Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
August 24 2018,
July 13 2020

Gone are the days when colleagues in other teams referred to us fondly as the “colouring-in department”. Because we’re all scientists now. And, irrespective of whether you studied an “…ology” or not, marketing involves an understanding of martech, the complexities of data science, and more than a passing interest in human behaviour, buying patterns and preferences.

I’ve been reading about neuromarketing. We’re all familiar with the idea that prospective house sellers should brew fresh coffee before a viewing. Or stories of supermarkets pumping the smells from the bakery section to the front of the store to lure shoppers in. That’s neuromarketing, in its simplest form. While these tactics are simply sensory nudges, psychological tricks that merely warm up the customer to buy, ways of measuring how effective such nudges are have become pretty scientific.


The eyes have it

A good graphic designer learns what is pleasing to the human eye, knows what colours work together, and which fonts make copy easier to read and understand. Putting these theories to the test is where eye-tracking comes in. Essentially the measurement of eye-activity, trackers can be used in a virtual environment (using a screen) or in real life, for example where a consumer is exposed to outdoor advertising media or browsing in a shop. Eye-tracking measures the participant’s “point of gaze” to determine what captures their attention, where and for how long, and so determine the most effective design or layout.


A brain-wave

Two techniques which measure brain activity in response to an external stimulus are fMRI and EEG.   

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, fMRI for short, is expensive and currently out of reach except to the most successful and high-profile brands. It involves using a powerful magnet to track the brain’s blood flow and determine how subjects respond to audio and visual cues, letting marketers know how people really feel about their work, rather than simply relying on how they say they feel about it.

An alternative, EEG has come on in leaps and bounds. Initially a series of electrodes attached to the skull that resembled something from a Frankenstein movie, consumer-friendly EEG headsets can even track facial muscle movement, measuring the recipient’s reactions and signals to what they are seeing and exposed to.


Some skin in the game

It doesn’t sound pleasant but the measurement of Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) looks at the change of conductivity of the skin due to sweat gland activity. It indicates the level of arousal in the skin in response to what the recipient is seeing, feeling, hearing or in some way experiencing.


Making sense of our marketing

The issue of bombardment is a real one. Consumers have become increasingly adept at tuning out and effectively “unseeing” the plethora of visual messaging that is served to them. Neuroscience indicates that the other senses  - sound, smell, taste and touch – can play a positive role and help reinforce connection with consumers at a subconscious level.


While our campaigns will rarely see the inside of a laboratory, or a focus group wired in to the matrix, including multi-sensory stimuli within our collateral is preferable. Easy to see then how the haptic appeal of print will have the edge over digital!

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