Neuromarketing Science & Business Association (NMSBA)

Articles and Blogposts

  • September 22, 2016 11:13 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    By Juan Roberto Castro (Neuro Tracking)

    The way potential clients perceived and associated the design of an office building with positive experiences and memories may improve acceptance and influence the purchase decision. Landmark, a real estate project development company in Guatemala, came to our office with two questions in mind: 1) What can we do to make potential buyers purchase office space from our office building project and not from other projects? 2) How can we sell our project without the need of ”selling”? After this meeting, three specific goals were defined:

    1) Minimize the risk of stagnating sales that could cause financial overruns.
    2) Reduce the sales lead-time to give greater certainty to the projected cash flows.
    3) Maximize the use of the cash coming from sales to reduce the financial cost from the bank loan required. The challenge was clear; to find the consumer insights that could help to increase sales speed and reduce risks and stress on investment.

    Cerebral predominance of the market segment graphic

    This approach generated the next question: What is the sensorial communication language (architecture type, shape and spatial distribution, colors, textures, internal and external public spaces) that the office building design needs to have to be able to evoke the appropriate non-conscious response to be accepted and bought by the target market group?

    To answer these questions and resolve the goals defi ned with the customer, we decided to undertake psychometric research to fi nd two types of nonconscious response: 1) The cerebral predominance of the market segment, which would determine its natural communication language to show us how architectural elements make them feel in / out of their “comfort zone”. 2) Their belief systems governing their attitude to life and the circumstances under which they feel secure enough to take relevant or important decisions, like buying an office.

    After determining the target market group and location of the project, we defi ned a sample of 650 men and women between 25 and 65 years, working and living in the area of infl uence of the project. We undertook a face to face interview using a prepared assessment grounded in association and perception techniques and tests such as the Implicit Association Tests, Bag of Words Model, Semantic Latent Analysis, the Remote Analysis Test (RAT), the Down Arrow Technique and neurophysiological tools like the BTSA (Bezinger Thinking Styles Assessment). We were able to defi ne the average brain dominance of the target market group and collect non-conscious answers related to the association and perception of working spaces / architecture with positive / negative experiences and their meaning.


    The study results showed that the target market group for the project have five relevant psychometric characteristics which govern their office building project buying behavior:

    1) The average target market group have a frontal left and double basal brain dominance which determined the following:
    a) For 95% of the target market group a “fair price” for a purchase of an office means to get all that was offered and they agree on; otherwise they feel it´s an “unfair price” and they associate the purchase experience with feelings of betrayal and deceit, generating rejection of the project. For the developer, it is very important to comply with what is offered in the pre-sales design proposal to be able to close the sale deals.
    b) 77% said it is important that the building design, materials, textures, colors and finishes should be perceived as accessible and not too expensive; no matter if imitation products are used.
    c) 83 % believed that everything in the office building design must generate in them a sense of belonging and social approval to help them reinforce the feeling of “what they are and do is enough to be accepted” by others, especially from family and close friends.
    2) 85% of respondents associated the architectural style, colors and textures of an office with the perception of achievement, since there is a high tendency (95%) to compare themselves with the upper segment, socioeconomically speaking.
    3) 93% prefer “conservative colors and textures” they said, similar to those currently used in their workspaces. This finding was of great importance for the final design of the building because after the study, we made an architectural texture and color research around the areas of influence to determine which colors and textures they consider and call conservative.
    4) 87% are willing to pay a value above the market average price if their future office space has the flexibility to adapt to different uses including dividing it to rent to others.
    5) For 73 %, an office building project should be and perceived as: secure (meaning that the building management makes them feel safe), serious (meaning that the architecture looks professional but casual at the same time), flexible (meaning that it can be adaptable to different uses) and accessible (economically speaking). Thus, owning an office in this project must give the perception of professional achievement. These four words summarize the type of architectural design that the office building needs to have to be considered as a first-option purchase.


    After having the architectural proposal, we used biometric hardware and software such as eye- tracking, facet and pupillometry analysis to assess the level of attention and emotive activation of the fi nal design to determine its acceptance by the target market group. Finally, a sales strategy was structured with duration of 18 months. The strategy began with an “Open Day Pre-Sales Event” in which the expectation was to sell up to 2% of the total project. To the surprise of the developers, at the end of the “Open Day Pre-Sales Event” 25% of the 210 offices were sold; that is, 50 units. This scope reduced the financial cost by 20% and decreased by a quarter the sales project time line, giving them the cash fl ow certainty they needed to execute the project with a lower level of stress on the investment.

    This is one of several studies that have been conducted for a number of customers, where the goal has been to understand the language of associative and perceptive communication that consumers have and which governs and determines how to approve and buy a real estate product. Biometric tools such as eye-tracking, facet and pupillometry, EEG analysis and assessments have been used in most studies to ensure that the fi nal product meets with the recommendations of the psychometric investigation of what draws attention and evokes the correct emotions to be remembered as the first option of purchase.


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. Liked it? Order the 2016 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • September 07, 2016 10:57 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    By Thom Noble (NeuroStrata)

    What are the relative intrinsic, contextual strengths of diff erent advertising media? Traditional research hasn’t fully answered this question, but the application of newer neuro-techniques is now starting to uncover important clues.

    There is a growing recognition of the importance of context in influencing messaging in advertising and marketing communication. Additionally, the increasing knowledge being accumulated from mind-sciences is changing the way we think about creating and developing our advertising and marketing content. With that comes a growing skill amongst neuro-literate marketers on how to more effectively induce Attention, drive Emotion and trigger Memory activation in ad response.

    However, traditional research has struggled to find an objective and meaningful way to measure the relative strengths and weaknesses of different media channels in terms of the contextual impact a specific channel format induces on the ad response itself. Equally, there is an increasing demand to measure the impact of ad response with tools that are more sensitive and better suited to evaluating at the non-conscious level, both the contextual influence of the media channel and the content itself.

    As a specific media channel, radio has, over generations, become embedded in the mind of the client and the media planner as an effective medium for simple, rational ”reminder” and ”call-to-action “advertising. As such, it is typically cast as a valuable tactical support format but very rarely one considered conducive to strategic brand-building or image shifting campaigns in its own right.

