Nielsen flags off neuroscience lab in India; plans to measure brainwaves to guage consumer response
In a bid to understand emotional impulses better and discover exactly what triggers off purchase decisions, research firm Nielsen India has flagged off its first consumer neuroscience lab in the country. The lab, based in Mumbai, will be operated by the Nielsen consumer neuroscience team consisting of experts in business management and neuroscience. This lab will measure consumer attention and brand engagement by analysing brainwaves. The next Indian city that could see such a lab would be Delhi.
Nielsen neuroscience labs use two techniques for testing. Their EEG (electroencephalography) technology uses a non-invasive cap that measures brainwave activity, while eye-tracking sensors simultaneously measure pupil movement. The brand specifies certain demographics on the basis of which the individuals are chosen for the study. Each individual is given a headgear and is shown an engaging video or visual in a closed room. The headgear then transmits the information to a computer. Nielsen says that by studying people at their most fundamental level—by measuring brainwaves and tracking eye movement, they provide a real time view of sub-conscious reactions. This research could extend across the marketing spectrum — from ads to aisles and from food to finance. It could help in areas of ad effectiveness, product design, in-store marketing and experiential marketing.
Joe Willke, president at Nielsen Neuro, says that consumer neuroscience research fares over other traditional forms of research, because it triggers a response even before the thought process takes off. There is no way for the respondent to articulate the “right response” as per societal norms, or popular opinion. “Neuroscience can come in especially handy when it comes to design and packaging—such an automobile design, or a high tech ATM machine design. Such research makes a lot of sense for the big spenders on advertising and marketing, such as auto, financial services and telecom companies. They are the early adopters. Even if you optimise marketing spends by 5-10%, it results in enormous cost savings for these companies,” Willke says adding there are some interesting developments afoot in the US, where the research firm is measuring nine television programmes via neuroscience, and co-relating it with other forms of behavioural data such as Nielsen’s television measurement and Twitter data.
Sam Balsara, chairman and managing director at Madison World, said that such research helps edit the length of an advertisement. In the pre-testing phase, it is possible to know what portion delivers impact and what doesn’t. “It’s a good application for the pre-testing of commercials,” he says.
Piyush Mathur, president, Nielsen India region, says that such research could prove to be very beneficial in the case of digital content and increasingly, everything is gravitating towards digital. “When people watch content on a small screen, you get a lot of attention. But, not necessarily emotion. At least, not the kind you would get on a larger screen. Based on our findings, we have recommended that on content being played on a smartphone, the face size should be much larger. It brings out the emotions.” He also adds that neuroscience could play a role in identifying the right celebrity for the right brand. “With a particular celebrity, we found that the men reacted very differently from women. Men actually found him trustworthy and the women didn’t. Later, we found that he had given a press interview wherein he admitted to dating multiple women at the same time. The men were impressed with this kind of an honest admission. But the women were wary. If a brand is trying to project loyalty and trust, such a celebrity is definitely not a good fit.”
Mahesh Murthy, founder of Pinstorm Technologies, says that the move towards neuroscience in advertising is an attempt to ‘re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic’. “Brands across the board are openly admitting that advertising isn’t working at all, no matter how much money they throw at media spends or commissions, or at television production costs. Turning to neuroscience for a cure is like trying to cure cancer with vanishing cream. The new reality is that brands that win in the marketplace—like Zara, or Red Bull or Google or Facebook don’t advertise at all. They build their success through a differentiated offering that is compelling enough to spread via word of mouth or word of mouse.”
Murthy says that ‘neuromarketing’ has kept raising its head from time to time—since the ‘Mad Men’ days of the 1960’s. “The good news is that neuroscience is making an impact—but in product design and not advertising. So the design of mobile phones and apps, or the design of automotive dashboards and voice recognition systems is where it plays an increasing role globally – and not so much in choosing one advertising tagline over another. Increasingly, in category after category, leading brands rely on product design and laggard brands rely on advertising design. The introduction of a neuroscience advertising lab in India will likely not make much of a difference to leading brands—but it could be of interest to laggard brands that still rely on old-world beliefs in interruption-based marketing vehicles like television and print advertising.” Murthy said.