This time of year is always a period of key reflection on trends we feel will occupy the mind of marketers. Digital agility? Intelligent social strategy? Anything programmatic? All of these feature in the Warc’s Toolkit 2015 Trends Report (produced in association with Deloitte). However, tucked away at the end is one that is interesting (at least for me) simply because research techniques don’t always get the limelight - that of neuromarketing.
Neuromarketing has been in the background as far as I can remember since I’ve been a researcher - ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride of the research world. Developed by psychologists at Harvard University in 1990, it is based on the premise that the major thinking part of human activity (over 90%), including emotion, takes place in the subconscious.
So, while we can understand what’s going on in our consumers’ heads for conscious behaviours using conventional qual and quant techniques, there lies great potential if we can harness techniques that can effectively tap into our subconscious brain activity. So far, so simple. However, achieving reliability in said techniques hasn’t been easy and the dollars involved were often prohibitive. Back then, sizeable equipment often located in laboratory settings tended to produce results that were challenging to interpret in any clear and actionable marketing sense.
However, the WARC report points out that much has changed even in the last few years. Costs have significantly fallen together with contraction of research turnaround times to supply key insights. In regards to ad testing which remains very much the heartland for current neuro work, it has now become viable for neuro to be an additional tool in the marketers kit bag. Sophistication of equipment has markedly shifted – knowing what to focus on in the context of the wider white noise of our brain activity has been ever-increasingly refined. And thankfully, the ergonomics of current generation equipment is streets ahead of earlier models.
The value of the neuro approach has been the way it has allowed us to build on our existing approach to evaluating consumer impact of sponsorship activity to understand which key moments of sponsorship assets activity (be it billboards, play-ons etc) that are working hardest for us. The neuro approach supplements intuition and accumulated industry experience with robust quantification of sponsorship asset performance.
Seeing the peaks and troughs of memory encoding (as the closest proxy to purchase intent) second-by-second enables us to how activity is working hardest. And it’s these killer moments which we can ensure get carried through to optimise subsequent sponsorship activity. Having both together gives a picture that that neither can give in isolation.
Whether neuromarketing finally becomes the bride in 2015 remains to be seen. However, it is certainly true that it will be a far more lively member of the marketing party.
By Carl Mclean
Head of insights at OMD