can save millions of dollars on ads.
- Companies can hold more engaging conferences.
- Brands can design more effective ads.
- Brands can sell more with FOMO.
- Brands can make sure their packaging is effective.
- Companies can determine the right price for a product or service.
- Brands can rate the website’s performance.
1. Brands can tell more compelling stories.
When Shane Snow, author, journalist, and co-founder of Contently, first tried the INBand to see what neuromarketing was all about, Immersion Neuroscience CEO Dr. Paul Zak, this advertisement for him:
After Shane saw the ad, it started tearing up. But when he wiped away his tears before Dr. Zak could see it, he realized it was a lost cause – the INBand had already revealed that the ad made him cry.
At each point on the ad that the father is rejected, the corresponding points on the graph show that Shane experienced an emotional outburst for developing empathy for him. And at the end of the ad, you’ll notice a corresponding surge in emotion in the graph, which shows exactly where he cried. The emotional impact of the ad even blended into Shane’s reality, making him feel empathetic towards the father after the ad ended, as evidenced by the gradual fading of the last spike.
Shane’s emotional response to this ad suggests that telling great stories full of conflict, surprise, and emotion is one of the best ways to trigger the release of oxytocin to emotionally engage your audience and ultimately get them to care take care of your brand.
In short, great stories are about overcoming adversity and how this journey changes people. “Little Moments” tells the story of a father who is so desperate to bond with his teenage daughter, but ultimately can’t make it. And by the end of the ad, her constant rejection clearly weighs on him, causing him to lie down on her bed. But then he sees all of the photos they’ve taken together over the years above her bed, which makes him realize that she always had a connection with him – he just didn’t know.
2. Businesses can save millions of dollars on ads.
In the same study of the 2018 Superbowl ads mentioned above, Immersion Neuroscience found M & M’s “Human” to be the second most important ad on their list.
As you can probably predict, “Human” sparked the most emotional engagement when the truck plowed Danny DeVito into the shopping cart. Seconds after that shocking and hilarious climax, Immersion Neuroscience found that emotional engagement was waning, suggesting that M&Ms could have done the last 10 seconds of that ad – and saved over $ 1.5 million.
3. Companies can hold more engaging conferences.
At a major global conference in Houston last year, Immersion Neuroscience provided INBands to attendees and measured their immersion during certain presentations. They discovered that incisive, energetic conversations generated the most emotional engagement.
On the flip side, longer conversations need to be about a strong narrative or else they may fail to grab the audience’s attention. In addition, they found that the brain responds well to multimedia presentations due to the wide variety of stimuli.
Based on these findings, Immersion Neuroscience believes that tracking attendees’ emotional engagement during presentations can help companies refine their conferences by avoiding boring conversations and even giving attendees relevant presentation recommendations.
4. Brands can design more effective ads.
The main goal of neuromarketing is to get some insight into what would make an ad more effective. Roger Dooley did just that in a study with an ad for baby products.
To find out if an ad was effective, Dooley used a heat map to see where viewers were looking. Read the text? Just look at pictures?
In the ad below, the baby is looking straight from the side. Unsurprisingly, viewers love the image of the baby. Most people pay more attention to the baby’s picture than to the headline and copy.
However, when the baby “looks” at the headline and the copy, the viewers have started paying more attention to the copy. That’s because people see what the models see. With the picture above with the baby looking straight at us, you weren’t directed to look at anything else, so you probably stopped looking.
Ultimately, this neuromarketing study helped create a more effective ad. In your future ads, make sure your models see exactly what you want the viewer to see.
5. Brands can sell more with FOMO.
Fear of missing out, also known as loss aversion, is a common tactic in marketing and sales.
In fact, in one study, 62% of consumers were more likely to gamble than lose their money.
Here is the scenario given to consumers:
If you got $ 50 you’d rather:
- Keep $ 30.
- Play with a 50/50 chance of keeping or losing the entire $ 50.
When an experimenter asked the test subjects this question, 43% of the test subjects decided to play. Then the options were changed to:
- Lose $ 20.
- Play with a 50/50 chance of keeping or losing the entire $ 50.
With this minor change, the number of players increased by 44%.
In fact, when more studies like this were done, 100% of the subjects gambled more when the other choice was considered a loss.
The lesson from neuromarketing is that framing will have a huge impact on people’s behavior. And people are loss averse.
You can implement this method by changing the language in your ads. If you can present the result of not buying your product or service as a loss, you can sell more.
6. Brands can make sure their packaging is effective.
Brands might consider using neuromarketing to measure viewers’ emotional responses to different packaging designs and determine which packaging option generates the highest levels of positional emotion and engagement.
As we will explain in more detail in the section below, that is exactly what Frito-Lay did after using neuromarketing to determine which type of packaging was most appealing to women. The company concluded that packaging with healthy ingredients on the front produced a better response in women. As a result, the packaging has been redesigned to show pictures of dressings or condiments that highlight the natural ingredients in Frito-Lay snacks.
