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How NeuroEEG and NeuroCap Help Study Emotional Connections in Marketing

Michelle Adams is the founder and president of Marketing Brainology, a consulting practice focused on translating consumer and shopper insights to corporate America, including findings from virtual shopping, behavioral science, and Neuroscience.

Ms. Adams is a senior industry leader, a keynote speaker, consultant, and trainer known for leveraging advantaged insights to drive sustainable growth and adoption thru-out organizations. Michelle holds a PhD in political economy from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Marketing Brainology focuses on Neuromarketing and human decision-making, helping unlock the mystery of human emotion and how it impacts brands and companies. Its Neurolabs are based in Plano, Texas, but portable labs that can be setup in any location. They use MemoryMD’s 16-channel EEG amplifier NeuroEEG and disposable EEG cap NeuroCap equipment, and Tobii Eye-Tracking, along with 1:1 interviews to better understand consumers/shoppers. We talked to Michelle about her experience using EEG products.

Michelle, what services does your company offer and why is there a need for you to use EEG devices in your research?

Marketing Brainology is focused on the art and science of the human decision making. We use neuroscience tools to learn what emotions people are portraying while looking at various content, including packaging, merchandising, and also advertising. We look at how people are connecting to e-commerce solutions, such as pop-up ads, as well as traditional TV ads. What we do is an intersection of what people say they like and why they like it. We combine that with the information on whether their eyes are fixating on the target (such as a TV ad) and how their brains are responding.

To measure our respondents’ brain activity and emotional response, we use MemoryMD’s EEG products – NeuroEEG, a 16-sensor medical-grade EEG device and NeuroCap, a disposable EEG headset with 16 EEG channels, along with Tobii Eye-Tracker. Since we are in the field of marketing research, we do a lot of A/B testing: “Should I use that ad with this kind of Creative, or should I use a different execution with the same ad, but a different message?” The question we answer is how to emotionally connect to our clients’ target audience.

So, we show content to our respondents. We put the EEG equipment on, we have the eye tracking as well, and a webcam, so we are looking at their facial expressions, and then we show them on average 15-20 minutes worth of content. From that content we are looking specifically at how they are reacting to one ad versus another ad.

Tell us more about the process of analyzing EEG Results.

Marketing Brainology merges the EEG data with the Tobii Eye-traking data, along with the web-cam to provide a comprehensive view of how someone reacts to content. This video output is then incorporated into what the respondent says about their reaction to ads and marketing content. In some cases, there is alignment between what someone says and their emotional response. However, we find examples of brain responses that don’t match the stated responses. This can be because the respondent doesn’t feel comfortable sharing their true feelings to an interviewer and/or they have concerns their responses aren’t consistent with others’ opinions. In some cases, respondents aren’t aware of their brain responses.

Could you please provide specific examples?

The easiest example is the Super Bowl. We analyze how people react to Anheuser-Busch commercials, for example, with horses going through the field versus something that is very funny. Or you have some brand, such as Pepsi, that brings in a celebrity – and there is a different emotional reaction…
But we focus not just on a company or a brand. We are looking at particular mnemonic sensory triggers: Does a female voice resonate differently than a male voice? Does the use of a familiar song take you somewhere else? We look at reaction when you use objects – for example, a villain in a Super Bowl ad. Or if a Walmart ad is using familiar songs from the 1980s and 1990s. A lot of tests that we do are not for a particular client but for holistic learning about human behavior. So we will look across what ads are running during a particular time of year…

We do a lot of seasonal studies around holidays. Research shows that emotions around the holidays are varied among men and women. So we look at how they are connecting to content, in many cases we see different emotional engagement by men and women. Right now we are getting ready to do a spring set of ads – all of these trigger ideas of new scents for your house, candy for Easter – everything related to that emotional territory through a specific time period.

At Christmas, there was this Google’s “Home Alone” ad – an execution for Google Assist. And that is an amazing example of how the ad related to 30-35 year olds, because that was the age when they were young and the movie came out. So they are going to connect to the whole “Home Alone” movie scene in a different way than their own kids.

So we kind of work backwards; we see the emotional engagement when it happens. After our subjects finish doing the EEG portion, we bring them in and we do 1-on-1 interviews. From there we get a lot of “mystery solved.”. What ads stood out the most, what they remember and why. Then we go in to ask things such as which ads they liked specifically, we go back and show them again, and try to get the rest of the story.

«A piece of the interview with the respondent»

«Two EEG tests during “Gladiator” movie»

«Two EEG tests during “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie»

What made you choose this particular EEG system?

Prior to using our current EEG system, which is MemoryMD’s NeuroEEG, we used another device. It was clunky, expensive and difficult to setup, because it was a 64-sensor machine. What I value about the 16-channel solution offered by MemoryMD is that it is medically based. I wanted a solution that would make us more familiar with what we were used to. It did not have to be a 64-sensor device. But we needed a medical-grade equipment. That was what built the most credibility – especially since our testing labs are are in a medical center.
We like the fact that MemoryMD keeps improving its product. At the beginning days, when we were still using the cap, which is more traditional in the practice, they would come to us and say: “Now we have this!” So, they wanted us to try new versions. We have been an innovation partner with them, and they are constantly listening and enhancing

We are 2.5+ years into using the equipment, so we are expert level now. Most of our issues have to do not with the equipment but with people on various medical drugs. We have panelists who have been with us for years, and they might start taking some new medicine. Our issue is that brain is never the same year to year, or week to week.

Another important aspect is that NeuroCaps, disposable EEG headsets can be very easily setup on our respondents. This is especially important in cases when our respondents are females with long and thick hair. The difficulty previously was to try to work around the cap that went over the head. Because the MemoryMD product is a headband, we can move the hair, go under it, or put the band around the hair. I chuckle when I see pictures of people doing tests and using the cap from the old times. I know they cannot be equally testing for women because of the hair – you would have difficulty connecting all the sensors.

Do you think that MemoryMD’s EEG products helped your business grow?

Absolutely. What differentiates our brand versus others that do research is the fact that we are able to measure emotions. To offer the neuroscience side to our clients at affordable cost is a game-changer. People who used neuroscience 10-12 years ago (if we talk about big brands such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, P&G), paid enormous amount of money for that. When you do a cost-benefit analysis, you say: Did I get that much value from those insights? It was a big challenge.

Now what we can do is that we can take a midsize company, or we work with large companies that don’t have the same kind of budget than maybe they had 10 years ago but now they are able to use the same kind of research that they know works at a cost that they can afford. And even with big companies, these days they don’t have unlimited research budgets.

It you are to do a focus group and ask an opinion in a group setting, we are trying to get our pricing model in a way that you would want to add this additional value of research. We allow brands to go deeper and look at the emotional response of these brain waves that we are able to do. That allows these brands to have richer, deeper understanding of how their brand is connecting with people. So this is the information they never had. That to me is the biggest thing.

Overall, what I admire about MemoryMD’s team is that they took the time to develop the technology. I am sure they could have rushed to market a lot sooner, but they went through their own checks and balances. Because they are medically driven, I think we might be the only non-medical client of theirs that has been around for this long, I have 100% faith that their technology is top of the line – and the medical community would not accept something less. For what we need it is more than enough in terms of quality and accuracy.

All images and videos in this article are copyright to Marketing Brainology.

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