Category: Economy

What is Omnichannel Marketing and How Can Neuromarketing Help You Perfect it?

No Comments Economy

As consumers, we can be more difficult to impress than an overprotective mother-in-law. We know what we want, we want it easily and we want it now. Thanks to consistent advances in tech and its integration into every aspect of our daily lives, our “on demand”standards are only getting higher. We also expect to be able to move from channel to channel, between both our online and offline worlds, swiftly and effortlessly.
Brands need to constantly adapt and react to keep up with this. If you’re thinking about your online brand experiences on smart watch, mobile, desktop or tablet and your offline ones in the physical world as separate, individual experiences, you’ve already missed the boat.
A single, holistic approach, i.e. an omnichannel experience, is what we consumers have come to expect, and we can be unforgiving if you get it wrong.
What is an omnichannel experience?
Omnichannel is defined as integrating all of the touch points or channels that your consumers use to interact with your brand. Omnichannel marketing is different from a standard multichannel experience in that it is much more integrated and seamless.
Even if your brand has state of the art stores, a beautifully designed website and genius marketing campaigns, it’s not omnichannel if they don’t all work together, delivering one seamless customer experience. Your customers should be getting a similar experience across all of these channels, with access to the same options, information and quality of service.
A truly omnichannel experience is a great way of making sure your customers have a positive image of your brand, and an effortless customer journey that will keep them coming back for more.
A local example
Yuppiechef, an online premium kitchenware store, has won numerous awards for being South Africa’s best eCommerce store.
YuppieChef made the leap to opening its first physical store in 2016. Aware that trends were increasing towards the digital space (which they had already dominated in their field) rather than brick and mortar stores, one might assume that this was a strategic step backwards for the company as opposed to a giant leap forward. However, they focused on making the transition between online and physical as painless and intuitive as possible for their customer base and their offline offering simply became an extension of their online one.
Much like their website, their real-world store layout is clean and uncluttered, with well-lit displays. Computers are interspersed among the products, allowing customers to search for a specific item online, and even order it for delivery to their home. Each product on the shelf has a customer rating out of five stars (based on online data) as well as a QR code one can scan for more information. The friendly staff all have experience in restaurants or hospitality and are trained in how to use each product.
Customers can pay through a wide variety of methods, including card, cash, SnapScan and Zapper. YuppieChef even developed their own in-store software for hand-held payment devices that can also give the customers more information about the products and provide the option of having their receipt emailed to them instead of printed.
The main takeaway from this is that YuppieChef used digital solutions to address some of the existing “brick and mortar” retail pain points to make sure that their in-store experience was just as convenient and informative as their online one, with the added benefits of being able to chat to informed staff face-to-face and physically interact with their products. The transition between shopping online and in-store feels intuitive and continuous.
How can neuromarketing help your brand do omnichannel marketing better?
Neuromarketing can give you insights into the ways your customers currently navigate different touchpoints. Using eye tracking (to measure attention), galvanic skin response (to measure emotional arousal), facial coding (to track emotions) and EEG (to measure cognitive and motivational processes), Neuromarketers can identify pain points and areas for improvement on a website, app, point of sale or shopper journey.
Neuromarketers can also join you on your journey as you develop your omnichannel strategy, testing the different ideas you might have for the layout, copy, imagery, message, etc. of all communication touchpoints to get you the best possible omnichannel marketing experience for your customers.

Can Nudge Marketing in Supermarkets Make Us Healthier?

