Humanizing the Customer, via Neuromarketing

Emotion influences our personal relationships, business choices, and buying decisions. That’s emotion in the moment — situational and reactive — as well as attitudes and expectations formed over lifetimes of experiences and interactions.

Research and insights professionals apply text and sentiment analysis to mine, classify, and quantify opinion and emotion, drawing on surveys and customer interactions and online and social sources. The latest Greenbook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) report places social-media analysis and text analytics research use at 48% and 45% respectively, with total interest at 76% and 72%, lagging only two data-collection mechanisms, mobile surveys and online communities. Yet we need other, complementary methods to create a complete picture. In particular, “neuroscience and behavioral science research has begun to fuel new techniques for affecting human emotions,” according to customer experience authority Bruce Temkin. While GRIT-reported uptake of neuromarketing, applying neuroscience, is relatively low, only 17% with 20% considering, neuro complements text, speech, and behavioral analysis.

Neuroscience and Decision Insight

Diana Lucaci, True Impact Marketing
Diana Lucaci, True Impact Marketing

Diana Lucaci, founder of True Impact Marketing in Toronto, is a neuroscience practitioner. Her company applies functional Magnetic Resolution Imaging (fMRI) to measure blood-flow to areas of the brain that are responsible for decision making. Electroencephalogram (EEG) measurement provides real-time, immediate readings of brain electrical signals, and eye-tracking is a complementary method that “helps correlate the emotional, attention, or memory activity with the visual focus on the advertisement.”

“Ninety percent of all decisions are made at a subconscious level,” according to Diana. “Transcending language or cultural barriers, neuroscience adds an accurate and predictive scientific perspective to business.” So True Impact aims to “improve the marketing equation and reveal new business strategies, using neural and bio metrics of customer emotion and preference.”

Neuro methods are fascinating, and the link to emotion and consumer insight makes them highly relevant for text and sentiment analysis types like me, and for the research and insights practitioners we support. So I’m really pleased that Diana will be presenting at this year’s Sentiment Analysis Symposium, a conference I organize, taking place July 12 in New York, and that she has agreed to respond to a few questions about her work.

Before getting to our Q&A, I’ll just offer the further biographical background that Diana serves as Canadian chair of the Neuromarketing Science and Business Association, and she is a winner of  the Best in Class research award from the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association. True Impact’s mission is to humanize marketing with brain science, having helped clients including Canada Post, Colgate-Palmolive, Yahoo Canada, DDB Group, and Plastic Mobile. She holds a degree in neuroscience and psychology from the University of Toronto. Now, on to a —

Q&A with Diana Lucaci, True Impact Marketing

Seth Grimes> Applied neuroscience recasts measured physical states in terms of emotion, decision processes, and intent. And I would define neuromarketing as using neuroscience-derived models to predict consumer behaviors and influence choices. Fair enough? Or are your definitions different?

Diana Lucaci> Our definition of neuromarketing is simply humanizing the customer and placing him/her the center of the organization. Understanding emotional reactions is the first step toward creating experiences that are noticed, relevant, and successful in connecting with the customer.

Seth> Is there such a thing as a typical neuromarketing project, or are studies most-often custom designed?

Diana> We have typical designs for companies just starting out with using consumer neuroscience, and we’ll deploy custom designs for more advanced research projects. The bigger questions is whether the design will give us the knowledge we need to impact the business.

How do findings compare to insights that may be obtained via other research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and diaries and via social-media analytics?

Neuroscience offers marketers the big picture. You no longer have to cross your fingers and hope people said what they meant. You can get an objective measure of emotion to complement existing explicit responses. After all, people act on how they feel, not just what they say.

A Canada Post paper, A Bias for Action, reports work you did related to direct-mail response. It describes media-effectiveness indicators such as ease of understanding and persuasiveness, understood through careful measurement and testing, and concludes, based on “motivation-to-cognitive load ratio,” that “direct mail outperforms digital media across all age groups. Did Canada post act on these findings? With what results?

Canada Post study of the neuroscience behind the response-driving power of direct mail.
Canada Post studied the neuroscience behind the response-driving power of direct mail.

Such a great study! Canada Post is really pushing the boundary of what we know about the effects of direct mail on the brain. As a thought leader, Canada Post Corporation is really looking to connect with businesses and create smarter marketing, essentially doing better direct mail. Our study sits at the core of this initiative, titled SmartMail Marketing, a strategy rooted in science.

Can neuroscience be applied in the wild, for instance on social data, in contact centers, in stores? If you’ve applied neuroscience in non-laboratory settings, how have you accounted for context, for uncontrollable circumstances?

When we think of consumer neuroscience, we primarily think of using the electroencephalogram (EEG), along with a biometric like eye-tracking or heart rate. EEGs come in all shapes and sizes. There are a single channel, consumer grade headsets that are no more accurate than your personal Fitbit at predicting emotion. There are also academic grade EEG headsets that have a scientific track record. Obviously, since the quality of data acquired affects the outcome and results, we want to use the best EEG available. Because of this commitment, we would recommend working with a trained and experienced research provider who is skilled at using high grade equipment, especially in non-lab settings such as a store.

For instance, when we studied packaging for Colgate-Palmolive we tested in a demo store environment with the help of our partners, The Central Group. Instead of presenting an isolated image of the package, we asked participants to go through the store and select a pack of toothpaste. Together with eye tracking we could see what grabbed attention and how they felt for each pack concept tested. A demo store environment is ideal for controlling sound, light and scent. However, research can easily be conducted in a real world environment.

The benefit of running neuroscience research in an actual store is that you’re staying true to the real life experience. A product must survive in the wild, and attract attention despite any distractions. That’s the true test of its success.

You’ll be speaking on July 12 at the Sentiment Analysis Symposium, presenting “A Neuroscience Perspective on Mobile-Conversion Drivers.” Could we get a brief preview?

Until now, marketers have relied heavily on users’ explicit responses and feedback to mobile applications to determine whether their mobile commerce efforts have hit the mark. However, with so many variables, external expectations and preconceived notions weighing on people’s responses, traditional research methods can feel incomplete.

True Impact-Plastic neuro study methodology
True Impact-Plastic neuro study methodology. (Click to enlarge.)

So my company, True Impact Marketing, and Plastic Mobile conducted a study that applied neuroscience to user experience to explore what users actually saw, thought, and felt when following the customer journey in three transaction-based mobile applications. A bit of our methodology is described in the image I’m providing.

Determining positive and negative emotions and attentional activation — rather than relying on people to say what they mean without any bias, influence, or other variables altering their true reaction — the study finds new insights into engagement. The findings can help marketers, researchers and customer experience designers optimize every precious pixel.

And that’s what I’ll be talking about at the symposium.

Other symposium speakers apply linguistics and machine learning to model emotion and personality in text and speech. Have you tried to bridge the disparate methods, to join neuro and text/speech derived insights?

Yes, we are building models of emotion which are rooted in real-life neuroscience results. Checking against real world results is the best way to ensure the models are predictive and indicative. More exciting details coming soon!

Finally, what new technical or business challenges are exciting you?

I’m excited about inspiring business leaders to think differently about their customers. The moment you understand that emotion drives action and can be quantified, that’s when you can start thinking about how you can be relevant and meaningful to their lives.

Thanks Diana!

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