    Through new thinking in Behavioral Economics and Neuropsychology and the greater understanding of how, more specifically, audio is processed in the brain, there is a ”challenge hypothesis“ that radio ought to be equally effective as a more strategic, brand-building medium. In short, does it possess the inherent ability to evoke intense emotional responses, elaborate deep memory associations and trigger experiential and multi-sensory cues in ways similar to other ”classic” brand building medium such as TV? And if so, how does it diff er in its ability to do so?


    Global, a media and entertainment group and the UK’s largest commercial radio company, commissioned NeuroStrata to conduct a three-step program to explore and evaluate this challenge hypothesis.

    Step one began with an academic and science exploration; a thorough review of 500+ academic science papers from around the world on how audio ”works” in the mind. As well as the academic literature trawl, it involved interviews and discussions with sound and music specialists in academia e.g. cognitive neuroscientists and behavioral psychologists as well as practitioners in sound and music design. Further, it involved inputs from media experts with experience in previous neuroscience studies into media channel evaluation. This stage yielded a refined hypothesis to validate and explore.

    Step two was a state of the art neuroscience study to evaluate the ”system one” consumer response patterns per se to advertising in press, radio, TV formats. A variety of different multi-media ad campaigns were tested across these different media formats and evaluated against an expansive array of multi-sensory, emotional, functional and call-to-action attributes. The method used was a bespoke, ”true“ Implicit Response Time test, conducted by a leading international agency Neurosense, and covered 1500+ respondents. A neuroscience method was chosen because whilst people recognize the power of sound, they aren’t always able to articulate in an objective way how it makes them feel and think differently from more visual messages.

    Step three saw the results analyzed, the insights drawn and conclusions agreed.


    The findings from the full program provided fresh evidence to support the hypothesis as well as indications as to what specifically characterized radio advertising responses per se. Insights from the study indicated where the potential lay for maximizing both tactical and strategic value from radio, both creatively and in placement.

    The results helped highlight and explain how audio (spoken word and music) can be surprisingly and extraordinarily powerful and can communicate things differently from the same audio with visuals.

    At an emotive level, radio can potentially trigger very strong and rich responses …notwithstanding the lack of visual imagery. Audio possess special qualities in the way it works neuro-scientifically, tapping directly into the more emotive parts of the brain.

    Neural processing, and non-conscious contextual biases unique to radio, help influence and shape audience response patterns differently from other medium. Because images are not supplied, in effect, you ”create your own “mind-pictures from your existing memory webs and schemas; there’s some evidence suggesting that the resulting communication can be interpreted as potentially more personally relevant.

    More counter-intuitively, audio alone can do things that audio + visuals cannot.

    Perhaps because of the absence of other sensory cues, radio has the potential to trigger more expansive associations and can evoke evocative multi-sensory triggers including taste, touch and smell.

    Further, because the context of radio is decoded as a more ”personal”, one-to-one medium, it engenders more trust in the mind of the consumer.

    Given the pre-existing academic literature and practical experience, this study now adds weight to the notion that the role of radio advertising should be fully re-appraised.

    The study confirms its ability to deliver forceful tactical, call-to-action impact and casts light on the how and why.

    Radio’s unique contextual strength in non-consciously evoking ”trust” and ”personal” connection, underscores its enhanced persuasive capabilities. Indeed, in the implicit study, it was rated top on Trust (twice the level of press) and on driving Intent. Yet it also clearly possesses a powerful and rich potential to emotionally build brands at a more strategic level by elaborating and reinforcing memory webs.

    Because it works in the mind differently from TV, it triggers different yet overlapping patterns of emotions, values and benefits. Used imaginatively, both in Creative and Placement terms it possesses an almost uncanny ability to evoke multi-sensory cues, from sound alone. Understanding how these evoked patterns of response diff er (through latest neuroscience tools) provides invaluable insight into how to optimize media plans & boost ROI from complementary use of radio within the TV and full media mix.


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. Liked it? Order the 2016 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • August 23, 2016 15:27 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    By Michał Matukin (NEUROHM)

    The story began almost two decades ago when our client, a major international food company, acquired a local snack brand. The brand had dominated in its category with 26% of the market share. It offered numerous flavor variants and was truly appreciated by its contented customers. Nevertheless, starting from 2004 a decreasing trend appeared, leading eventually to a dramatic drop to 16% in 2011. This became a catalyst for change and a decision to renew the brand’s image was made. A re-launch was carefully planned and preceded by extensive consumer research, market analysis and expert consultations. The new positioning - light and carefree snack - targeted to drive the brand back to its glory days. New ATL and BTL communication, as well as new package design emphasized the product’s new image, a guilt-free sweet. Unfortunately, all those changes didn’t bring the expected results and sales continued to remain in a downward trend.

    Two years later, our client turned to neuro tools for any possible assistance. They had used neuromarketing research from NEUROHM quite successfully since 2007 but never before did they apply it to snacks. Nobody there had any experience with our field. We thought that was a good opportunity to introduce them to BioCode™, NEUROHM’s original Reaction Time analysis specifically designed to address strategic problems.

    BioCode™ measures the speed of information processing when the brain produces an answer to a stimuli (Figure 1). Consumers’ declarations – explicit rational opinions – are listed along with their subsequent Reaction Time, which reflect implicit emotional certainty. BioCode™ distinguishes between explicit and implicit attitudes toward a tested brand. It uncovers emotional strength of attitudes to reveal what is truly convincing for consumers.

    To enhance the power of BioCode™, we need to charge it with the most appropriate attributes describing brand’s image and personality. That is why we always organize a workshop for clients to help them prepare lists of the most suitable words or phrases (various techniques to activate creative thinking are quite helpful here). Importantly, we invite not only representatives of marketing departments to attend the workshops, but also representatives of sales and logistics units. This diverse constellation of people provides the most comprehensive and exhaustive perspectives on brands and products.

    During a three-hour meeting with our client, we managed to work out a set of the right attributes. We were well prepared to start the field. BioCode™ is conducted online, reaching the n=160 requested sample took less than five days. Three days later, after data processing and analysis by NEUROHM, the workshop team was ready to meet up again.

    Are you sure it tastes good?

