Using neuroscience to uncover what makes humans tick

Dr Cristina de Balanzo, Director at Walnut Unlimited, puts her successful Festival of Marketing talk into writing.

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Over recent years it has been proven that emotion is a crucial communication component in establishing strong relationships between brands and consumers, as it helps to drive attention and memorability. This creative strategy has been adopted by many of the world’s top brands as they look to improve effectiveness of their communications and drive business results. This is most evident in the 2018 IPA Effectiveness papers, where 55% of the winners cited emotion as their main creative strategy.

But in order for this approach to be effective, marketers need to better understand their customers by knowing how, when and why they are engaging at any communication touch point, be it with TV, in-store or online.

At Unlimited Group, we use neuroscience technology – including EEG, biometrics like GSR, eye-tracking and facial coding – to allow us to understand the true, biological reactions of consumers to a piece of content. Each of these tools, individually or combined, are powerful in identifying at which point a piece of content ignites the strongest emotional response from a consumer; at distinguishing which emotions we feel as we digest communications; at recognising the biological intensity of our reactions; and ensuring key messages and branding points are catching our eye.

We have pulled together learnings from our neuroscience research to help brands understand what makes humans tick, and how they can make smarter decisions by capitalising on emotional engagement and ensure their messages effectively resonate.

1. Emotional storytelling

The human brain is wired for storytelling, so it is integral that brands take consumers on a journey with them. These stories need to emotionally connect with the audience to successfully drive behaviour. Humans are equipped with mirror neurons which fire in response to seeing actions taken by someone else’s body, allowing us to empathise and ‘feel’ what another person feels. Empathetic reactions are always stronger when we have more in common with the other person and when we feel close to them. If a brand does not drive an emotional response in its storytelling, consumers may recall the content, but chances are they will not remember the brand behind it; the real trick for brands is to time their ‘big reveal’ to the moment of peak emotion to ensure they remain top of mind.

2. Simplicity

Our brains look for information that is easy to process. They are constantly prioritising, ignoring or making assumptions in a matter of seconds. As psychologist Daniel Kahneman
said: “Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats. They can do it, but they would prefer not to. They can do it, but they would prefer not to.” Emotions do not rely on thinking to be registered, so keep your communication simple and keep it human.

3. Movement

The brain is programmed to notice things that move. This can be explained from an evolutionary standpoint, as humans learned to survive by reacting to movements that could be threats. Movement can help to grab attention and ensure brands stand out amongst the clutter. Who wants to watch a static advert anyway?

If a brand does not drive an emotional response in its storytelling, consumers may recall the content, but chances are they will not remember the brand behind it; the real trick for brands is to time their ‘big reveal’ to the moment of peak emotion to ensure they remain top of mind.

4. Authenticity

Brains detect if something or someone is not genuine, with technology showing that our brains disengage when a product does not look real. Showing raw and real emotion in content – as opposed to just rational or factual information – is incredibly important. Brands can provide the same information to a consumer in multiple ways, but the authenticity and rawness in which this information is told is key to driving emotional engagement.

To summarise, feelings, whether good or bad, drive action. To drive behavioural change and impact sales, brands needs to convey the right message (the what), in an emotionally engaging way (the how).

This article was written by Dr Cristina de Balanzo, Director at Walnut Unlimited, the research and insight arm of Unlimited Group. This is a summary of her recent talks at Cannes Lions Festival and the Festival of Marketing 2019. Successful communications deliver on both.

If you would like to find out more about how the Unlimited Group uses neuroscience to drive effective, creative communications, then please do get in touch as we would love to hear from you.



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