No Comments Economy

We’ve all been there: you run to the shops quickly after work to pick up some essentials. As you walk around, you realise you’re hungry. The supermarket has obligingly left chips, chocolates and other tasty treats on display. You’re in a rush, so you grab the nearest high-sodium snack or can of soda, and maybe a microwave meal since you’ll be too hungry to cook at home.
This isn’t all on you: many supermarkets and convenience stores are set up not only to make us impulse buy, but often to make us impulse buy unhealthy food. Think of the check-out lane at most major supermarkets: they aren’t exactly loaded with healthy choices.
This is why Nudge, a pop-up supermarket in central London has been making headlines recently. The supermarket has a novel approach to their layout: it’s designed to help customers make healthy choices.
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in conjunction with Slimming World have created the first supermarket designed by dieticians. It aims to help customers make healthier purchases by making healthy food more prominent in displays, limiting the shelf space junk food occupies and providing healthy cooking demonstrations and recipes. In addition, junk food, when it is on the shelf, is not displayed at eye level and healthy alternatives are on display nearby.
Nudge is an experiment to determine whether creating this health-first environment for shoppers changes their decision-making and, ultimately, their overall health.
The term “Nudge” most likely derives from the concept of nudge marketing, made popular by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler in their book, Nudge. The idea of nudge marketing is not to make any decisions for the customers, but to set up their environment in such a way that making a good decision for themselves is easier than making a bad one.
A Sweet Example
A great example of similar thinking to this is when Google realised that its free food policy was causing employees to gain 15 pounds on average when they began working there. Concerned about the wellbeing of their staff, they changed how they presented foods. They made healthy foods easier to find and relocated unhealthy foods to the back of the cafeteria. They also reduced the portion sizes of the meals available. Note that none of these changes took choice away from their employees – the unhealthy food was still available, it was just slightly harder to get to than the healthy food was. And this was effective. As an example, moving the M&M’s from free-flowing upside-down dispensers to opaque jars resulted in Googlers in the New York office consuming 3.1million fewer calories from M&M’s.
What Principles Are at Play here?
Nudge marketing plays off the ways that we tend to make decisions. Again, it’s not restricting freedom of choice or “tricking” anyone, it’s just nudging our decision-making in a specific direction.
Heuristics are the shortcuts our brain takes in processing information and, while they often serve us well by speeding up decisions, they’re not always rational. Nudge marketing hones in on some of these heuristics, including (but not limited to):
Status Quo Bias and Inertia: this is the tendency we have to avoid the unknown and complexity. Our brains don’t always like being challenged with new ideas or complexity – the simpler and more familiar, the better.
Framing: the way that something is presented to us often changes our perception of it. If you’re given a bottle of wine with a rubber duckie on the label, you’ll automatically assume it’s less expensive than a bottle of wine with a thoroughbred stallion on the label. You associate those images with different levels of affluence, and assign those characteristics to the wine they represent.
Stimulus Response Compatibility: this is an overlapping of several heuristics, but it covers how things can be designed in such a way that we immediately understand how to respond to them. For example, the colour green is commonly associated with health and we’ll assume food with green packaging is better for us without really thinking about it.
A nudge in the right direction?
But the question is: even if people are encouraged to buy more healthy food, are they getting healthier? There is no way to track what happens to the healthy food purchases or ingredients (in people’s homes specifically): are they kept in the back of the pantry or worse, left to spoil and thrown out? Are people not stopping at a drive-through on the way home anymore? The problem with a lot of nudge marketing like this is that it focuses on one very specific behaviour – shopping, when the problem that may need solving (unhealthy eating, for example) consists of changing several behaviours.
The pop-up supermarket does attempt to mitigate this by offering cooking demonstrations and recipe cards, so that people actually know what to do with the healthy ingredients they buy, but it’s by no means a guarantee. Only time will tell.
We at Neural Sense have used our technology to track shopper journeys for several major retailers. In doing this, we have gained insights into branding, store layout, product placement and signage, among other things. For this reason, we are interested to see both whether the principles applied in this market are effective and, if so, whether they translate to wider behavioural change.
A Local Context
Similar thinking is currently being applied in South Africa, where plans are underway to introduce a food labelling system that makes it easy for the average consumer to identify whether a food is healthy or not. This gives the consumer further information about the food, and empowers them to make a better choice. It also incentivises manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar, sodium and saturated fats in their products.