    What have we found out? Firstly, the customers truly believed in the new brand positioning – their reactions to attributes light, and carefree were very positive (see Figure 2a). It seems the original changes in communication were implemented with great effect. However, the “light” positioning was apparently not enough to increase sales. Secondly, the reactions to the yummy attribute puzzled everybody. The product was rated very well but the implicit emotional certainty reached only to a moderate level (see Figure 2b). It seemed as if consumers were not very convinced of their own statements.

    BioCode™ consists of two workshops, the first one to create a list of attributes, the second one to thoroughly discuss the results before drawing conclusions and setting an action plan. As you can imagine, the marketers had a hard time believing the figures we presented at the second meeting. They honestly thought that consumers loved the brand and the taste of the product. Moreover, they had proof of it: each time blind tests were performed, they showed the product was evaluated as… very tasty!

    An answer to this riddle came from an unexpected angle. The logistic department worker had pointed out that distribution of the product took over twice as long as for the competitors. It meant that when it landed on the store shelves it was no longer as fresh as theirs. At the same time, the items used for tests were delivered straight from a factory, fresh and yummy (this is why the blind tests results were so good). This disturbing finding revealed that the brand lost “yumminess” – a key product driver in the snack category. It is likely to be the very reason our client has lost so much of the market share in previous years. Unfortunately, no one was aware that the product no longer tasted as good, as on a declarative level the brand, a former champion, was still receiving good grades.

    Let’s uncover hidden opportunities

    Two important lessons can be learned here.

    1. Instruments based on Reaction Time analysis are useful to diagnose market strategic problems. Getting to know consumers’ implicit emotional certainty equips marketers with knowledge on how to reduce risk of unfortunate business decisions. We advise applying such instruments at the earliest stage of planning.
    2. During workshops, always try to hear about your brand from experts representing diverse perspectives. Only thanks to the modest logistic worker did we manage to solve the riddle. Without his brilliant remark, our tool BioCode™ would have been probably rejected as inconsistent with the blind test findings.

    Coming back to our client, the marketers seriously considered the results and are now gradually implementing the learnings. The company focuses the advertisements on promoting taste and does its best effort to shorten the distribution time.

    At the same time, the NEUROHM crew is armed with BioCode™ to track developments in the snack category perceptions and … is waiting with fingers crossed to see the improvement in sales. Stay tuned!


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. Order the 2016 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • July 20, 2016 05:28 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    By Martin de Munnik (Neurensics)

    In 2012, Neurensics’s scientists recorded the ingredients of a TV commercial that pays off by studying the ”neural signature“ of effective ads, using functional MRI. Neurensics showed and proved that effective TV commercials have a distinctive pattern of neural activity (Lamme & Scholte, submitted). This technique and its derivative benchmark allows us to predict the effectiveness of ads before they are broadcasted. But instead of post-testing ads you want to know whether the concept itself is activating a sales intention. In 2013, the Neurensics scientists cracked that nut by reverse engineering 12 TVCs into story boards. The TV commercials and matching storyboards were studied for their mutual similarity and their correlation with the Effectiveness Benchmark (composed of Effies: effective commercials).

    In September 2014, Makro, an international retailer throughout South-America and a client of our Latin subsidiary, wanted to know whether, based on their storyboard, Neurensics could answer the following questions:
    1) How does the storyboard score in terms of eff ectiveness?
    2) How can the eff ectiveness of the storyboard be improved?
    3) Will the produced TVC score better than the original storyboard?

    Benchmarking by Reverse Engineering

    Makro wanted certainty in predicting consumer behavior and opted for an fMRI-study. To answer the fi rst question Neurensics developed a design in which BOLD-MRI responses were measured (GE-EPI, 3T Philips Ingenia) of subjects (n = 22) who watched the Makro storyboard and four reengineered benchmark storyboards (see below).

    Scores of the Makro storyboard (purple) and produced TVC (green)

    BOLD-MRI responses are relative, just like many other measurement tools such as questionnaires and EEG. The power of the results is much improved by using benchmark stimuli.

    As this was the first time Neurensics worked on predicting the effectiveness of a storyboard in Argentina they had no readily available benchmark material. However, from previous studies in which they tested Argentine TVCs they selected two effective commercials (measured upfront and acknowledged afterwards as Effi e-winners) and two non-effective commercials. In order to compare apples with apples these TVCs were reengineered into moving storyboards.

    The 22 subjects were measured in one weekend and the results were presented on the Wednesday after the fi nal measurements. On the basis of these results and an expert opinion, advice was generated how the commercial could be improved. Next Makro produced the TVC. In a second experiment new subjects (n=22) were measured while presenting them the produced TVC together with the four TVCs on which the benchmark storyboard was generated. Using these measurements the effectiveness of the produced commercial and the quality of our previously given advice were topic of research.

    Tested Storyboards with fMRI

    In the first experiment, we found that the Makro storyboard scored below average in terms of effectiveness: it activated more negative than positive emotions. In particular, the storyboard did not activate decent levels of trust and expectation. The overall result was a negative score on infl uencing buying behavior.

    In addition, it was interesting to see that the benchmark storyboards of previously tested TVCs came out almost identically as had been seen in previous studies. This confirms that fMRI pre-testing of storyboards can be used to predict the effectiveness of the to-be-produced TVC.

    We identified specific scenes in the storyboard that provoked fear (eg, bloody meat, a forklift with a pallet and someone just walking under it), anger and rejection. Furthermore, we believed that the low levels of trust, expectation and desire were caused by not mentioning Makro’s end value. Finally, we identified some story plots that were not resolved in the storyboard and advised adding music with a climax.

    Based on these conclusions, the ad agency changed the script and implemented our advice. The produced TVC showed a dramatic and significant increase in positive emotions as well as a decrease in negative emotions. The benchmark TVCs again scored in a similar way as their storyboard versions, indicating that the improvement was a result of the changes in the script and not a production difference between storyboards and TVCs. The results therefore show that the TVC improved in quality based on the previously given advice, generated on the basis of the storyboard measurements.

    At the time of writing, (December 2014), Makro has confirmed an increase in their sales of 12% in units/ volume compared with the same period last year in a country that has been in recession for several years.

