Understanding and Appealing to the Consumer Brain

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Neuromarketing delivers in-depth insight into customers' preferences, motivations, and brand loyalties.

Millions of people in our global economy have jobs that depend, in one capacity or another, on communicating with and appealing to human brains. A trillion dollars is spent worldwide on this effort every year. Yet few engaged in that process truly understand how our brains really work-what is attractive to them, how they decide what they like and don't like, and how they decide to buy or not buy the daunting variety of products and services presented for their consideration every day.

But for those of us in the business of applying neuroscience knowledge to the marketing field, consumers do offer clear and reliable answers. However, those answers reside in the deep subconscious level of the brain. To reach and retrieve them, it is necessary to go beyond traditional research methodologies-simply because, by their very nature, they cannot penetrate to that level. That explains why neuromarketing provides the most accurate method to achieve precise, reliable, and actionable consumer insights: it gathers and measures responses directly from the brain.

The brain makes behavior

More than 95 percent of our decision-making processes occur below the threshold of conscious awareness. It stands to reason that if consumers do not have access to the sources of their decisions and behaviors, they can't tell us why they do what they do no matter how often or how cleverly we ask.

For example, if I ask you about something factual, your conscious brain can do a pretty good job of answering my question. But when I ask you how you felt or what you might remember about something you experienced, in the process of answering, your brain actually alters the original information it recorded.

This is a key reason marketers have long been vexed by traditional research methodologies like surveys and focus groups. They know that the results are structurally inexact; subject to errors and influences beyond respondents' and their control. It wasn't until this fact met with two scientific breakthroughs, however, that an improvement to traditional research techniques became possible.

Benefits of EEG

EEG technology applies tiny, extremely-sensitive sensors to capture the minute electrical signals that brainwave activity produces. It is extremely accurate and completely comfortable for respondents. Neuroscience laboratories around the world have been using EEG for decades. When computing power advanced in recent years to the state it has now reached, and signal processing and analysis technologies also made quantum leaps forward, it became possible to capture, process, and analyze this raw brainwave data for market research purposes.

For full-brain coverage, which is the worldwide scientific standard, and the only one suitable for market research, EEG sensors are embedded in a lightweight cap and deployed in high-density arrays. They measure the extremely low-voltage signals emitted by neurological activity at 2,000 times a second at each sensor's location.

In some cases it's possible to combine this full-brain EEG coverage with sophisticated eye-tracking equipment that records exactly where a person is looking while experiencing a stimulus. This correlation provides the most precise and detailed information about how a consumer responds to that stimulus.

Because EEG technology measures at the subconscious level of the brain, very early on in the cognitive process, the data that is captured is free from the kinds of external factors that can distort responses from surveys and focus groups. It gathers knowledge about how consumers truly responded, deep within their subconscious, at the specific milliseconds they experience and react to stimuli-not what they attempt to recall and articulate after the fact.

Fewer respondents, better results

Another advantage neuromarketing provides is the sample sizes required. Sample sizes for neurological testing are one tenth what surveys require. Why? Again, the reason lies in our brains. While there are some key differences between male and female brains, and between younger and older individuals, our brains are far more similar than they are dissimilar. Given that similarity, plus response capture at the subconscious level, it is unnecessary to test large numbers of people to achieve scientifically valid results. That fact also enables testing to be done anywhere in the world, with assurance that the results will be accurate and reliable and will not be affected by factors such as education, language, cultural/ethnic/racial characteristics, and other influences.

Combining these advantages, neuromarketing offers a clear and effective market research solution: accurate measurement of how consumers respond at the deep subconscious level, which is where critical marketing objectives like initial product consideration, purchase intent, and brand loyalty are formed. For those in the business of reaching and appealing to the brain, neuromarketing offers the ultimate advantage: feedback directly from the source.

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About the Author: A.K. Pradeep, Ph.D., is CEO of NeuroFocus, Inc., and author of The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind (Wiley).