The Neuroscientific Guide to Being Financially Responsible

No Comments Economy

We’re well past the halfway point of 2019. Like everyone else, you have made plenty of financial decisions so far; some good and some that are less so. You know the correct actions to take: build up your savings and avoid frivolous spending on short-term gratification. You know that, but then Friday rolls around and maybe you splurge a little more than you should on a nice dinner, or you see a new gadget that you simply must get your hands on.
This is normal. Neuroscience proves what we’ve all known: delaying gratification in the to benefit oneself long-term sounds good to us on paper, but it’s much harder in practice. We’re here to explain why that is, and how you can trick yourself into being more financially responsible.
Why am I like this?
A study at Princeton University concluded that different kinds of decisions involve different areas of the brain. Short-term, instant gratification decisions are made by more emotional parts of your brain (such as the limbic system) whereas long-term, practical decisions are made by the more logical parts of your brain (like your prefrontal cortex). These two parts compete whenever you make a decision. For this reason, many of the financial choices we make involve some level of emotion.
To take this into account, there is a whole branch of economics called Behavioural Economics. This branch is dedicated to explaining why real-world market trends don’t always match the trends implied by the data available: there is a human, emotional element at play.
Checking your blind spots
A great start to avoiding the pitfalls of your emotional decision-making is knowing about them. Below are a couple of classic examples of behaviours we exhibit when thinking about money (although it’s by no means a complete list) and how to avoid them.
High Self-Rating: You might not want to hear it, but you’re probably not as smart as you think you are. Many of us tend to rank ourselves as smarter than the average person even though, statistically, it’s unlikely. So, when we make a financial decision that pans out well (like a risky investment that pays off) we attribute much of that success to our own brilliance. But, when our decision results in failure we’ll blame it on external factors, like the market performing poorly. The key to overcoming this is acknowledging that there’s always more for you to learn, and to research all your financial decisions as much as possible before taking the leap. If it doesn’t work out, self-evaluate your role in that loss happening.
Herd Behaviour: this is the tendency we have to mimic the financial decisions of those around us. Remember when cryptocurrency became wildly popular overnight, so everyone invested, and the value plummeted? That’s a great example of herd behaviour. Again, the key to avoiding this is to stop, take a breath and take time to research an opportunity for yourself, through reputable sources, before reaching a decision. Much like wearing shoulder pads in the 80s, you need to first ask yourself: is this actually a good idea or is it just popular right now?
Loss aversion: Losing sucks. That’s why you’re more likely to make a decision that avoids loss than one that potentially involves a gain. For example, you’re more likely to take financial action when a penalty such as added cost is imminent rather than when you might get a reward. You probably make sure to pay your credit card off on time, but you don’t jump to use every coupon available to you in various newspapers. Overcoming this means reshaping your priorities to be on the lookout for ways to save money. When you find yourself less motivated to undertake these methods, ask whether you would feel the same way if, instead of getting 10% off, you were getting 10% added to the price.
Tricking yourself into saving
While it is useful to know about your natural biases and work against them, self-control is still really hard. Research has shown that, in fact, the best way to exercise self-control is to take the “self” out of the equation as much as possible. What this means is you need to remove yourself from situations where you may be called upon to make a potentially costly snap financial decision.
What does this look like? Well, make sure you have automatic payments and savings contributions made at the beginning of each month (or even better, at the end of the preceding month). You don’t have to think about paying your bills or contributing to your savings because it’s already done. If you have trouble with budgeting and impulse buys, you can get a card with the exact amount of money you have allotted to yourself for a week on it. When the card is empty, your spending stops until the next week, when you recharge it with the same amount. This forces you to think a bit more carefully and plan your week-to-week spending. Sure, you can impulse-buy that new bag, but then you’re going to be eating two-minute noodles for dinner for the next two days.
You can also take yourself out of situations where you know you’re likely to overspend: don’t spend the weekends browsing the mall, avoid restaurants and suggest a pot-luck dinner at home instead, and obviously don’t hang out with your high-rolling horse race betting friends, etc. The less decision-making you have to do, the less likely you are to lose at it.
Another strategy to cultivate as a shopping skill is to delay as many of your purchase decisions as possible. There is evidence to suggest that waiting a few hours or sleeping on a decision will reduce the immediate brain reward for making a more emotional decision and will strengthen the decision-making systems of the higher frontal cortical regions. With delaying (‘sleeping on it’) over time, you will reduce the likelihood of making snap impulse buy decisions.
It’s about the journey
It’s important to remember that, much like weight loss, responsible financial habits take time to accumulate and are harder to maintain. It’s inevitable that you’ll make a mistake or do things you regret, but it’s important that you be patient with yourself and keep working towards your financial goals. We hope this helps.

