Written by Clifford Chi
If digital and traditional marketers faced off in a debate about whose promotional philosophy is superior (which would probably get more heated than an NSYNC versus Backstreet Boys dispute), one of the points digital marketers could hang over traditional marketers’ heads is their ability to measure a campaign’s performance — and their opponent’s inability to do the same.
Whether its views, social shares, scroll depth, subscriptions, leads, and sometimes even ROI, digital marketers can measure it all. But even though we have access to a laundry list of metrics, we still can’t measure what is arguably the most crucial indicator of a campaign’s performance — emotional resonance.
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing a spike in traffic as much as the next blogger. But in an industry where skimming a page for 10 seconds counts as a view, leaving your desk to grab some string cheese will result in a time-on-page of five minutes, and 50% of web traffic and engagement are generated by bots and Chinese click farms, claiming digital metrics are a surefire way to gauge your content’s emotional impact is a stretch.
But what if we could actually measure emotional resonance? What if we could place a resonance score next to a piece of content, just like we do with views? Interestingly enough, there are companies spearheading this movement and developing technology that can gauge people’s emotional response to your content without needing to draw blood or scan any brains.
What is neuromarketing?
Neuromarketing blends neuroscience and marketing to help brands gauge the emotional resonance of their current and future marketing campaigns. To do this, companies like Immersion Neuroscience and Spark Neuro have developed technology that can gauge certain neurochemical and physiological responses, which both signal emotional engagement while consuming marketing content.
In 2017, Immersion Neuroscience developed the INBand, an armband that can measure your brain’s oxytocin levels by tracking the cadence of your Vagus — a nerve that controls your heartbeat.
Oxytocin is known as the empathy chemical. When it’s coursing through your brain, you relate to others more, care about them, and feel an urge to help them. And when your brain synthesizes the chemical while consuming marketing materials, it’s one of the best indicators of emotional engagement and, in turn, quality content.
In 2018, Immersion Neuroscience wanted to compare people’s oxytocin levels while they watched Superbowl ads to their self-reported preference of the same ads. So they hooked eight people up to the INBand and measured their neurochemical responses to 17 ads from the 2018 Superbowl. Then, they compared each ad’s immersion scores to their ranking on USA Today’s Ad Meter, which is ranked by the public.
What they found was quite shocking — their results were almost the complete opposite of USA Today’s Ad Meter rankings. In fact, the ad that generated the most emotional engagement in the study was ranked the least popular ad in USA Today’s Ad Meter.
Immersion Neuroscience’s findings suggest that knowing what the brain actually resonates with is much more important than knowing what people say they like, especially when you test ideas in focus groups — participants are prone to shielding their true opinions due to groupthink and the urge to please authority figures.
So to accurately gauge our content’s emotional resonance, and in turn, its ability to grab people’s attention, make them feel something, and compel them to act, we need to focus more on neuroscience and less on web metrics and in-person interviews.
However, even though leveraging neuroscience to inform your marketing strategy is an ideal and exciting opportunity, the tactic still seems more suited for a time where Black Mirror storylines are a reality.
In fact, one of the main questions people have is, “Is neuromarketing ethical?”
Below, let’s dive into that question.
While the purpose of neuromarketing is to determine how consumers respond to brands or campaigns, a rather innocuous study, not everyone is convinced that it’s ethical.
The study, “Is Neuromarketing Ethical? Consumers Say Yes. Consumers Say No,” addresses ethical questions such as, “Will brands be able to influence buyer decisions too much?” and “Is neuromarketing manipulative?”
In and of itself, neuromarketing isn’t unethical. However, it’s important that companies hold themselves to a high standard of ethics when studying their consumers.
For instance, brands shouldn’t intentionally promote anything that’s harmful, deceptive, or illegal. Additionally, you shouldn’t study minors to figure out how to hook them on a product.
Neuromarketing should be used to create effective ads and eliminate ads that just don’t work, and that’s all.
The main ethical questioning has more to do with your product or service, and less to do with how you market it. If you’re ever in doubt, ask yourself if the product or service is good for the customer.
In actuality, neuromarketing has already permeated into the content space. Netflix, Hulu, and some television networks use neurotrackers to predict how successful their shows will be — at an 84% rate of accuracy — and this methodology could soon seep into the marketing industry.
Even though we live in an age of data overload, where you can measure almost anything, Google Analytics will never be able to accurately gauge the most important element of your marketing campaign — its ability to make your audience feel something.
Fortunately, the neuromarketing space is rapidly evolving, and its technology is becoming more affordable and practical for marketers today, hopefully leading to its mainstream use tomorrow.
Written by Clifford Chi