    12% More Sales

    On the whole, this research shows that it is possible to test the effectiveness of TVCs based on their storyboards. Since producing storyboards is much cheaper than producing a TVC, it makes sense to test one or several storyboards and consequently improve the storyboards based on the feedback. In this specific case, the pre-test led to an improvement of Makro’s TV campaign. The effectiveness of this technique has been demonstrated by a 12% increase in sales compared with the same period last year.

    We believe it is essential to use BOLD-MRI for pretests, as BOLD-MRI makes it possible to distinguish between the many brain networks that are important to evaluate the effectivity of ads. Limbic brain structures particularly, like the nucleus accumbens, are hard to measure with techniques such as EEG.

    Revolutionizing the way TVCs are produced

    The research project of the Makro storyboard was performed in fi ve days, from the first measurement to the delivery of data. Depending on the continent, Neurensics is now capable of shortening this cycle to three to four days. This makes it viable to perform pre-testing of storyboards on a routine basis for ad-agencies. In this way, it will become possible to improve the effectiveness of TVCs in a very cost-efficient manner. Neurensics believes this has the potential to revolutionize the way TVCs are produced.


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. Order the 2016 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • July 08, 2016 17:06 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    By Wenda Kielstra (Consumatics)

    The number of restaurants in the Netherlands is increasing every year, however customers are spending less. This makes it important for restaurants to differentiate themselves from the competitors. The traditional focus is often on product range, location, service and price. However, recently a new element has started to gain popularity: environmental cues affecting subconscious behavior. Consumatics were asked to conduct an experiment in a restaurant in one of the biggest theaters in the Netherlands. People visit the theaters only once every three years and have a deadline, because the show starts at a fixed time. Can people be influenced by environmental cues at this specific location? Consumatics focuses on cues that consumers cannot specify, but result in them feeling more comfortable and eventually spending more. Consumatics conducts research and supports the hospitality, retail and airport industries with scientific insights and knowledge to create more positive experiences and higher revenues.

    The experiment was conducted in a restaurant during April and May 2014. Music and light conditions were manipulated and 451 customers were asked to rate how perfect their dinner was, how comfortable, happy and at ease they felt. Finally, they were asked if they would return to the restaurant. Studies by Wilson (2003), Areni & Kim (1993), and North et al., (2003) have previously shown that classical music can have an eff ect on the behavior of customers. Classical music has already more often shown positive results in past years, people spent more when classical music was played than with other music styles.

    Not only music can contribute; the infl uence of lighting is important too. Wansink (2010) showed that soft and warm lighting made people enjoy their food more. Warm lighting is often associated with red and yellow. Red creates a mood that moves people to action and stimulates buying (Bagchi, 2013).

    Two music styles were used: pop music (top 40) and classical music (light piano tones). These two music styles were compared to the regular music that was played in the restaurant (jazz/lounge). In the lighting condition red, yellow, and white lighting were used.


    Classical music

    • Customers felt more comfortable, happier and at ease when classical music was played
    • Customers evaluated the atmosphere and the food better in the classical music condition
    • Customers mentioned more often that they would return to the restaurant in the classical music condition
    • The average spending increased by 20% when classical music was played

    Pop music

    • Pop music had a lower score compared to classical music and the regular music on all aspects


    • People felt more comfortable and at ease with red lighting compared to yellow lighting
    • In the yellow lighting condition there was an increase of 5 % in spending


    This experiment shows that music can affect perception, feelings and the spending pattern of customers in the restaurant in the theater. Supporting previous research, this shows that visitors to the theater, as in other restaurants, can be influenced by environmental cues. Music not only affected the emotions of customers, but also the average spending. In total, customers spent 20% more with classical music (!). Interestingly enough, a large difference is shown between classical music and pop music. Classical music leads to a higher result than regular jazz music. Popular music on the other hand scored in most cases lower than regular jazz music. This was not expected. One reason for this may be that popular music does not correspond with the luxurious feeling of the restaurant. The effect of lighting has shown different results. From the literature, we would suggest that a stimulating environment (i.e. red lighting) would make guests spend more (Ryu & Yang, 2007).

    This experiment showed that the average spending increased in the yellow lighting condition. However, yellow lighting also lowered how comfortable customers felt. Red had a positive effect on the emotions of the customers compared with yellow. The restaurant has been refurbished in the meanwhile and the experiment helped guide the choice of layout and ambiance of the surroundings. Together with our own experiments and our hands-on approach, we can combine science with daily business to create better customer experiences and higher revenues. Based on current and previous studies we recommend implementing the changes in-store. Not because “we think it works” but based on actions and facts.


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. Order the 2016 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • June 14, 2016 15:49 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    By: Michael E. Smith (Nielsen)

    Each year in the US up to 8 million healthy but abandoned animals find themselves at shelters and rescue groups. Only about 30 percent of pets in homes come from shelters or rescues, and millions that aren’t adopted are euthanized. To address this problem, the Ad Council, with support from the Humane Society and Maddie’s Fund, undertook a public service advertising (PSA) campaign called the Shelter Pet Project, with an aim to significantly increase the rate of shelter pet adoptions. Although many prospective pet owners believe adoption is the right option, they lack confidence in shelters and the pets housed there. This campaign addressed those concerns.


    The PSA campaign targets adults seeking a cat or dog, but who may be on the fence about adopting from a shelter or rescuegroup. The communication goal was to reduce the fear, uncertainty and doubt around shelter pets. A campaign refresh, which took a risky new creative approach, was targeted for launch in early 2014. Prior to launch, innovative pro bono neuroscience research was undertaken by Nielsen in order to help optimize the copy and ensure that the new creative approach would effectively communicate to the target audience.

    Given the overall goal of unraveling the fear and uncertainty around shelter pets, the main idea of the creative refresh was to show that pets from shelters can make great companions. The creative approach communicated “There’s a shelter pet who wants to meet you”. In different spots an individual dog or cat would walk on a blank stage without back drop or storyline, like an actor in a “screen test” auditioning for a role - in this case with an aim to convey the prospective pet’s personality and charm and hence suitability for adoptionNielsen’s consumer neuroscience unit collaborated with the Ad Council’s campaign management and research teams to field a laboratory study that evaluated the implicit neurological responses of target viewers. A combination of eye-tracking and electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements made while viewers watched 0:30sec television commercials was used to determine the impact the ads had. The audience was adults interested in acquiring a cat or dog in the near future.