Getting to Know Neuromarketing: Eye Tracking

No Comments Economy

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the path our eyes follow must reveal something about us too. For most of us, view is the primary sense by which we perceive our surroundings. When presented with a scene, such as a webpage, the places we look and how our gaze moves act as an indication of our attention and interest. Eye tracking is what neuromarketers use to track the elements of a website, app or point of sale that draw the gaze and, therefore, attention of a customer.
How does it work?
Humans have a field of vision of about 190 degrees, but it’s not homogenous. It is in fact divided into three zones, starting at the fovea. This is the central 3-5% of your field of vision, where images are the clearest. Moving out from that area to your binocular vision, where images become slightly less clear, and your peripheral vision is even less clear than that.
To see this in action, try focusing on a single point in a busy scene. Then, without moving your visual focus from that point, try to discern details about the objects around it. The first thing you’ll notice is that detail beyond colour and shape is tricky to make out. The second thing you’ll notice is how hard it is to keep your gaze on a point where your attention isn’t focused. Our instinct is to keep our gaze on whatever we think deserves the most attention in our visual field.
With this principle in mind, eye tracking uses infrared sensors to detect where the fovea is focused at any given time. Software then allows Neuromarketers to visualize gaze patterns graphically and quantitatively in order to interpret the behaviour of a participant.
Why is eye tracking a great neuromarketing tool?
Tracking the eye path makes it possible to evaluate the performance of a visual communication, such as a product, web page or app. One can see the most viewed areas, the most attention-grabbing visual cues, the time someone spends on a certain point, the order in which cues were viewed, etc. This provides unique insights into the way a customer navigates the space or product, and how it can be optimised to help the customer along the desired path. For example, if you run an eCommerce website, how long do a customer’s eyes search before they find the “add to basket” option? Where is their gaze drawn if not to that option?
Eye tracking is relatively easy to set up and the equipment is easy to transport. For testing websites and apps, a webcam, eye tracking sensor and the dedicated software are all that are needed. For experiments in the field, such as shopper journey evaluations, eye tracking glasses can be used. They allow the user to move freely while navigating their environment. Eye tracking can also be used with virtual reality goggles, so consumers can navigate several spaces in one sitting.
Eye tracking is only one part of the puzzle, however. While it teaches us a lot about how people navigate a space or where their attention is drawn, it does not provide insights into their state of mind or cognitive processes. Eye tracking is therefore best used in conjunction with measures such as GSR, EEG or facial coding.
An example
Neural Sense partnered with Pick n Pay, South Africa’s second largest supermarket chain, to assess the shopper journeys of customers in their new, ‘Fresh Look’ stores. They were also interested in how customers navigate certain customer categories: what drives them towards a purchase decision? Find out more about it here.

Getting to Know Neuromarketing: fEMG

No Comments Economy

Picture this: you’re at a party and things are going well, except that the food is terrible. The host comes up to you and asks whether you’re enjoying everything. They look nervous. You suppress your disgust as you take another bite of food. “It’s great!” you insist.
Neuromarketers are the host in this situation. People are hesitant to be impolite, even if asked for their honest opinion. They suppress their emotions. This makes techniques such as facial coding tricky, because a camera cannot always pick up the more subtle emotions that are at play. This leads to fewer useful insights.
How do we fix this?
Enter facial electromyography (fEMG). This technology is based on the fact that the use of electricity is the brain’s way of signaling muscles to move. Electrodes placed over a muscle are able to pick up not only whether the brain wants the muscle to move, but by how much. This applies to facial muscles as well.
fEMG can detect when specific muscle groups of the face are activated, and by how much. This is then translated into a specific facial expression; the physical manifestation of the emotion being experienced. For example, if we detect that the zygomaticus major muscle contracted, we know that you were smiling and, therefore, probably enjoyed whatever you just saw.
What are the pros and cons?
Using fEMG has several benefits, the main one being sensitivity. This technology is so sensitive that it can detect the very slight signals of a suppressed emotion that the human eye or even a camera would miss. You hate the food you’re eating, but try to hide it. However, your brain has still sent a weak signal to the corrugator supercilii, indicating that you actually hid a frown. fEMG picks that up and lets the researcher know that this food should maybe be sent back to the kitchen to undergo more optimization.
fEMG is also ideal as more and more neuromarketers use VR headsets in their research. The headsets make it tricky to track emotions using a traditional camera and facial coding, given that half the face is obscured by the VR headset. However, fEMG electrodes can fit nicely underneath the headset.
The only downside to fEMG is that there is a limit to the number of muscles that can be recorded. Too many electrodes on the face make the participant uncomfortable, and can limit their facial movements. Usually only two or three muscles can be tracked at once, so the nuance of some facial expressions is lost.
Give me an example
An interesting study from the University of Vienna used fEMG to test the emotional responses of participants when exposed to ambiguous and non-ambiguous versions of famous artwork – ie. Artwork where you can’t tell what is happening and artwork where you can. They recorded whether participants showed more positive or negative facial expressions when viewing these different types of art. They found that, unlike in real life, where ambiguity is generally met with frustration, people tend to be more positive when they encounter visual stimuli that they don’t understand in the context of art. A fascinating combination of neuroscience and art!

