Neuromarketing Science & Business Association (NMSBA)

Articles and Blogposts

  • March 31, 2017 14:45 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    By Duncan Smith (Mind Lab International)

    Why is there so much apathy towards recycling in the workplace and how can we drive behavior change towards recycling? To answer these questions, we teamed up with Ceris Burns International who are specialists in Environmental PR.

    The British recycle 43% of their household waste, a massive improvement on the average of 11% 14 years ago. This is still below the 50% EU target for 2020 and this rise in recycling has been slowing down in the past few years. Workplace recycling is even lower. We found that 22% of workplaces are not even providing recycling facilities. A whopping 52% are confused about what they can and can’t recycle.

    Communications have a greater impact if they are emotive since emotions power decision making, but how exactly should these messages be presented in order to effectively change attitudes and behavior? We decided to find out whether threatening, negative messages or positive, hopeful messages about recycling had a greater impact on changing peoples’ attitudes about how important recycling is.

    There is some reason to predict that negatively framed messages may have more of an impact on peoples’ attitudes. We automatically attend to threats in our environment as a survival mechanism, and we tend to give more weight to potential losses than potential gains. The impact of framing also depends on the situation and target audience. Negative messaging tends to be more effective when the outcome is risky or uncertain, and when the audience feels strongly involved in the issue. Under certain circumstances, positive messages can influence people more strongly than negative messages by reinforcing positive associations with the attitudes and behavior. We have found this to be the case in previous research we have conducted.


    We used an implicit association test (IAT) to measure implicit, subconscious attitudes towards the importance of recycling. Because recycling is a socially desirable behavior, simply asking people about their intentions to recycle may not be an accurate prediction of future behavior. Measuring subconscious associations bypasses people’s tendency to answer with what they think they are expected to say, allowing us to more accurately measure whether the communications have had an impact on attitudes towards recycling.

    We questioned 200 UK adults about their current recycling behavior and attitudes towards recycling; then viewed either positive or negative messages about recycling; followed by an implicit (IAT) test measuring how strongly they associate recycling with importance; and finally they answered questions regarding their intentions to recycle in the future.


    After seeing positive messages, people subconsciously felt that recycling was more important, suggesting positive messages are more influential in this context than negative messages.

    Importantly, this effect was significantly enhanced for people who thought recycling was less important, less effective and who reported less frequent recycling behavior, suggesting that positive messaging should specifically target this group in order to change their attitudes and hopefully their future recycling behavior.

    In contrast to the implicit findings, the positive and negative messages did not lead to differences in self-reported intentions to recycle in the future, demonstrating the importance of the implicit measure in this study.

    In summary, if you want your employees or colleagues to recycle more, highlight the benefits of recycling rather than trying to make them feel bad about not recycling. To avoid confusion over what can and can’t be recycled, ensure clearly labeled facilities are present where people generate waste. Make sustainability part of the company ethos and lead by example.


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook of last year. Liked it? Order the 2015, 2016 or 2017 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • February 24, 2017 12:13 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    By Dr. Carl Marci (Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience)

    Sustaining viewer attention during television advertising has become increasingly challenging as viewers have more distractions. Fox Sports was planning to launch an all-sports network and wanted to create a “win-win” differentiator – providing benefit to both viewers and advertisers. The Double Box (or picture-in-picture) advertising format was designed as a creative way to capture viewer attention and enhance advertising eff ectiveness, while simultaneously providing viewers with a more positive viewing experience in this fragmented environment.

    FOX Sports teamed up with Innerscope Research to study the eff ectiveness of Double Box format advertising in NASCAR, in order to go beyond traditional measures. The scope was later widened to understand the eff ectiveness of Double Box ads in other important sporting environments including College Football, Soccer, UFC and Major League Baseball. FOX aired Double Box pods for the first time in primetime during the 2013 AT&T Cotton Bowl and launched FOX Sports 1, an all-sports network that featured Double Box ads.

    A three-phase study was undertaken with 568 subjects over two years to understand relative levels of emotional engagement with full screen ads and ad pods vs. Double Box during live sporting events, visual attention to branding moments and any additional best practices or insights that can be leveraged for this new format.

    An integrated consumer neuroscience approach was used incorporating fi ndings within a neuroscienceinformed framework combined with traditional measures and included: eye- tracking, biometric emotional response for emotional engagement, and traditional self-report surveys and focus groups to obtain viewers’ stated reactions. 