    The neuromethods permitted second-by-second analysis of the degree to which individual scenes were emotionally engaging and memorable, as well as measurement of the degree to which the executions implicitly primed key communication points. An initial round of testing was conducted on rough-cut executions, where the results provided key insights critical for identifying highlights of the ads with respect to their ability to emotionally engage the target audience, as well as weaknesses in their ability to communicate key messages and branding elements. The findings yielded actionable recommendations aimed at sharpening the impact of the creative and increasing memorability of key message points. Following refinement of the executions, a second round of neurological testing was conducted to confirm that high emotional engagement was maintained while memorability for key messages and branding elements was improved.


    Neurological testing indicated that while the pets could highly emotionally engage viewers by their compelling onscreen presence, and while the approach succeeded in implicitly communicating that the animals were friendly and loveable, viewers were failing to also fully encode the call to action and branding elements. In particular, it was observed that the pets could be too successful at stealing the scene, detracting attention and undermining encoding of key elements such as the Shelter Pet project URL. Based on the neurological insights, tactical re-editing to draw greater attention to the key messaging components succeeded in improving their memorability, while permitting the emotional connection with the viewer to be maintained. Followup neurotesting confirmed the effectiveness of these edits.

    The creatively refreshed Shelter Pet Projects campaign was relaunched in early 2014. In the first three months after the February 2014 launch there was a 133% increase in traffic to, and a 28% increase in searches directed to the database linked to the site. Between the launch of the campaign in February and mid-December 2014, over 25% of visitors to the website were converted to key campaign goals such as searching for a pet in the online database, searching for a shelter, or learning more about pet adoption and the campaign. There was also a 116% increase in Twitter mentions of #Shelterpets, and a significant increase in “likes” month-over-month for the ShelterPetProject Facebook page. Most critically, since the Shelter Pets Adoption eff ort was first initiated, national trends indicate that adoption of dogs and cats from shelters has increased significantly, while the rate of euthanasia for abandoned pets has correspondingly dropped.


    In this study, consumer neuroscience methods were used to help guide a bold new refresh on the advertising campaign for the Shelter Pet Project. Research insights helped to optimize the balance between high emotional engagement with the pets depicted in the creative, and effective communication of brand and key messages. Since the Shelter Pet Project was implemented there has been a significant increase in adoption from shelters and a corresponding decrease in euthanasia. The results indicate that neuroscience tools can be used with surgical precision to optimize advertising messages in ways that can significantly add to their market place effectiveness. 

    Creative teams often deride the crude, overall scorecard approach provided by traditional copy-testing methodologies. In contrast, neuroscience techniques can provide them with a specificity and scene level granularity that can support unique, actionable, science-based insights. Which in turn can help them to better realize the communication goals of advertisers without undermining the artistry and creative intent for the copy. Such results presage a new era of productive collaboration between researchers and those involved with creative development, ultimately one with the potential to also lead to more effective communications for advertisers.

    This article was published in the 2015 Neuromarketing Yearbook, the 2016 Neuromarketing Yearbook has just been released, order it now

  • May 13, 2016 13:39 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    By Gesa Lischka (Kochstrasse™ – Agentur für Marken GmbH)

    Today’s customers find supermarket shelves increasingly bursting with new products, new flavors and new designs. However, about 80% of all these product innovations fall flat at PoS. Among& the many parameters for a successful product launch, packaging design plays a crucial role. In capturing customer attention the design can “make or break” a product at the point of sale. This case study describes a packaging design process that aims at optimizing the saleability of the product based on neuroscience.

    Popp Feinkost GmbH is one of Germany’s biggest household names for bread spreads, fine foods and specialty salads. The company used neuromarketing strategies in the packaging design process for a brand new product – “StreichDuett”, a range of chilled spreads to be launched in Germany in 2015. The packaging underwent a full make-over based on results from IAT and fMRI studies a three stage process, conducted by “Kochstrasse™ – Agentur für Marken GmbH”, Hannover and Professor Dr. Weber of Life & Brain GmbH, Bonn.


    Salty rather than sweet. In the initial process stage, marketing agency “Kochstrasse™ – Agentur für Marken GmbH” was commissioned with a rework of already existing layouts. These layouts were based on best practice design guidelines and had been created by one of Popp’s advertising agencies (#1). As desired by the client, Kochstrasse™ only slightly simplified this layout in order to enhance the processing fluency (#2). However, Kochstrasse™ expected the whole design to underperform in terms of consumer comprehensibility. A follow-up implicit association test (IAT), conducted by Prof. Dr. Bernd Weber’s team on the premises of Bonn University confirmed this: While “StreichDuett” clearly had to be positioned as a product for dinner, the packaging evoked impressions of a sweet breakfast. A result diametrically opposed to the desired intention.

    Tweak, tune and test. Based on the IAT, Kochstrasse™ redesigned the layouts substantially, including photo shootings and new artworks for two packaging lines. As desired by the client, version 1 (#3) concentrated purely on food imagery. In order to evoke more appropriate associations, Kochstrasse™ recommended an alternative version 2, involving a female portrait on the package (#4). Both versions underwent an fMRI testing procedure at Life & Brain with 40 participants. As expected, both designs performed better than the previous layouts, with a notable difference between the mere food (#3) and human face illustrations (#4). Also, we discovered remarkable differences between implicit and explicit test results.

    Implicit, not Explicit. In an explicit interrogation test, the “classic” packaging (#3) performed best, i.e. significantly better than the package layout with the woman’s face (#4). However, these explicit, conscious customer preferences could not be verified in the fMRI. The fMRI results here are clear – and disagree with classic market research: the packaging with the woman’s face (#4) performed best. It yielded the highest activation rate of the participants’ reward centre (ventral striatum). This is especially remarkable, because a number of studies correlate higher fMRI test results with a higher saleability.

    The packaging redesign process for Popp Feinkost demonstrates the benefits of close cooperation between designers, neuroscientists and marketing professionals. The design and testing process clearly revealed weak points in the initial design, helping to avoid making wrong decisions and reach informed design decisions, unbiased in terms of trends or personal taste. Popp Feinkost appreciated these results and will put both packaging designs to field tests. Since various studies suggest a correlation between high fMRI results and good sales performance, the company is now considering the use of a very promising packaging design that otherwise would have been rejected. 