Getting to Know Neuromarketing: EEG

No Comments Economy

It’s the same in almost every sci-fi movie. The protagonist is strapped to a chair, kicking and screaming, and subdued just long enough for an array of wires and electrodes to be strapped to his head. Despite his best efforts, the antagonists begin to read his thoughts.
Thankfully, this terrifying depiction is a far cry from the technology that is now par for the course in many neuroscience studies and neuromarketing practices. (In any case, it’s REALLY easy to mess up an EEG reading, so our hero is probably fine!)
What is it?
EEG (electroencephalography to the Spelling Bee winners out there) is the translation of the electrical activity of your brain’s surface onto paper, virtual or otherwise. As far as brain research techniques go, this one is one of the most painless, surpassed only by Near-Infrared (NIRS).
EEG measures the different frequencies of electrical activity moving along the surface of the brain, corresponding to the different emotional states and cognitive processes you might be experiencing at the time. The researcher will typically look at one or more of the five frequency bands one can experience (Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma), depending on the research question they are asking.
For example, a commonly used measure is Frontal Assymetry, where the alpha wave signal coming from the left frontal lobe is compared to that of the right frontal lobe. If the left’s signal is stronger, that’s an indication that the participant is especially interested in and motivated at a precise decision-making moment during the completion of the task in front of them. This could be navigating a website or finally selecting a product to purchase, for example. The information from use of EEG can help us tell whether you’re on the right track with your user interface design as it gives us an indication of purchase intent at that moment.
How does this work?
Simply put, your nervous system transmits nerve impulses between parts of the body, using electricity for communication. When you watch an action movie, the signal has to travel from the occipital lobe, where visual information signals from our eyes are processed, through a couple of other stops so that you can identify what you are seeing and understand it, then to the frontal lobe where you can then decide whether the movie is any good. All that information is relayed by electrical activity flowing between different areas of the brain. The role of EEG is to detect this flow of electricity, and the role of the neuromarketer is to understand what it all means.
Electrodes are placed at strategic positions on the participant’s head, with wires leading from them to the EEG machine. The machine detects the change in electric potential between the electrodes while the participant does something like complete a task, watch an advertisement or navigate a website landing page.
The resulting information looks quite intimidating, but can be cleaned up and interpreted to tell us all kinds of interesting information. Did you feel relaxed while listening to specific song? Were you genuinely excited by certain aspects of the TV commercial you just watched? Did you find a website or app particularly hard to navigate? You might not know, but we already do.
Pros and Cons
EEGs are a great tool because they are relatively non-invasive and easy to transport, making it easier to set up experiments. Most importantly, EEG can detect covert processing – processing that does not require a response – and gives insight into the implicit, subconscious responses of individuals during an experience.
Although EEGs can provide excellent, real-time insights into the emotional and attentional state of a consumer, they paint an incomplete picture. We need to know what it is they found interesting, or where they were bored. EEG is most effective when paired with technologies such as eye tracking and galvanic skin response – so all the insights gained are as useful as possible.
On the flip side, getting a clean enough EEG signal for reliable data takes a bit of practice, and a lot of working with the participants. Issues include “noise”, or signals from other electrical activity in the area. The signal-to-noise ratio for EEG is poor, so sophisticated data analysis and relatively large numbers of subjects are needed to extract useful information. The same sensitivity that allows EEGs to pick up the relatively tiny electrical activities of your brain makes it possible to detect interference from a nearby cell phone or the electrical signals from your blinking eyes. This makes EEG tricky to use in natural settings, or while the participant is moving naturally. However, EEG is still relatively tolerant of subject movement, unlike most other neuroimaging techniques. There even exist methods for minimizing or eliminating movement artefacts in EEG data.
EEG has very high temporal resolution (in terms of its ability to record a response in real time), on the order of milliseconds rather than seconds. However, it also has very poor spatial resolution, in that it cannot pinpoint activity happening within a specific area of the brain – it’s more of a global measure.
Similarly, interpreting the data requires some skill and the insights are most useful when combined with other technologies, such as the ones mentioned above. Don’t buy an EEG headset and expect sparkling results straight away.
How is this used by neuromarketers?
In addition to Neural Sense, Neurons Inc also has some excellent case studies where EEG is used in combination with eye tracking to assess the emotional and attentional experiences of customers while navigating a virtual store or seeing product packaging.
On the more creative side, Neural Sense used EEG in its Neurowine marketing project. A wine maker tried 21 different wine varietals with EEG apparatus on his head. The information from the EEG was used to determine which varietals he had enjoyed most, and those varietals were blended into a custom blend of “Neurowine”. The idea behind this was to cut away the preconceptions that could hold the wine maker back creatively, such as knowing the rules for which varietals blend best together, and focus on channeling more of his instincts around wine.