7. Companies can determine the right price for a product or service.
Pricing is all about psychology.
For example, University of Florida marketing professors Chris Janiszewski and Dan Uy wanted to evaluate whether consumers really rate a product as cheaper when it costs $ 19.95 instead of $ 20. They led one Series of experiments and found people “Create mental measuring sticks that are gradually removed from each opening bid. The size of the steps depends on the opening bid.”
In other words, if you see a product priced at $ 19.95, you might want it to cost $ 19.75 or $ 19.50, but you’ll be thinking in nickel and dime. However, if you see a product priced at the nearest full dollar – say, $ 20 – you might want a price of $ 19 or $ 18 instead, which takes the range further from the real price.
Similarly, you might consider evaluating consumer price perception using neuromarketing. If you ask a focus group if they think your product is fair-priced, they may be cautious about admitting the truth based on groupthink. Neuromarketing can therefore be a useful measure of the unconscious reactions of consumers to certain prices.
8. Brands can rate website performance.
In the Roger Dooley ad described above, Dooley used a heat map to determine the most effective version of an ad.
The same can apply to your entire website. Consider using eye movement measurement technology or other thermal mapping software to keep track of which areas of your website are most engaging to viewers and which areas or pages are the least effective.
You can use neuromarketing to measure responses to the website’s layout, color scheme, text, or even font size.
Companies that use neuromarketing
It’s important to note that some of these brands tested neuromarketing years ago and were developed back in 2009. Neuroscience is slow to evolve, however, so we can still learn helpful and relevant lessons from each of these examples.
Microsoft wanted Test the effectiveness of his campaigns on the Xbox platform – and specifically, the performance of Microsoft’s 30-second and 60-second TV ads compared to in-game ads on Xbox.
To conduct this research, Microsoft worked with neuromarketing companies Mediabrands and EmSenseand fitted subjects with a headband that could track brain activity, breathing rate, head movement, heart rate, blink rate, and skin temperature. The company then showed three types of ads to test subjects – a 30-second Kia-Soul TV ad, a 60-second Kia-Soul TV ad, and a Kia-Soul in-game ad.
The results? TV commercials caused the most brain activity in the first half of the commercials. The Xbox Live ads, on the other hand, caused maximum brain activity on the replay of the Kia Soul car, suggesting viewers will remember the ad on Xbox better.
These results were supported by more traditional measurement data. For example, the Xbox Live ad delivered a brand recall rate of 90% unassisted, compared to 78% for the traditional TV commercial.
Frito-Lay worked with Juniper Park, an advertising agency, in 2009 to develop a campaign that would appeal to more women. Plus Juniper Park used neuromarketing to study women’s brainsand found that the hippocampus – a memory and emotion center – is larger in women, suggesting that women are more likely to look for advertising figures to identify with.
Juniper Park research also found that women may have a stronger association between decision making and feelings of guilt. After Juniper Park examined this research with NeuroFocus, they tested various displays to see how women reacted.
Ultimately, the ad agency-approved woman has often felt guilty, especially when it comes to eating habits. For this reason, Frito-Lay shouldn’t try to get rid of this guilt. Instead, the brand should highlight their healthy ingredients in their snacks and showcase spices or dressings on the packaging to demonstrate the health quality and avoid the debt factor entirely.
3. The Shelter Pet Project
Nielson Consumer Neuroscience worked with the Ad Council and The Shelter Pet Project to evaluate the unconscious response of consumers to the “Meet A Shelter Pet” ad. The team used EEG and eye tracking measurements for the A / B test the impact of the shelter’s ads.
The results showed that faces – including a dog – appear on the screen increased the emotional engagement of the audiencet, and when the dog was off the screen, attention fell. To mitigate these issues and get more viewers and engagement, the team reduced the dog’s off-screen time and cleaned up the end.
The Shelter Pet Project saw 133% more website visits and 28% more in Pet Finder database searches as a result of neuromarketing.
4. German financial institution
In 2017 a The German financial institution worked with Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience to find out which version of their ad gained the most trust. To do this, the team used EEG measurements to rate how emotional viewers felt when viewing two versions of an ad.
The only difference? One ad played classical music while the other played more modern notes.
Participants were then asked to complete a task to assess how well the ad had subconsciously communicated messages. The results showed that the traditional music outperformed the more modern version and created a feeling of “trust” in the audience. It is likely that classical instruments are associated with a sense of stability compared to modern music, which evokes a sense of excitement and risk.
Although we live in an age of data overload where you can measure almost anything, Google Analytics will never be able to accurately gauge the most important element of your marketing campaign – the ability to make your audience feel like they are feeling something.
Fortunately, the neuromarketing field is rapidly evolving and its technology is becoming more affordable and practical for marketers today, which hopefully leads to its widespread use tomorrow.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated for completeness.