• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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When neuroscience can help marketing communications


Following on from the recent columns exploring neuroscience in marketing, today we look at how exactly neuroscience can help marketers. When should you use it?

Firstly, when testing sensitive materials. Qualitative and traditional survey methods are most vulnerable to distortion when sensitive material is involved. Methods that don’t rely on explicit questions can reveal unstated attitudes more effectively.

Secondly, when exploring abstract or “higher order” ideas. Consumers often find it difficult to express abstract ideas at the heart of the positioning of many brands. Implicit association methods are useful to probe for ideas that participants might be too self-conscious to verbalise, or unable to articulate.

Thirdly, when trying to understand the transient responses to ads or brand experiences. Consumers are great at talking about the gist of an ad or brand, but they may not be able to explain how they got there. Techniques like eye-tracking or brainwave measurement can help researchers fill in the blanks by identifying the focus of attention and illustrating the highs and lows of emotional and cognitive response to a piece of creative.

And finally, they can shed new insights into understanding consumers’ feelings. When questions are framed correctly, consumers can talk about their feelings in response to surveys and qualitative research. But neuroscience-based methods can add an additional level of detail about the timing of these responses and their origins.

Our experience in researching and using these methods has suggested the following best practices:

Be critical. The technology can be alluring, but ask the same questions that you would ask of any conventional research technique. Request proof. Go along to fieldwork or take the tests yourself to see how realistic the results are.

Look for experience. This is a complex area, so you want to be sure that your supplier is really familiar with these techniques and the science underlying them. An empirical understanding of what works and what doesn’t is important to understand claim versus realityand when neuroscience adds the most value.

Integrate. Neuroscience-based methods do not revealthe “inner truth.” Rather, they provide additional perspective on participants’ responses to communication. It is only when this perspective is combined with others that greater insight is revealed. Our experience at Millward Brown suggests that in the future, neuroscience-based research will be a standard tool in the researcher’stoolkit, but it won’t be the only tool. Neuroscience techniques on their own can’t fully explain consumers’responses. The most complete understanding will come from integrating information rather than looking at one perspective alone, and using the right tool at the right time.

Mike works with MillwardBrown Nigeria

Mike Umogun