How to Drink Responsibly this International Beer Day (According to Science)

No Comments Economy

“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.”
— Benjamin Franklin.
This International Beer Day, we celebrate everything we love about a beverage that has been part of the fabric of human society for thousands of years – recipes as old as 5000 yearshave been discovered. However, there’s a lot more to the human experience than beer, and we often have responsibilities to think about. We looked around for some science-backed ways to help you stay responsible on one of the more fun days of the year.
Your brain on beer
Alcohol’s influence on the brain is complicated because it affects the levels of several different Neurotransmitters at once. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers used to send signals around the body – anything from information about what you’re looking at to telling your heart to slow down a bit. This is why alcohol is considered to have the effects of both a stimulant and a depressant.
Glutamate, a neurotransmitter usually associated with increased brain activity and energy levels, is inhibited by alcohol. At the same time, alcohol increases your levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter generally associated with inhibition of brain signals. This slows you right down and makes you feel more relaxed. It’s why your inhibitions are lower – GABA has literally inhibited your inhibitions. It’s also the reason that drunk people slur and stumble.
At the same time, alcohol increases your dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter most well-known for being associated with our brain’s reward system: it makes us feel good.
In summation, you’re all slow and not thinking straight but you feel great about it. This isn’t to make you feel guilty: alcohol in moderation can have several protective benefitson the heart and the social benefits of alcohol can have long term positive effects on your health. We’re just explaining the situation before we dive into how you go about being responsible with it.
Sheer Force of Will?
Self-control is inherently difficult. Even the most steadfast among us has difficulty reigning in their worst impulses all the time. This problem becomes exacerbated with alcohol in the mix because your inhibitions are lowered. Remember when you said you would go out for one drink and then you somehow ended up having a few more? You probably did fully intend to have a single drink when you walked in, but then your inhibitions took a dip and suddenly a second (or third) draft didn’t sound so bad.
A study published in 2016 puts forward the idea of having situational strategies that help you maintain self-control. Often, the best way we can exert self-control is by avoiding situations that require it entirely. For example, instead of going to a bar to enjoy a few drinks with friends, try going hiking or paintballing. You can still have beer afterwards (or during if you’re brave) but you’re less likely to overindulge in a situation you’re not used to overindulging in. Conversely, if you’re going to a bar then bring only enough cash for a set number of drinks. Then you don’t need self-control: you can’t afford to drink more.
Tricking your brain into moderation
Of course, you could be even sneakier with yourself.
A study at The University of Bristol on the shape of drinking vessels had an interesting result: when a beer glass had straight sides (rather than curved) people tended to drink less and more slowly overall. They posited that this had something to do with it being harder to track how much you’ve had so far when drinking from a curvy glass. As a result, you drink faster.
Similarly, another study found that when people filled their glasses to just halfway instead of filling them to the top they drank 20% less on average.
Both these results suggest that awareness of how much is in your glass at a given time is key to keeping an eye on how much you’re drinking. The latter method also involves slowing your drinking down – by filling your glass to halfway instead of full, you now have to go back for drinks twice as often if you want to over-indulge. This acts as a significant barrier, too – you don’t need self-control when time is a limiting factor. It’s for this reason that “spacer drinks” (a glass of water between each unit of alcohol) are recommended when drinking. Your kidneys will thank you, too.
Happy International Beer Day!
However you choose to spend this Friday, we hope that you stay safe, that the beer is cold and your brain doesn’t hurt the next morning.

Getting to Know Neuromarketing: Implicit Association Testing (IAT)