    For the Double Box studies, each participant was biometrically monitored throughout the testing experience using a Biometric Monitoring System™, which includes a lightweight chest belt that quickly and easily slips on underneath regular clothing. Each belt collects and transmits four channels of neurophysiologic data wirelessly to computers in the testing facility that run specially designed software collecting data throughout. The data are then aggregated and analyzed to identify overall levels of emotional response and attention to each target advertisement. The four biometric channels include: Heart Rate, Skin Conductance, Respiration and Motion.


    The integrated results show that the Double Box format adds value relative to the traditional fullscreen ad break. This research gave proof of concept for Double Box advertising and created the basis for a clear strategic differentiation for launching Fox Sports against competitive sports networks. 

    There were three main findings. Firstly, attention to advertising in Double Box is surprisingly high; the vast majority of visual attention during advertising is on the sponsored elements (ad and wrap). Viewers only look at the non-advertising content around three times, for approximately one second at a time, during a typical Double Box ad experience. Eye-tracking shows that both groups follow the story of the ad equally. Despite the fact that viewers state they focus on the event content, viewers primarily pay attention to the ad. 

    Secondly, Double Box advertising is more engaging than traditional advertising: those viewing Double Box ads maintain very high emotional engagement with the ad for 50% longer. Engagement is highest when attention to the ad is highest – the ad, not the content window, is driving the stronger response. The Double Box ads generate higher breakthrough levels  compared to full screen ad pods that precede and follow it. Despite high engagement and attention to the advertising, audiences self-report higher enjoyment of the game during Double Box.

    Thirdly, Double Box advertising is immune to traditional shortcomings (position in pod and wear out): By providing the impression of choice, Double Box minimizes drops in engagement, making all positions in the pod equally valuable. Repeated ads benefit from exposure in a Double Box pod, minimizing wear-out. Across five different sports, Double Box makes middle ads more desirable. Engagement for repeat ads increases substantially when aired at some point in Double Box.

    Results led to a variety of focused and actionable recommendations and best practices to show the added value of the new format to both viewers and advertisers. FOX Sports launched FS1 with 15% to 20% of advertising revenue from Double Box. So what are the implications for marketers? Viewer choice ultimately results in increased engagement and increased brand impact with the ads presented in Double Box. It brings value to advertisers by improving overall pod engagement (middle ads) and extending the life of the ad over time. It provides an opportunity to glance at a second window during low points in an ad, helping ads feel much more engaging, and therefore more valuable. Dynamic elements can increase the level of attention to Double Box ads. This off ers a unique opportunity to balance branding, ad content and program content.


    This research supported Double Box advertising and created the basis for a clear strategic differentiation for Fox Sports. The potential for increased acceptance of the Double Box format may change the future of televised sports and advertising in general. FOX’s commitment to a transparent and collaborative research approach enabled insights to be communicated to all parties with results informing hypotheses for each phase of the study and ultimately impacting live sporting events coverage. Peter Leimbach, Vice President, Sales Research, FOX Sports commented that this advertising research was invaluable in providing insights on the effectiveness of Double Box ads that would be difficult, if not impossible, to garner from typical survey research techniques. Without the biometric and eye-tracking components of the research, the company felt that they would have had little evidence of how viewers emotionally and physically engaged with the ads.

    Nonetheless, despite compelling and unique research outcomes, some challenges remain for the Double Box format. Producing more content during the ad break means more work for everyone. The ad agencies have to create content for wraps and TV producers need to work through the ad breaks. In addition, striking the right balance is a challenge, as new content during the ad break needs to work synergistically with the advertising to be most impactful. The future research programs will continue to address and optimize these challenges. Meanwhile, the results were sufficiently convincing for FOX Television to have rolled out twelve Double Box ad units during a recent prime time episode of American Idol.


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. Liked it? Order the 2015, 2016 or 2017 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • January 12, 2017 17:11 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    By Heather Andrew (Neuro-Insight (UK))

    Amongst many in the media world, there is a common belief that newspaper content and advertising produce different responses among print and digital readers, and advertisers tend to regard digital readers as a less engaged and therefore lower value audience. Therefore, as people migrate to digital platforms the traditional business models for newspapers are being challenged.