    This case demonstrates the importance for designers to “speak neuroscience”, i.e. integrating psychometrics and neuroscientific testing methods into the creative workflow. Firstly, neuromarketing input (and testing) greatly enhances the design process from an agency perspective and allows for evaluation of the true emotional impact of a design. Secondly, the translation of “neuro insights” into a creative brief may well be a challenging task, albeit one that generates surprising yet substantial results. Brands from any sector – B2B and B2C – will greatly benefit from this kind of marketing workflow.


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. Order the 2016 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • April 22, 2016 14:30 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    By Diana Lucaci (True Impact)

    It is a well-established fact that memory is not perfect. Today, there are too many details to remember, so in order to mitigate the risk of forgetting, many people delegate their memory to technology. Within this research, we wanted to understand how the impact of technology has been shaping human memory regarding information and events. To gain perspective we examined how smartphone ownership has changed the way that people interact with the world on a day-to-day basis. The role of personal photography has certainly changed in the lives of Canadians by way of digital photography, and smartphone marketplace increase. It is important to understand how the increased technology use impacts emotion and memory recall.

    Typical market research using surveys is a good start to understanding consumer opinions and insights. However, the addition of neurological and biological measures allows for understanding of what a person thinks and feels, beyond even their own awareness. Using neuro monitoring (EEG) we measured emotion and attention on a momentto-moment basis. Additionally, eye-tracking showed us points of visual attention and pupil dilation, which tells us what is most visually noticed, as well as the person’s level of interest in it. The combination of traditional market research tools (survey performed by Fresh Intelligence), and the above-mentioned biological measures, creates a powerful and dynamic tool to more eff ectively assess the consumer experience.


    The EEG analysis generated two key metrics: emotional engagement and attentional activation. Emotional engagement was derived from left-right alpha asymmetry in the pre-frontal cortex, indicating changes in subjects’ emotional reactions. Greater relative activity in the left frontal region strongly correlates with approach motivations, including liking, wanting, motivating to action, purchase intent, and willingness to pay for something. Greater relative activity in the right frontal region correlates with withdrawal motivations, such as disliking, disgust, and avoidance behavior

    [Davidson, 2013]. The level of emotional engagement at each stage was measured as deviation from the total average level of engagement, across all subjects, across the whole experiment. 

    How the research set-up was organized

    The study was broken up into the following three testing groups:
    Control Group (1) – Watched video only
    Testing Group (2) – Watched video, took a photo with their own smartphone, could refer to photos later
    Testing Group (3) – Watched video, took a photo with their own smartphone, could not refer to photos later.

    Hypothesis or formulated research question
    As our questions were bridged between the marketing and academic research spheres, our solution was a holistic hybrid approach. We started with expert interviews, talking to a professor of cognitive psychology from the University of Toronto, a corporate memory trainer and a doctor from a major Toronto hospital specializing in memory loss. Armed with the insight from these discussions, and a deeper understanding of what memory is and how it functions, the study included a detailed experiment using electroencephalography (EEG).

    What was the outcome of the research?
    The study received the Best in Class research award, from the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association. The key to its success was twofold: an innovative, neurological approach to understanding the role of technology on the brain, and seamless collaboration between traditional and cutting edge research techniques. 

    The primary finding of the study was that taking a photo with a smartphone while watching a video makes the experience more enjoyable. This was not surprising considering that most people are very attached to their phones.  However, it was interesting to note that although the experience was more enjoyable for those subjects permitted to take photos, the performance on a memory test when the photo was not used to aid recall was worse than the group who used the photo. Among those participants who watched the videos without taking a photo, the level of emotional engagement was not very high, however, they performed much better on the memory task. 

    In addition, when we measured the level of emotional engagement while recalling the video, the group who did not take photos had a more positive reaction overall. One key takeaway is this: if you’re watching a concert, try to resist taking too many photos and simply take in the experience. Not only will you remember the event in more detail, but you will treasure the memory and recall it with ease.


    Marketing is the art of assigning meaning to a brand or product, and it all begins with being engaging and memorable. Our research suggests that customers are less likely to remember brands’ messaging now than they were in the past. The ease with which details can be delegated to devices means people expend less eff ort engaging with ads and processing their messages. While the best brands and the best marketing campaigns are unforgettable, marketers have to work harder to build those memories and associations, avoiding the pitfalls of our growing reliance on technology; and building on our love and enjoyment – at a neural level – of our devices. 

    The research presents both challenges and lessons for researchers. Much of traditional market research is based on recollection and recalled opinions: what did you buy in the last three months, how did you feel about that choice, what were your thoughts on this brand. Simply relying on memories is not reliable, so researchers need to be creative and complement traditional research with consumer neuroscience in order to continue producing accurate and valuable insights. Passively collected data become more important, and there is increasing value to incorporating real-life, in-moment exploration of consumers’ decisions. Fortunately, the results also show some of the tools to do this, with respondents’ increasing love of photography and smartphones being just two gateways into these moments.


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. Order the 2016 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • March 03, 2016 10:40 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    By Anil V. Pillai, Terragni Consulting

    India is a fascinating economy. As one of the fast growing BRIC nations, the country has seen unprecedented growth since the mid ‘90s until around 2010, post which the economy slowed down and now shows signs of growth again. Largely consumption-driven, this economy has spawned a middle class that is the size of the EU! By 2025, it is estimated that the overall consumer spend is slated to jump up by 2.5 times. This growth therefore demands attention from global marketers.

    India is viewed as a key growth market whose drivers are rising disposable incomes and a vast population. Recent studies by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) indicate that if India continues to grow at the current pace, average household incomes will triple over the next two decades and the country will become the world’s fifth largest consumer economy by 2025, up from 12th at present.

    The market

    India is likely to emerge as the world’s largest middle class consumer market with an aggregated consumer spend of nearly US$ 13 trillion by 2030, as per a report by Deloitte titled ”India matters: Winning in growth markets”.

