• Dr. Carl Marci, chief neuroscientist at Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience and one of the pre-conference keynote speakers for RampUp 2017, discusses the crossroads between neuroscience and marketing.

    What is consumer neuroscience?

    Consumer neuroscience is the application of neuroscience technologies and principles to measure nonconscious responses to media and marketing content and creative. The most common technologies used by companies in the  industry include electroencephalogram (EEG), biometrics (heart rate, skin conductance), facial coding, eye tracking, fMRI, and implicit association testing.

    By using these technologies, brands can better understand consumers’ emotional responses, memory activations, and attentional patterns as they occur below conscious awareness, and apply these insights to build stronger connections with their target audiences.

    Why is consumer neuroscience needed in marketing?

    Countless academic studies have concluded that the majority of decisions we make are based on nonconscious, emotional responses. So a lot of what drives our everyday decisions, including what we’ll purchase, watch, and talk about, cannot be measured through traditional survey techniques which only measure the conscious, articulated response.

    Neuroscience can provide granular, second-by-second diagnostic feedback that captures the nonconscious response—what consumers can’t or won’t tell you—and understanding both responses is critical to painting a more complete picture of the consumer and understanding what influences their purchasing behavior.

    For example, Nielsen and the Ad Council used consumer neuroscience to help nonprofit the Shelter Pet Project maximize effectiveness of their ad starring Jules the dog, with the goal of making shelters the first place potential adopters turn to when they’re looking for a pet.

    Nielsen used a combination of EEG and eye-tracking measurements to identify which scenes of the ad did and did not resonate with viewers.

    They found that when Jules was off screen, attention and emotional levels dropped. They also determined that showing Jules, the logo, and the website URL at the end of the ad competed for viewers’ attention causing confusion.

    To capitalize on findings, the team reedited the ad to shorten Jules’s off-screen moments and sharpen the ending, which led to viewers being more consistently engaged. In the first three months after the ad launched, traffic to ShelterPetProject.org increased by 133%—a change that may have real life or death implications for shelter pets.

    Why do emotions matter to marketers?

    We are not rational beings who sometimes have emotion – the truth is, we’re emotional beings who are occasionally rational. Emotions play a factor in everything, and it’s hard to find any category that’s purely rational. Brand choice is not purely based on product attributes. For example, commercials can affect brand image, and how that image projects on your brand identity matters.

    Conscious-feeling states of happy, sad, or ambivalence are just a small portion of our emotional world.  Our nonconscious emotional world is always on, evaluating our environment, filtering the information.  Our five senses take on information, but our emotion-processing systems screen what is relevant or not.  In order to capture a holistic view of consumer response, we must capture both conscious and nonconscious reactions – and only neuroscience can capture that nonconscious response.

    Where does the neuroscience industry stand today?

    The discipline of consumer neuroscience is now getting attention and respect from marketers everywhere. Marketers are beginning to take note of neuroscience and the unique insights these tools can bring.  

    At Nielsen, we now have clients that are adopting neuroscience as part of their standard testing protocol – across a variety of industries and sectors. Packaged goods, financial services, technology, telecom, auto, insurance – as well as their agencies – along with media companies are adapting to incorporate neuroscience in their day-to-day marketing efforts.

    What’s next for consumer neuroscience?

    Over the next few years, we believe consumer neuroscience tools will continue to deliver extraordinary value, and combinations of techniques will be used where appropriate. We’re also going to see more flexibility in wearable devices – wrist-based systems, wireless systems, etc., that are lighter and can be used outside of the lab so that we can extend our ability to study in more natural environments.  

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