    Neuro-Insight’s client in this study, NewsUK, had a different perspective. NewsUK publish a number of newspaper titles in both print and online formats, and their belief was that reading behavior is driven less by the platform itself and more by content and the way it is presented; therefore advertisers should value both audiences equally. Earlier research from NewsUK had supported this view, and they wanted an objective way of better understanding readers’ responses to print and tablet editions. Specifically, they wanted to look at whether people had the same level of involvement in the content, whether it elicited a similar emotional reaction and whether people were more likely to remember what they had read based on the platform used. This was the context in which the research project was undertaken./p>

    NewsUK were wary of research based on claimed behavior, knowing that it was difficult for people to self-identify and report on differences in reading patterns based on the reading platform used. Specifically, most conventional research is language-based and therefore dominated by responses experienced in the left hemisphere of the brain, where most speech capability lies. Inevitably, this tends to underplay elements of behavior driven by right-brain responses, dealing with more global or “big picture” thinking. For this reason they chose neuroscience as the methodology for the project; specifically the Steady State Topography approach used by Neuro-Insight.

    The study involved a sample of 150 regular Times readers (split evenly between print and tablet readers). They were convened in small groups in a comfortable environment, where they read that day’s issue of The Times on their preferred platform. Whilst they read for 30 minutes, specialized headsets were used to monitor activity in different areas of their brains, and the reading activity of each respondent was individually filmed so we could link, on a second-by-second basis, what they were reading with corresponding brain activity. The most important metric used in the study was Long Term Memory Encoding (LTME); the process by which stimuli are stored into long-term memory. Previous work by Neuro-Insight and others has demonstrated a clear link between LTME and subsequent decision-making; indeed, it has been shown to be a better predictor of behavior than more conventional measures such as claimed recall. The neuro-research was supplemented by focus groups to explore conscious attitudes and behavior, along with Decode Marketing’s Visual Impact Tool, which was used to evaluate the eff effectiveness of different page layouts.

    The hypothesis to be explored was that content was more important than platform in driving people’s responses to what they were reading.


    The research provided evidence to support this hypothesis. We found differences between the platforms in terms of the physical reading experience, but that take-out from both the print and tablet editions was very similar. Specifically, there was no significant difference in levels of memory encoding response across the two platforms.

    The physical experience differed in a number of ways. Those reading the tablet tended to flick more between sections and, unsurprisingly, less time was spent on individual pages. Tablet reading was more visually stimulating (levels of visual attention were up 25% for tablet reading versus print) and memory encoding was relatively stronger in the first few minutes of reading. Print reading elicited a stronger emotional response (emotional intensity was 29% higher than for tablet reading), but was a ”slower burn“ experience; levels of memory encoding took longer to build up but were subsequently maintained at a relatively high level.

    However, although there were these differences in the nature of the reading experience, there were many strong similarities between print and tablet readers. The focus groups showed that people applied the same key “rules” when navigating and prioritizing content and, crucially, the neuroscience revealed that levels of LTME were almost identical across the two platforms. This was reflected in very similar levels of recall. This was true for both left brain memory encoding (dealing with detail) and right brain (dealing with macro holistic thinking), and for both editorial and advertising content. Although, on average, readers spent much longer periods of time exposed to print advertising on a given page, mean levels of LTME were actually 10% higher for static adverts on tablets (and this mean level of encoding, reflecting the number and strength of peaks of memory response, is more predictive of impact than time spent).


    The research provided clear evidence to support the starting hypotheses that content, and how it is displayed, plays a stronger role than platform in driving reader behavior. There is strong evidence to debunk the common industry view that a simple measure of time spent is a sound proxy for consumer engagement and, by extension, a predicative measure of effective advertising. The results of the study have led to a major editorial investment in developing a new edition led website edition of The Times, and NewsUK is also evolving the tablet edition to deliver a better overall design and reader experience.

    The research has provided strong evidence that newspaper content, delivered in similar ways on print and tablet, will deliver similarly engaged readers and advertising outcomes; and by extension these readers should be valued equally, regardless of platform. More broadly, the research has shown that some of the proxy measures currently used to measure advertising effectiveness, such as time spent, are too simplistic and fl awed. With an ever-intensifying drive to demonstrate advertising ROI, we hope this research plays an active part in provoking thoughtful and open discussion about some of the fundamental foundations of current industry thinking around advertising effectiveness.


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. Liked it? Order the 2015, 2016 or 2017 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • December 15, 2016 09:11 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    By Rei Ryou (Brain & Research)

    This article is about the effect of outdoor advertising placed along highways by using eye-tracking at the request of Korea Out of Home Advertising Center in November 2014. We found some variables related to effect evaluation of the outdoor advertising from the result of an experiment conducted by each of 30 drivers and fellow passengers. The results indicate that outdoor advertising managed by the government is more effective than private advertising and that fellow passengers tend to spend more time looking at it than drivers do. We expect these findings will be used for the pricing process of outdoor advertising.