    As per the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, fuelled by rising incomes and growing affordability, the consumer durables market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.8 per cent to US$ 12.5 billion in FY 2015 from US$ 7.3 billion in FY 2012. Urban markets account for the major share (65 per cent) of total revenues in the Indian consumer durables sector. In rural markets, durables, such as refrigerators, and consumer electronic goods are likely to witness growing demand in the coming years. From US$ 2.1 billion in FY 2010, the rural market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 25 per cent to touch US$ 6.4 billion in FY 2015.

    The growth of internet retail is going to complement the growth of offline retail stores. Online retailing, both direct and through marketplaces such as eBay, will triple to become a US$ 8.34 billion industry by 2016, growing at a whopping 50–55 per cent per year over the next three years, according to rating agency Crisil. The same study of the Ministry of Commerce quoted above also indicates that with growing consumerism and disposable income, India’s used goods market is likely to touch US$ 19.18 billion by 2015 from US$ 13.34 billion at present. 

    What does this mean for the field of neuroscience in business?

    As marketers and brand managers endeavor to compete in this price sensitive but discerning market, consumer insight takes on a heightened importance. While the challenges of getting true insights are difficult in the most mature of markets, in the Indian context it is even more true.

    Given the geographic spread of this vast sub-continent, the number of spoken languages (122 languages/dialects!!) and illiteracy in vast swathes of the consumer demographic, standard methods of garnering insight are fraught with complexity and cost challenges. A paradox in India is the ubiquity of the mobile phone. Even in the most remote of consumer populations, a mobile phone is available.

    Neuroscience has an emerging role in India. Methods such as eye-tracking and galvanic skin response, and to a certain extent implicit testing, are tools that can overcome the challenges that are posed by the unique requirements of this market place (tools such as fMRI are perhaps still too expensive for this market). The caveat is that these tools have to be adapted to the Indian context. A recent experience we had with implicit testing showed us that even with urban youth audiences, the test was preferred over a mobile phone as opposed to any other internet device. Therefore any test not tuned to working effectively over a mobile phone will meet with poor respondent conversions. Such is not necessarily the case in other markets. Cost per respondent is also a challenge. Currently the field of neuroscience and its applicability to the Indian context is in its infancy and the equipment and infrastructure required for the usage of these tools are expensive, which many organizations balk at. For organizations that can overcome the twin challenges of adapting the tools to local conditions and costs, there are significant opportunities. This is the beginning and as Joe Wilke, President of Nielsen Neuro puts it, the India business is among Nielsen’s fastest growing markets worldwide and the company having established one neuroscience lab already in Mumbai, India, is looking at possibilities of opening a second lab in Delhi as well. *

    I couldn’t agree more!

    Read more:
    This article was published inNeuromarketing Theory & Practice. Want to enjoy more excellent neuromarketing reading? Subscribe to this quarterly at 
    Or order the Neuromarketing Yearbook

    Learn more:
    Learn more about neuromarketing at the Neuromarketing World Forum in Dubai on April 4-6, which is the largest neuromarketing gathering in the world!

    * source:

  • February 08, 2016 14:33 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    Women already knew it long before; when you ask a man if he likes your dress, and he takes a little too long to answer, his actual thoughts may be something entirely different from what comes out of his mouth as a reply. Femke van Zandvoort (NMSBA) collected some views on IAT and related issues via interviews with some of the leading practitioners who apply this methodology

    If you explicitly ask people about their attitudes, personality or other characteristics you are not necessarily going to get a true answer. This is partially because people will distort the truth to paint themselves in a better light, and partially because people are often unable to accurately reflect on their attitudes and behavior. Duncan Smith of Mindlab says the validity of self-report is also compromised because many people are completely oblivious to their characteristics and do not always have conscious access to what drives their decision-making. With implicit measures these problems can be bypassed.

    Implicit measures are a range of techniques that aim to capture people’s underlying associations, motivations, beliefs and attitudes. The techniques were originally developed in academia, largely as a way to measure social attitudes, such as underlying prejudices and stereotypes that people are either not consciously aware of, or not willing to articulate, as they don’t want to appear prejudiced, says Darren Bridger of Neurostrata.

    Smith explains that we constantly sort, categorize and link concepts; black/white, male/female, hot/cold. This is done very quickly, efficiently and automatically in our brains. Smith: “Essentially, we build a map of the world in our brain that allows us to make judgments and decisions without having to use as many resources. Implicit testing allows direct insight into this map of representations, and how they can be influenced by the outside world.” 

    Different implicit paradigms
    In general the research techniques that have been adopted by the marketing and advertising community have been those based on reaction times. These techniques are based on two key principles. Firstly, whenever we see a word or image, all the things that we associate with it (whether we are conscious of these associations or not) become primed. That is to say that they will come to mind more quickly and easily given the opportunity. Secondly when a person is given a task that involves them recognizing a word or image, they will recognize it quicker if they are first shown a word or image that they mentally associate with it. Bridger: “In other words if they are primed, it speeds up their recognition reaction speed. Hence in these tasks reaction speed becomes a measure of the degree of association between two things, such as a word and a brand logo.”

    There are many different implicit testing models but the main ones used in the context of neuromarketing are semantic priming, where a briefly presented word or image is presented, and the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The IAT is primarily used for brand positioning, brand tracking and pre/post ad evaluation. In a typical semantic priming test, a visual word or “prime” (for instance a possible brand attribute word such as ”fashionable”) will appear on screen for a few milliseconds. After this prime, one of two randomized targets (for instance “Burberry” or “Louis Vuitton”) will follow. 

    Gemma Calvert explains that the tests are performed by means of computerized web-based applications that force respondents to react extremely quickly to words or images flashed up on the computer screen. Calvert: “The method exploits the fact that subconscious and conscious brain responses (referred to by Daniel Kahneman as “System I” and “System 2” respectively in his popular book ”Thinking Fast and Slow”) occur within different timeframes. So by requiring respondents to respond very quickly, typically less than a second, it is possible to capture the literal strength of association between different concepts and emotions that they have stored in their memory.” 

    Phil Barden of Decode Marketing stresses that ”implicit” is not the same as ”unconscious”. Barden: “The main point is to distinguish between (a) the type of process being measured (automatic versus controlled) and (b) the type of measurement (direct versus indirect). The distinction between automatic and controlled processes is more meaningful than the indirect/direct distinction regarding measurement techniques. The key is to prevent adjustments of responses through controlled (system 2) processes.” 

