A few years ago, I made a little pocket change by participating in a test at the New York City offices of a neuromarketing company. The company claims it can provide key insights about customers that traditional marketing techniques cannot, by literally getting inside their heads.
How is that, you ask? It utilizes electroencephalography (EEG), eye tracking, and biometrics such as galvanic skin response (GSR) to obtain insights into customers’ conscious and subconscious feelings, emotions, and preferences.
From a practical standpoint, it means someone puts dozens of sensors on your head, sits you in front of a video screen in a darkened room, and asks you to click a button every time you see a certain image. In my case, it was a blue frog -- an annoying little creature that I became so used to seeing pop up that I stopped clicking the button.
Then I fell asleep -- apparently rendering much of my data useless and confirming my long-time suspicions that there was something wrong with my brain. How can you fall asleep with a bunch of blue frogs on a screen?
There were other things, too, of course: advertisements for multiple products. I suspect the real test was discovering what, if anything, happened in my head when I watched these ads for a bank, a retail store, and a certain brand of cookie. I like cookies more than banks, so I suspect my reaction to that ad scored the most brainwave activity.
The company that paid me $75 to participate in this testing claims the insights it gathers from the brains of volunteers like me are more accurate than traditional focus group responses as they are gleaned directly from the brain and are therefore uncontaminated by cognitive bias. It also claims that its methodology allows it to access the subconscious desires that cannot be expressed by the consumer.
Neuromarketing has only been around about 10 years, but it's drawing a lot of interest from data scientists. The goal is to fuse scientific analysis of the brain through EEG sensors and fMRI scans with the goal of enhancing advertising messages.
As Alister Frost, ex-head of digital for Microsoft and current freelance digital consultant, explains:
Advances in neuroscience are teaching us how the human brain works, allowing us to glimpse deep inside our skulls to examine how advertising and marketing messages affect our brains. I call this ‘Little Data’ because it exposes many of the little things that happen in our minds, usually unconsciously, that may make or break the success of any marketing campaign.
In October, SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), a leader in eye tracking technology, and Emotiv, a pioneer in brain computer interface neurotechnology, launched an integrated solution for neuromarketing, according to a press release.
The solution combines a remote eye tracker and a special headset to measure both data streams, including data on emotional engagement.
Just recently, Vevo, an all-premium music video and entertainment platform, released a study that contends advertising associated with music videos is more impactful than ads served up via online TV and traditional TV programming.
According to Vevo’s "Music Video vs. TV Neuroscience Research Study," conducted in partnership with Universal McCann, music videos rank above online TV and traditional TV. Viewers better remember and connect with the ads accompanying the programming because they feel a more intense emotional connection to them.
You'd hardly expect to hear anything else from a company that specializes in music videos. But it is interesting, nonetheless, from the standpoint of neuromarketing. The report noted:
Using a brain-imaging technology known as Steady State Topography, Neuro-Insight wired the noggins of 100 study participants and recorded data from the areas of their brains that relate to everything from like and dislike to attention to detail to emotional intensity while the subjects viewed music videos from the likes of Beyoncé, Skrillex, and Nirvana and TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, The Big Bang Theory, and New Girl as well as the advertising inserted within all of the aforementioned programming.
How do you feel about advertisers probing your brain for deep data insight? Would you be willing to participate in neuromarketing research? I have to warn you that there is a downside: The dollops of lotion they use to attach the sensors leave your hair a greasy mess.