    Korea Out of Home Advertising Center is a government-affiliated organization that promotes the government’s finance income by selling outdoor advertising authorization along the highways. The government owns all rights on outdoor advertising and helps manage its size and revenues through regulations.

    The center experiences conflicts in commercial rate levels with the advertising business operators because the basis used to divide the areas was unclear. Korea Out of Home Advertising Center estimated rate tariff s based on the car traffic and the location of the roads in the past. The advertising business operators, however, complained that the prices were high and claimed to have verification of the effect of outdoor advertising to standardize pricing tariffs. The center, therefore, decided to adopt an eye-tracking method to obtain a more objective as well as accurate measurement of the effect of outdoor advertising and requested Brain & Research to perform the task.

    The goal of this research was to estimate the effectiveness of outdoor advertising so that it could function as a basis for designing the effect evaluation models in the future.

    Outdoor advertising managed by the government on highways (A) and private operators in the downtown area (B).


    Two highways and a boulevard of South Korea were chosen as locations for the research. There were 59 outdoor advertising sites managed by the government and 16 private ones. The total number of participants were 60 and two people took part in each experiment as a driver and fellow passenger by wearing an eye-tracker. The experiment lasted for a month in November 2014.

    Experiment scene inside the car. A: both the driver and fellow passenger wear the eye-trackers, B: The operator sat in the back seat of the car.

    The main hypotheses for this project are as follows:

    1. Does the outdoor advertising managed by the government have more perceptive effectiveness than the private one?
    2. Is there any difference in eye movement between a driver and fellow passenger?
    3. Is there any difference in effect due to the design, letters, location, shape etc.?
    4. Is there any difference in effect due to the speed, driving skill, gender, age etc.?

    We undertook coding manually by checking the recorded gaze videos and omitted some of them that lasted less than 300ms. The dependent variables are, for instance, eye contact ratio, eye contact frequency, fixation duration etc. We conducted statistical verification for each group. The eye contact ratio is interpreted as a direct index for evaluation of advertising effect for those who looked at the outdoor advertising at least once.


    A: Outdoor advertising managed by the government is more likely to have an eye fixation ratio that is more than twice that managed by private operators (p<0.000). B: With respect to traffic volume, congested road circumstances significantly promote eye fixation frequency compared with non-congested. C: The fellow passengers appear to look at the outdoor advertising more often than the drivers (p<0.04). D: Outdoor advertising is more likely to have eye fixation ratio as the distance from the road decreases (p<0.008).

    The statistically verified hypotheses are as follows:
    1. The outdoor advertising managed by the government has more than twice the eye contact ratio (44%) than privately managed (18%) , with increased duration.
    2. The fellow passengers looked at the outdoor advertising more than the drivers.
    3. The outdoor advertising attracts more eye contact ratio when it is closer to the road compared with further one.
    4. The outdoor advertising is more likely to be effective when there is traffic congestion.

    The phenomena that show a tendency without statistical validity (p<0.05) are as follows:
    1. People are less likely to look at the outdoor advertising when the visual circumstances are crowded.
    2. The perceptive effect is more likely to be effective as the siting of advertising is relatively low vs. high.
    3. The perceptive effect is more likely to be effective as the visibility distance increases.


    The outdoor advertising built on the surface or top of buildings downtown, on the one hand, is less likely to have eye contact ratio since it is too high and the circumstances are crowded despite high fl owing traffic. On the other hand, the outdoor advertising placed along the highways is more likely to have eye contact ratio compared to the advertising placed downtown. Considering the findings of this research, we suggest advertisers behave rationally in terms of price and a flowing population based on the objective data.

    Many countries have been recently studying the effect of outdoor advertising by using an eye-tracking method. However, they undergo difficulties in controlling variables because of different sizes and shapes of the outdoor advertising they are dealing with. In this research, we could control the variables since the Korean government maintains the size, shape, location of the outdoor advertising, so there is conformity and standardization.

    In circumstances where the influence of TV decreases, we expect that the influence of outdoor advertising will now be increasing. Unlike TV viewer ratings, nevertheless, there isn’t any precise model for the effectiveness of outdoor advertising as yet. We believe that the development of precise and objective effect evaluation model is essential for the improvement of the advertising industry.


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

  • 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

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