    History of implicit measures
    Unconscious bias and stereotyping have been known since the 19th century but implicit memory was only studied in more detail in the 1980s. The most popular IAT was developed in the 1990s by a team led by psychologist Anthony Greenwald. 

    Sarah Walker of Millward Brown mentions the Implicit Association Test (Greenwald et all. 1998) is a social psychology measure designed to detect the strength of automatic association between concepts. A quick answer means a strong association towards a subject. The stronger the association, the more closely the ideas are connected in memory”. It was originally introduced by Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz (1998) and is still widely deployed by psychologists as a method to understand intuitive responses. 

    Benefits of implicit measures
    Thom Noble of Neurostrata believes implicit measures are extraordinarily powerful as a neuro-tool: “As a hard core marketer, I would say it is the single most useful tool in the neuro-verse.” 

    According to Walker, implicit testing allows the assessment of attitude/cognition without requiring people to introspect and deliberate over their responses; in doing so, implicit measures address some of the

    limitations of explicit measures. For example, they are less susceptible to response biases such as social desirability (Fisher, 1993; Steenkamp, de Jong, & Baumgartner, 2010), and can help measure responses that may be introspectively inaccessible (Wilson, 2002). 

    The tests have evolved over time and research can now take place on tablets or smartphones, so participants can take the test in their own time and environment of choice. This is an advantage for the participant, but it also makes it an affordable and quick option for the researcher, as you do not need to invite groups to a central location. 

    Another advantage, according to Rafał Ohme of NEUROHM, is that clients are much more ready to use implicit technology than ”hard neuro” technology. Ohme: “It is a very good starting point for inviting clients to the world of neuromarketing. Sometimes clients are still quite afraid of micro volts and brain waves, or even more scary; fMRI images. Instead, implicit gives you something that is quite familiar to you. It gives wonderful opportunities to give insight in implicit subconscious,

    without the heaviness of brain waves.” Ohme mentions another benefit in that you can reach groups that you would never be able to invite to a central location. Ohme: “For instance, top private banking executives will never visit you for a focus group, because it takes too much time. With implicit reaction times, they just have to sit in front of a computer or smartphone, and give you five minutes of their time.” 

    Limitations of implicit measures
    There are, however, also some limitations to the tests, besides some general market research limitations. One limitation, as Smith explains, is that the outputs are not 100% accurate on an individual basis. A high implicit score does not mean that a person will definitely behave one way or another, but there is research showing that implicit scores can be used to better predict things such as voting behavior, than using explicit questions alone.” 

    A limitation according to Calvert is that implicit measures only capture responses to the attributes you choose to include, as opposed to, for example, fMRI which measures activity across the entire brain. In other words; implicit measures will give you answers to the questions you think are important. The results therefore can be misleading. 

    Ohme believes the most important thing about reaction times is to control the noise. Ohme: “For instance, you would have to control for the length of expressions,  because when using longer expressions, it takes longer to answer the question. For instance the expression: ‘understand my needs’, takes longer to process than the expression ‘fun’.” There are also many individual differences. Some people are fast and some people slower to respond in general. These issues can be solved by including a calibration phase in the test. You can then compare reaction ”units” of one person with ”units” of someone else. Walker supports the opinion that “because of these differences in reading and comprehension times, the validity of this technique is really limited to single words, contrary to the claims of many vendors. Meaning, there are limitations on the types of associations that can e measured in this way.” 

    And, finally, although implicit measures provide valuable insights that were invisible before, it does not replace existing methods. As Ohme puts it: “It just provides the second layer. The first layer being explicit, the second being implicit. I would like to think of implicit as the sound that was introduced in Hollywood movies. Before, you had silent movies. And now, you have movies with sound.”

    According to Bridger, implicit measures are of particular use in some areas that have been traditionally hard to investigate, including testing early stage creative concepts for their ability to evoke desired feelings and associations, multi-sensory stimuli (such as sound and music), and experiential areas such as simulations of website experiences. The use of implicit measures is surely no longer limited to applications in marketing departments. As Ohme explains: “It creates completely new opportunities for us, neuromarketers, because so far 99% of our clients were marketers. With reaction times you can open doors for HR and sales departments, as with this you can, for instance, measure the level of satisfaction of your employees.” 

    Noble goes further to say they have commercialized and extended it into recruitment, cost-optimization programs, premiumization, service design, multi-sensory, experiential, politics, government negotiation tactics / arbitration, auditions, casting, TV and film scripting and pilot projects, gaming and box office prediction, amongst others. 

    There are a lot of companies worldwide offering implicit testing, for example Decode Marketing, NEUROHM, Neurosense, Neurostrata, Mindlab, Millward Brown, and Sentient Decision Science to name just a few. 

    One of the largest implicit studies run to date was conducted by the NMSBA (neuro against smoking project). This study involved testing 4996 respondents across 24 countries (heavy and light smokers) in their first three years after reaching the legal age to purchase cigarettes in a given country. A neuropsychological implicit association test was conducted with its audience to uncover new valuable insights to the existing discussion on cigarettes warnings. The study found that pictorial health warning messages are more effective than text messages only and communication oriented toward harm done to self and others is more effective than warnings focused only on smokers’ health. 

    “We are at the breakthrough stage with neuromarketing research”, reckons Ohme, “where we stop being fascinated with the possibilities of the equipment, and we and are more fascinated with the insights and expertise we receive from neuro tools.” If you compare the neuro presentations we had at the Neuromarketing World Forum in Amsterdam with the ones in Sao Paulo, New York and Barcelona, you see a growing number of presentations focusing on the insights and on how to help your clients, not on what type of electrodes you are using, says Ohme. “So for the next Forum I hope we will be providing more and more solutions to our clients instead of questions. Those are for the academia; business wants solutions,” he concludes. 

    By Femke van Zandvoort
    Editor in Chief Neuromarketing Theory & Practice 

    Read more:
    This article was published in Neuromarketing Theory & Practice. Want to enjoy more excellent neuromarketing reading? Subscribe to this quarterly at

    Learn more:
    Learn more about neuromarketing at the Neuromarketing World Forum in Dubai on April 4-6, which is the largest neuromarketing gathering in the world!







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