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Reviving a Declining Confectionery Brand

By Peter Pynta

Allen’s is an Australian subsidiary of Nestlé which manufactures confectionery products. Over a number of years it had experienced serious market decline, with loss of market share and a reduction in the number of product categories. The company’s response was to embark on a major communication campaign, aiming to link its jellied lollies range to positive emotions of childhood. Neuro-Insight was commissioned to evaluate an animatic version of the initial television advertisement which featured a giant “marionette” doll, blowing bubbles that turned into lollies when touched by children.

Nestle’s choice of a neuro-research company to investigate the ad reflected the fact that it was an execution directed at the emotions, rather than rational processes that could be verbalized. The objective was not simply to pass judgment on the ad; rather, Nestlé were looking for recommendations about the ad’s overall structure in order to maximize its effectiveness in building new and positive associations for the brand. Neuro-Insight’s Steady State Topography (SST) methodology was used as it enabled the client to identify not only the emotional response to the ad, but also to measure the themes and images (both rational and emotional) that were strongly encoded into long-term memory. Most importantly, SST only required one viewing of the relevant material thereby making the viewing situation realistic (some methodologies compromise responses by requiring multiple readings of the same advertisement).


Neuro-Insight recruited 50 respondents with at least one child aged between five and twelve years, and who had purchased a relevant confectionery product within the last six months. SST brain activity was recorded from 10 participants at a time while they viewed the advertisement in each of two realistic advertising breaks in a high rating prime time program. With this study design, Neuro-Insight was able to report on the group psychological response to each component of the advertisement on a second-by-second basis. In addition, by comparing responses to first and second viewings of the advertisement, Neuro-Insight was able to advise on the media strategy; specifically whether the advertisement would benefit from two viewings in separate ad breaks in the same program (high frequency). 


Time-series graphs describing the major psychological measures of relevance, Long-Term Memory encoding, Motivational Valence (approach-withdraw), Emotional Intensity and Engagement were derived. This enabled the client and advertising agency to identify themes and scenes in the advertisement that were strongly encoded in Long-Term Memory and which also elicited high levels of Engagement and approach. This enabled the client to position the brand in such a way as to capitalize on peaks of response without compromising the advertisement’s creative strategy. One scene elicited a strong withdrawal response in association with high Emotional Intensity in both viewings; a pattern associated with fear and anxiety. This anxiety- provoking scene was modified in the final version of the advertisement. 

The advertising agency modified the advertisement in accordance with Neuro-Insight’s findings and the client also adjusted their media buying strategy in line with Neuro-Insight’s recommendations. The campaign was an outstanding commercial success with the client registering the highest six month revenue in the last three years and exceeding its sales target by 21%. The advertisement went on to be awarded the Gold Effie Award in Australia as the most commercially effective ad in its category for that year.


This Nestlé case study is just one example where Neuro-Insight’s findings led to clear understanding of what needed to be changed in a near-finished advertisement to make it more effective. Other published examples include an ad from UK retailer John Lewis, and a case study from Bird’s Eye in Australia which was presented at the Cannes advertising festival. Understandably, other clients are not prepared to release Neuro-Insight research findings concerning their brands, a pity, as these give clear indications of enhanced advertising effectiveness based on before and after changes made in response to the Neuro-Insight findings.

More generally, this case study should be considered in the context of other Neuro-Insight evidence presented in peer-reviewed publications, illustrating the link between SST measures of brain activity and psychological measures in general; and specifically the link between long-term memory encoding and consumer behavior.

The ability of scientifically-validated neuroscience services to enhance the real-world effectiveness of commercial communication can be summarized in three questions that need to be answered in the affirmative:
1. Is the neuroscience methodology telling us something that is not available from established advertising research methodologies? (“is it telling me something I don’t already know?”)
2. If 1 (above) is true, then do the novel insights make a significant difference to the commercial effectiveness of the communication? (“does it make a difference?”)
3. If 1 and 2(above) are true, can the neuroscience services be offered on a time scale and cost that is commercially feasible? (”can it deliver?”)

If neuroscience vendors with scientifically valid methodologies can answer all three questions in the affirmative, then they will do well.

Neuro-Insight Pty Ltd, Australia, Peter Pynta

This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook. Order your copy today