Tag Archives: nielsen

The Brains Behind Better Marketing: Using Neuroscience to diagnose and optimize marketing efforts, By Michael Smith, Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience

Live note taking at the November 10, 2016 webinar. Any errors are my own.

  • Consumer neuroscience is relative new, over the last decade
  • Think then feel, weighs pros and cons of product benefits and through rational optimization and then you think about some products being more valuable. This is completely backwards. Maybe we use emotions as a first gauge prior to coming to thinking decisions.
  • This is not new, Kahneman wrote about system 1 and system 2 which are thinking fast and thinking slow. Fast is intuition, automatic, and emotional. Slow is emotional, deliberate, and logical. Hare and turtle.
  • System 1 starts before system 2 is even on board.
  • Traditional consumer insights are market data, POS, panel, explicit data, focus groups and questionnaires. We also need implicit, non-conscious, and physiological reactions to get a more complete view of the consumer.
  • Tools include EEG, core biometrics, facial coding, eye tracking, self report
  • EEG – 32 sensors collect data 500 times per second to capture activity across the brain, can measure response to marketing materials
  • Biometrics – galvanic skin response/sweat, sensors on fingertips, heartrate
  • Facial expressions to show surprise, confusion, joy, sadness, cameras also show where eyes are looking at an ad or commercial
  • EEG trace has a lot of granularity, change it into a profile of activity over time, aggregate data over many people, can see high and low points, which scenes are high or low engaging [wish he’d talk about people not consumers]
  • Can measure memory activation, attention processing, and emotional motivation
  • Have 80 years of research on this so we know what is getting into memory, degree to which people are engaged in the communication, and intentional attention and processing
  • Biometrics give us momentary engagement, degree of arousal from the ad, emotional highpoint, does it grow over time or finish on a strong point, do they tune out before your branding occurs
  • Facial coding and expressed emotions, if there is no emotion the ad won’t be successful, impacts success of delivery, some ads are designed to create a specific emotion
  • People are drawn to the center of a stimulus and they naturally attend to faces, people want to look at people, but you might want people to look at your 1-800 number or your logo
  • Neuroscience tools are predictive of sales – neuro combined is the best, followed by EEG, biometrics, surveys, and lastly facial coding [of course, the best tool is always a combination of tools]
  • Case study – public service advertising – Cheerleader PSA, ad to encourage dad’s to be involved in their kid’s lives – Woman is upset about a crazy man dancing outside her window but then you see he is cheering with his daughter


  • People liked the ad, 79% top 2 box
  • EEG and biometrics scored it high, lots of engagement, attention, engagement
  • There are peaks and valleys at various parts of the 30 second ad, at the lady scowling, seeing the cute little girl
  • Biometric trace shows a slow build, had a positive call to action
  • Put EEG, biometrics and facial coding together on one chart, kind of neat, negative expressed emotion at the beginning but becomes very positive at the end

eeg facial coding biometrics

  • Heatmap shows ‘attention vampires’ – people are looking at irrelevant things over the logo and phone number, it’s nice to look at the little girl but you need people to see your brand, maybe put the call in number to where people are looking and reduce the distractions when you show the important info
  • Neuro measures the non-conscious, ensures emotional connections exist, provides granular diagnostics
  • If you have norms, do you still need neuro? quant alone is only part of the answer

Where is the privacy fallout?

I’ve waited several days now but I think the apocalypse is going to come first. The news that Nielsen knowingly joined a password protected social network in order to harvest data for research purposes is now lining the proverbial bird cage. The fact is that they have apologized and stated that they do not do this anymore. So I guess we should just smile and go on with our lives.

But this one incident has the potential to seriously affect the market research industry. If there is no fallout from within the industry, it will simply come from without, but much more severely.

So where is the industry fallout?

Sure, we’ve all tweeted and facebooked and blogged about it, and many of us have also had lengthy in-company discussions. But we’re just individual people with little non-twitter clout.

I’ve yet to see any direct involvement from a privacy, ethics, or research organization. If every research code of conduct outlines standards of conduct around privacy and permissions, why have the organizations not spoken out or gotten directly involved? Is Nielsen a member of none? Is Nielsen not a research company? I want to know that the research organizations are working on our behalf, consumer and researcher alike, to ensure that all research companies strive for good ethics all the time. I want to know how a global market research company managed to interpret our ethics codes to their advantage.

Are we content to sit by and not say or do anything because Nielsen apologized? Are we worried that the same thing could happen to us? Are we waiting for this to blow over so that we can continue on with our own work?

Could this same situation have happened to anyone? No, it couldn’t. There are two things at play here. First, websites have hidden programming that tell website crawlers whether they are allowed to the crawl the site. If the code says no, then the crawler should be programmed to respect that. Spammers and non-researchers can ignore that code at their own peril. Second, sites that are password protected, EVEN if they don’t have the do not crawl code, are clearly stating that the information is not for public consumption. Again, spammers and non-researchers can ignore at their own peril.

A researcher would need to make a conscious decision to ignore someone’s request for privacy in order for this situation to happen. Hence my extreme disappointment and desire for fallout.

I was disappointed once. I’ll give it a week before I decide if I’m disappointed twice.

Building a bad reputation before we even start: Privacy in social media research

[tweetmeme source=”lovestats” only_single=false]You’ve probably heard by now. A global, well-respected market research firm has been accused of accessing social media data which was labeled as private. No less, the data was related to health care and included people’s medical histories and prescription medication use.

For our purposes here, let’s just assume the incident was a hypothetical situation. Besides, who are we to say if any of the released details are true or if I interpreted them properly. What are the consequences of this terribly unfortunate event?

First, this is one more reason for people to distrust market researchers. Forget about being telephoned during the dinner hour or being sent 60 minute online surveys. Now we’re convincing them to distrust social media research before it even really ramps up.

Second, this is one more reason for governments to ignore our pleas for self-regulation. If a huge company like this can’t interpret the MRA and CASRO privacy and permission standards to apply to social media data, how can any other companies be expected to do so?

Third, if government regulations pull the rug out from under us, social media research is going to land in countries of no privacy or respect, countries with few or no regulations to protect the average person. That is very scary. Scarier than I can appreciate.

I don’t know about you but I’m really disappointed. I’m crossing my fingers it’s just a hoax to make us take privacy more seriously.

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