The best that marketing researchers have been able to do was use tools such as surveys to ask participants to self-report on their emotional reactions to brands. At the end of the day, many of us are just not very good at reflecting on our internal mental processes.
We may not be able to put our feelings into words accurately; asking consumers to reflect may even change the experience itself. We thus asked ourselves: can we know what consumers think about brands by just looking into their brains? Next, we placed the participants in an MRI scanner and asked them to recall the mental images they had constructed while they saw the 14 brand logos.
How do we decode the brain responses of the participants during this brand image visualization exercise?
Here is the twist: after the brand logo task, we also showed participants a huge set of pictures depicting different social settings: people working in an office, partying with friends, being intimate with a romantic partner, and being with family. In this way, we created a neural profile for each brand and participant. Notably, these associations were acquired without us ever asking participants directly what their associations with those brands were. Marketers can flexibly adapt the method to their own market context by selecting types of imagery they deem relevant for assessing brand image.
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Therefore, this method could enable marketing communicators to see in advance which brands they can cross-brand with. In another study that our lab has done, we look into how our brains process video content.
Because more and more firms use storytelling videos to engage their clients, marketers are in need for emotionally engaging video content. The question we want to answer is: How do we know if the audience is engaging with the video? For both types of stimuli we found that when the video content is more engaging for participants, their brains tend to react in the same way.
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Moreover, when the brains of consumers react in a similar way such videos were also more memorable. When we further examine where in the brain we can locate this sync-up effect, an even more interesting finding emerges. It turns out that such effect is localized in brain areas called temporal lobes and cerebellum.
These areas are known to be responsible for understanding narratives and emotions.
One implication of this discovery is that instead of adding visual stunts such as car chases or explosions, it makes more sense for content creators to make videos more emotionally resonant and narratively accessible. The idea of deploying neuromarketing can be both tantalizing and disorientating, given past hypes and controversies. In the beginning era of neuromarketing, early findings from neuroscience easily led to overly broad interpretations.
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More than a decade ago, an op-ed on New York Times alleged that brain scans revealed people love their smartphones the way they love their spouses; despite the eye-catching claim it turns out evidence did not support such interpretation. Nowadays, with more robust research and advanced data analysis, consumer neuroscience could potentially add actionable insights to existing research methods.
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To use our work as an example, we have demonstrated that brain measurements can reveal how consumers feel about brands and engage with video content without them telling us so. As such, we could use brain measurements, for example, to create a moment-by-moment neural readout during a long video, based on which content creators could quickly identify high and low point of audience engagement and optimize their editing. All available episodes total. Upcoming episodes 6 new. How having a purpose brings a clearer pathway through the dark and difficult winter days.
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