Brain Scans Are Bringing ‘Minority Report’ Techniques to Advertising
Neuro-Insight believes its neuroscience analysis can predict what will make you want to buy something, before you realize it yourself.
Figuring out whether people will commit crimes in the future may be science fiction, but one company says it can tell what makes a person want to buy something even if they don’t realize it themselves by reading their brains.
“$500 billion is spent (by companies on market research), most of them relying on brands asking consumers if they would buy the product,” said Neuro-Insight U.S. CEO Pranav Yadav. “Our company tries to access the subconscious human motivators of decision making and help companies understand consumer minds.”
Much of advertising relies on focus groups and other types of market research. Neuro-Insight believes it can get further insight by using brain scans. And while it can’t forewarn about misconduct like science-fiction movie “Minority Report,” Yadav believes its models are the closest to predictive marketing and the best among a growing field of neuromarketing companies.
Studies show 85 to 95 percent of decisions are made in the subconscious. Neuro-Insight’s techniques of measuring long-term memory and corresponding behavior have been backed up by peer reviewed studies, especially when it comes to television commercials. It uses proprietary technology called Steady State Topography (SST), which measures the speed of electrical activity in different parts of the scalp. It can correlate the readings to different areas in the brain known for serving certain functions.
Australian network Channel 7 conducted a survey to figure out its most popular shows. The questionnaire determined top shows people said they enjoyed were “Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family.” Neuro-Insight’s brain scans revealed a reality show featuring couples in the kitchen called “My Kitchen Rules” was among the favorite programs. But while “My Kitchen Rules” came in third according to the brain scans, it was only number 16 on the self-reported survey. Channel 7 opted to highlight “My Kitchen Rules,” and it ended up its second-most popular show.
Sometimes brain readings can pick up on nuances people might not notice, Pranav said.
Birds Eye shot two almost identical commercial for its frozen peas and fish dinners. Despite having the same narrator and concept, the peas commercial led to more sales compared to the fish one. The company hired Neuro-Insight to investigate.
Neuro-Insight discovered that at a pivotal time in both commercials — when the narrator asks “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could simply capture this moment?” — there was a notable difference. In the peas commercial, it focused on a close-up shot of fresh peas. However, in the case of the fish commercial, the words lined up with a picture of the ocean. Neuro-Insight advised Birds Eye change the image to a picture of a fish. The amendments coincided with a 7 percent higher market share and a 130 percent increase in return on investment.
“Neuro Insight helped us identify the precise elements in our two brand TVC’s that defined the difference between success and failure,” said Glenn Myatt, group marketing manager of Simplot Australia, which owns Birds Eye. “What became apparent is that subtle elements can play a significant role in driving advertising effectiveness. With this knowledge, our agency made relatively minor changes … and turned an underperforming TV commercial into a success in terms of brand tracking and, most importantly, contribution to market share growth.”
Neuro-Insight global CEO John Zweig, who recently joined the company, said he never found insights as valuable as Neuro-Insight findings in his 30 years of working with WPP.
“Data and analytics can show causality,” Zweig said. “Predictable thinkers will try to reduce marketing to formulas and predictability, which will never happen. Here (through brain scans) is this vast insight into human hopes and desires that has just been neglected.”