No Comments Economy

As Dr House, M.D. famously said, ‘’Everybody lies”. This is true even in something as seemingly harmless as a consumer survey. People lie for all kinds of reasons – to make themselves look better, to be polite or simply because we don’t realize what cognitive biases we are subjected to. Who among us hasn’t over-exaggerated the amount of exercise we get in a week, or downplayed how much we disliked a product?
Tell us how you really feel
The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is used to assess our cognitive biases by measuring the strength of the association between objects and/or attributes
Made famous by Harvard’s “Project Implicit”, IAT presents you with two words (target categories) on either side of your screen: good or bad, old or young, white or black. It then flashes a third word (exemplar) up in the center of the screen and you have a lighting fast amount of time to decide whether this third word (stimulus) is better associated with the left- or right-sided target category on your screen.
The short amount of time you have in which to respond forces you to make impulsive, instinctive decisions. This cuts away the clutter of you debating what’ll make you look better, or which you consciously prefer to say, straight down to which association your brain genuinely believes is correct. The faster you respond, the stronger that association is believed to be. This means that IAT measures not only implicit associations, but the strength of those associations.
This technique has been effective and most popular in highlighting the implicit bias people have against certain genders, races or ages. But remember, this doesn’t make someone a bad person: implicit bias is partly a product of our environments and how we were raised. Implicit biases are also hardwired and part of being a human. We are all naturally inclined to make decisions based on shortcuts of information at our disposal, which means we are all inclined to develop forms of prejudice. For example, we can have an implicit bias but not consciously believe that one gender is better suited to math. How we act on this prejudice is what matters.
IAT and Understanding Your Customers
As it is a lot more in-depth, it might take a bit more work to prepare than a standard survey. Although IAT has been used and cited in more than 800 different studies, there is also some debate as to how the IAT accesses the subconscious.
The main benefits of a survey are still available with IAT: it is economical, relatively easy to set up, quick to distribute and there is a wealth of software available to help you process the data.
IAT can elicit more honest implicit answers from your customers than a simple survey could. If your research requires customers to give honest, insightful answers about their feelings (something difficult to do in any setting), IAT is a useful tool in extracting that information. Combined with technologies such as eye tracking, this technique allows for a better understanding of the participant’s attention during the testing.

Getting to Know Neuromarketing: Galvanic Skin Response (GSR)

No Comments Economy

Palm readings – what can neuromarketers learn from galvanic skin response?
Everyone knows the classic sign of nervousness in sweaty palms during a first date or a big client presentation (and for the unlucky few, sweaty everything else), but did you know we can learn so much more about you with that? Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) is a way of measuring your level of emotional arousal (be it unbridled joy or abject horror) based on electrodermal activity, that being the continuous variation in electrical potential difference between the surfaces of your fingertips.
How does it work?
Your autonomic nervous system is best known for the “fight or flight” response. Given how critical it is to flee or fight as soon as possible in a survival situation, the autonomic nervous system must work incredibly fast the moment you see anything that could be a threat (heighten your emotions). Among other responses, the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system causes you to sweat, which increases conductance of the skin (or increased electrical potential difference).
This skin conductance is an indication of psychological or physiological arousal or, for example, the degree of intensity of your excitement or fear. These days, however, humans aren’t exactly running from tiger attacks, so most of the signals the sympathetic nervous system gives are much smaller – maybe you’re excited about a new iPhone release or irritated with an app’s poor navigation. As a result, the amount you sweat due to emotional arousal is often imperceptible to you, but perfect for GSR measurements.
In measuring GSR, we place two electrodes either on your fingers or on your wrist and measure the conductivity of the skin between them (you don’t feel a thing). When you sweat, even slightly, the conductivity of your skin changes and we know that you’ve just seen or experienced something that changes your state of emotional arousal.
Pros and Cons
GSR provides useful insight into the moment-to-moment emotional state of someone in response to whatever you place in front of them, be it tasks, products, copy, webpages, etc. The equipment is easy to set up and transport, making it ideal for work in the field, such as assessing levels of emotional arousal during in-store shopping experiences.
Because emotional arousal is such a broad term and can denote anything from joy to rage, it’s important to pair this technology with other measures so you can also assess the nature of the emotional arousal, be it a positive or negative response. Here’s where the measures of emotional affect (as in the type of emotion being experienced; for example, happiness or disgust, anger or contempt) are useful in providing much needed context of the consumer experience.
When setting up a GSR experiment, it’s important to bear in mind a couple of issues. First, the slight time delay between the stimulus being measured and the response – there is always variability in responses in terms of time, which can be as much as a few seconds. Some people are slow responders, while others are faster. This can make it difficult to aggregate the results. However, there are nice workarounds to these problems, developed by physiologists and neuroscientists.
Research participants moving their hands a lot may produce artefacts or false readings in the GSR, since physical activity results in sweat. It’s therefore important to be able to differentiate between change in conductance caused by actual arousal and that caused by activity. Lastly, large changes in environmental temperatures are also known to produce false readings or artefacts in GSR recordings. All these challenges can be managed by implementing good baseline control tests as part of the study design.
An Example
Why do we enjoy music when, functionally, it is a series of tones that serves no purpose towards our survival? A research group in 2009 used GSR to attempt to answer that question. They found that, when people listened to their favourite music as opposed to music they didn’t enjoy, they had heightened physiological arousal to match their increased emotional arousal. This suggests that enjoying music has physically pleasurable effects on the body, and begins to answer the question of why we enjoy it so much.

