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Duane Varan, The Science of Branding and Emotional Marketing — InnovaBuzz 457

Duane Varan, MediaScience

In this episode, I’m really excited to have as my guest, Dr. Duane Varan, CEO of MediaScience, the leader in media and advertising innovation research. Almost every major innovation in the TV advertising industry over the past decade was first tested by MediaScience. Duane is the recipient of numerous awards including the Australian Prime Minister’s Award for University Teacher of the Year. In four of the past six years, articles co-authored by Duane have been awarded as either Article of the Year or runner-up by the Advertising Research Foundation.

Duane is a pioneer in neuromarketing, regularly introducing new methods incorporating eye tracking, galvanic skin response, heart rate, EEG, facial expression analysis, response latency testing, and a wide variety of other methods. He is also CEO of Hark Connect, the most advanced platform for qualitative research.

In our discussion, Duane talked to me about:

  • The “real estate” of the mind
  • How all content takes us on an emotional journey
  • Innovative ways to measure attention, emotion, engagement and memory

Listen to the podcast to find out more.

Listen to the Podcast

Show Notes from this episode with Duane Varan, MediaScience

Key points and takeaways from this episode include:

  • Attention is a strange variable because more attention is not necessarily better.
  • Attention is like a threshold that you have to cross. And once you cross it, it’s about a lot of other things.
  • There are many different kinds of attention.
  • Positive or negative valence is the next hoop you have to jump through after attention. You want to know if people are happy or mad about what they’re seeing.
  • People make a go or a no go decision within half a second of an advertisement. You can immediately tell whether an ad will will fail, if it fails to fire up within the first 4 seconds.
  • The communication objective is key. It’s important to know whether or not you’re delivering on your communication objectives. You won’t know if your strategy is flawed unless you are effectively meeting your objectives.
  • If you’re effectively meeting your objectives and they’re still failing, you have to relook at your strategy. If you’re not delivering against your objectives, it means that your execution is flawed.
  • Every brand has a different set of objectives they are trying to achieve.
  • Brand building is all about the real estate of the mind. It’s a winner take all proposition. People will generally go with the brand that dominates that real estate.
  • It’s important for a brand to have a strategy that is delivering a home run rather than a first base.
  • There is not a lot of value in being the second-best. You can’t be number one to everybody, but you have to be number one for some consumers to really have an impact.
  • It’s important to develop a campaign that positions your brand in a way that creates value and has a system of meaning to it.
  • Media or advertising is an emotional journey. It is understanding people’s emotional encounters with different types of content.
  • People lack access to their own emotional journeys. What a person is telling you about how they feel is merely just a rational interpretation of what they think they are feeling.
  • MediaScience uses an array of innovative ways to measure attention, engagement, intensity of emotion, and memory of audiences while they view media; including eye tracking, galvanic skin responses, heart rate, ECG, facial expression analysis, and response latency testing, amongst a wide variety of other methods.
  • We should encourage people to rise to a standard. We should be a society that is grounded on pushing people to their capacity rather than putting people in their place and trying to get them to accept that this isn’t somewhere within the normal distribution chain.

The Buzz — Our Innovation Round

Here are Duane’s answers to the questions of our innovation round. Listen to the conversation to get the full scoop.

  1. #1 thing to be more innovative — Research. You can’t conquer the unknown without doing research.
  2. Favourite tool for innovation — Having a team of software engineers.
  3. Favourite tool for innovation — Trello.
  4. Keep project/client on track — Challenge yourself to always see the end in the beginning and work your way backwards.
  5. Differentiate — We can never differentiate ourselves because we already are differentiated.

To Be a Leader

If you’re best at what you do, you will never be poor. Whatever it is that you do, do it with beautiful quality. Do it to the best of your capacity. When you do that, you will ultimately win and prevail. Don’t just settle to be average and do things to get by. Reach deep within yourself and push yourself to deliver at the highest of your capacity.

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank Duane through their website.

Suggested Guest

Duane suggested we have a conversation with Elissa Moses of Hark Connect. So Elissa, keep an eye on your inbox for an invitation from us to the InnovaBuzz Podcast, courtesy of Duane Varan.


Cool Things About Duane

  • He owns Al Capone’s house in Chicago, restoring it to its 1931 condition, and working on a documentary about it.
  • He’s a former Professor at Audience Lab in Murdoch University and Chief Research Officer at Disney Media and Advertising Lab.
  • He has a PhD from the University of Texas in Austin.

Listen to the Podcast




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