Getting to Know Neuromarketing: Facial Coding

No Comments Economy

Joy and surprise or fear and disgust: imagine knowing exactly how a consumer feels about an advertisement, website or mobile app moment to moment as they experience it. It’s not science fiction, it’s Facial Coding.
Facial Coding is a technique that makes it possible to detect and qualify emotions and their intensity based on the observation of the facial expressions of an individual.
How does it work?
Facial Expression Analysis, as the Facial Action Coding System, was originally developed by Carl-Herman Hjortsjö in the late 60’s and early 70’s and pioneered by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen in the 70’s, where facial expressions are analyzed, mainly through changes in specific categories of facial muscles, to determine an individual’s emotional response.
In this system, facial muscle contractions or relaxations are broken down into “action units” (AU) identified by a number. Each unit represents the activation of one or more facial muscles. For example, AU 0 represents a neutral face and AU 1 corresponds to the “raising of the inner part of the eyebrows”. An expression can therefore correspond to several action units. The intensity of the expression is noted on a scale from A to E, E being the maximum intensity. Thus, for example, 1C shows a marked or pronounced rise in the inner part of the eyebrows, but not very intense.
The facial-feedback theory of emotions, is the backbone emotion theory of how facial expressions are connected to experiencing emotions. Two important proponents, Charles Darwin and William James both noted that physiological responses often had a direct impact on emotion elicitation, rather than simply being a consequence of the emotion. Supporters of this theory have suggested that emotions are directly tied to changes in facial muscles; for example, people who are forced to smile pleasantly during a social function are likely to have a better time at the event than they would if they had frowned or carried a more neutral facial expression. There has been a large body of research undertaken in Facial Expression Analysis over the last four decades, contributing towards diverse fields such as psychology, anthropology, business, marketing and crime.
How does this look?
Today, facial expressions are easily captured using a good-quality camera. A participant will be performing a set task on a website, for example, while a webcam records their facial expressions. The video will then be analysed frame by frame using sophisticated software, usually in conjunction with a recording of whatever the participant was experiencing on-screen.
It can then be determined what emotions the participant was feeling at any point during the task. For example, if your participant was frowning during key moments of a user journey while navigating your website, you might want to rethink those specific elements of your user experience as users may be having difficulty or find those aspects very confusing.
Some Pros and Cons
For facial coding to be accurate, a clear, front-on recording of the participant’s face is needed, with good and even lighting (a change in lighting can influence the readings drastically). This can make it tricky to implement in real world environments where the participant is moving freely, such is during a shopper journey assessment. Some participants also just don’t emote as much as others. They naturally have a dead pan facial expression that gives nothing away, much like a professional poker player concealing his winning hand, thereby not giving researchers any useful data. The software used at this point is also subject to error and may miss the context or more subtle emotional cues in the data it puts out. It is for these reasons (and more) that, of all the neuromarketing techniques available, facial coding has been shown to be the least effective in predicting future consumer behaviour.
However, there are a lot of positive aspects to it. For example, facial coding experiments are non-invasive and, as all that is needed is a good camera, it is possible to gather data from more than one participant at a time. Although an expert is ideal for Complex Facial Expression Analysis studies, less robust data collection can be performed by just about anyone with minimal training. As the data collection is also mostly automated, turnaround time is relatively quick while the cost is fairly low compared to other Neuromarketing methods. Facial expressions are also universal – a smile means the same thing in humans almost everywhere – so cultural differences need not be factored in. Overall, Facial Coding has modest reliability and is a robust measure of emotional expression; especially providing quality and type of emotion expressed.
A Fun Example
Disney recently usedAI and facial tracking to gather data from audience sizes of 400 people. They tracked the audience’s facial expressions – and, therefore, their emotional responses – to nine of their movies. The study involved 150 showings and yielded a stunning 16 million facial landmarks from 3179 audience members overall.
With this information fed into an AI, Disney is now able to predict what an audience member’s reaction will be to key points throughout a movie based on their facial expressions in the first ten minutes. Moving forward, this will be a valuable tool for assessing the effectiveness of their new movies in hitting the right emotional beats. This improves their storytelling ability and ultimately the success of their feature films.