NeuroMarketing – New Tools For Engaging Customers

Fast forward to some time in the future. The marketing game has completely changed, having evolved beyond test and control, research, etc. Imagine you can understand how your customers react to your products. By react I mean physical responses such as eye movements, heart rate, breathing pace, galvanic skin response and body language. You can map these responses to human emotions and cognitive thinking styles. Next you capture how your customers form relationships with your products (abstract, concrete) and how their social preferences interplay with and drive consideration. But wait there’s more. Throw ideolgical values (taste, morals) into the calculus and you will be able to mold a product that satisfies all basic human pleasures and by definition is the most desireable item on the market. You are are flying, and instantly promoted.

Science fiction? Is it even possible? It is possible, and the technology is available now. Welcome to Part III in my weblog series from the Forrester Marketing Forum 2008 (Los Angeles, April 7-9). The Forum’s theme was customer engagement. In this installment I make an attempt to summarize and connect four separate presentations (two breakouts and two keynotes), that starts to show marketers how to create more engaging online experiences by making them more pleasurable and deisrable.

At the heart of this task is a new type of practice called NeuroMarketing. It’s in very early days, having been largely confined to labs using expensive equipment that was uncomfortable for the subjects. As with any technology, it’s getting smaller and cheaper. There is only so far marketers can go with our current practices. In my view it’s critical to employ new tools that can measure human response and desire. Let’s get started.

First – The Four Pleasures Framework by Patrick Jordan. Mr. Jordan is a design, marketing and brand strategist and holds a PhD in psychology. He has worked with major brands to create campaigns and products using his pleasures framework.

The objective is to help people feel good about your product, your brand/company and about themselves. The four pleasures are:

  1. Physio – Physiological, the body and its senses
  2. Psycho – Psychological, the mind, emotions, cognition and interests
  3. Socio – Relationships, social connections in the abstract and concrete
  4. Ideo – Ideological, the values, taste and morals

During his talk Mr. Jordan cited real-life examples for each of the pleasures. To illustrate physio, he spoke about how the car maker Fiat has an entire lab and team devoted to only three parts of a car. The steering wheel, gear shift and inside door handles. Through research and observation, Fiat discovered that these were the first three things a customer actually touched when in a car showroom. The salesman would usually open the door, the customer would step in, put her hands on the wheel, then on the gear shift. When she wanted to exit she would have to touch the door handle. If the designers could elevate the sensory experience of these physical parts to one of pleasure, product consideratin is off to a flying start.

He provided examples for each pleasure, but I won’t go into them here. For those explorers that want to give it a try, he offered this brief summary.

  • Create robust personas
  • Conduct indepth ethnographic research
  • Immerse yourself in your customers
  • Look at what’s going on in the media

Second – Amplifying Engagement: Measuring Customer’s Emotional Reaction to an Experience, was given by Jeremi Karnell, President, One-to-One Interactive. His company(s) are working in the NeuroMarketing space, and he defines it this way.

NeuroMarketing is a new field of marketing that studies consumers sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli.

He discussed what he calls the mind-body nexus of engagement, consisting of perception, attention, brain function and behavior. His firm developed the Quantemo Engagement Index, a scientific approach to measuring a target audience’s emotional reactions to digital media. In short, they put sensors on subjects (simple things like bands, nothing sticks to the skin) show them web sites, ads, emails, then report on heart rate, galvanic skin response and breathing. The sensors can also detect eye tracking and body movement. Are the subjects leaning in (interested), or sitting back (bored). These measurements are graphed and presented alongside the usability testing video and reports to give designers more data points to validate or refine designs or marketing messages. Can be employed against your competitors sites as well.

Third – Creating Personas that Support Engagement was given jointly by Neil Clemmons of Critical Mass and Mike Madaio from QVC. I won’t go into defining personas or how to use them in this post. You can easily find that through a simple search. The value in this talk was how Critical Mass extended the Forrester useful, usable, desireable usability model by adding sustainable and social to the persona matrix.

I have been doing a lot of thinking along these lines lately, and this really made it clear. The more offline experiences migrate to the online world, the more tools designers and marketers will need to be effective. The rapid growth of social computing is being accelerated by technology advances. This will require new ways to think about how to create online experiences that will keep up. Expanding the persona/user-centered design paradigm is a natural next step. Mastering these techniques will be critical to engaging users in your online properties.

Fourth – Designing for Engagement by Forrester Principal Analyst, Kerry Bodine. Her talk orbited around desirability. She didn’t offer a textbook definition, but instead quoted Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964) as he attempted to define obscenity.

I shall not attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…

I know it when I see it. Clearly desirability is a subjective call and as unique as humans. But like so many other things the mind processes, it’s real. That’s why NeuroMarketing is going to be important. It pulls the subjective, which is very difficult for marketers to deal with, into focus using something more concrete than a gut feeling.

Kerry Bodine – Photo: Steve A. Furman

Ms. Bodine showed the standard usability strata Forrester has been promoting for years, and suggested it should look more like a point to point map, increasing the role desirability should play when designing. This is a subtle change, but one that challenges designers and web architects to think about desirability along side the other dimensions at the outset, vs. something to aspire to after launch. Makes more sense.

I would love to see Forrester refine, actually update, their persona framework to address the rise in social computing and match what they have done with this change. Since 2002, I have worked with Cooper to create the personas we use today. Their persona philosophy and methodology was a natural fit with how we think about segmentation.

Ms. Bodine used a number of personal and observed examples of desirable experiences. One as mundane as ordering room service in a hotel. Her summary and advice to marketers was as follows.

  • Learn to recognize desirability when you see it
  • Give desirability the recognition it deserves
  • Find a way to create desirable experiences

My take on what it means

Online marketers (DM guys and product managers) need to get much closer to interactive design than they are today. The pure plays are way ahead of the analog legacy firms (less baggage). Traditional direct marketers have the luxury of creating dozens (sometimes hundreds) of test cells and corresponding creatives. But they do this, for the most part, not so much through observing human responses, but by mechanical test and control (trial and error). I’m not suggesting that this is not a valid science, but it leaves out the human emotional reactions that are hallmark to the web’s interactivity.

Online testing tools available to raise interactive marketing practice to DM levels are getting better, but most firms don’t have the understanding, budget, expertise or technology infrastructure to acquire, implement and use them. They cannot support a network of sites or instances of sites or even regions on pages necessary to conduct robust DM-like testing. Don’t get me wrong, some firms are doing this well, but they are the exception. In my company we had at one time over 14,000 direct marketing test cells for one product! Nothing even close to that online.

I know it’s counterintuitive, but the online channel in most companies is fairly static because of tracking challenges, staff support, lack of a content management system and the reality of having to integrate with back end databases and systems real time. Content management suites like Interwoven, are helping, but they are big enterprise solutions. Could there be an Interwoven Lite market out there?

NeuroMarketing, is real today and could be baked into the normal project plan without extending the time line or breaking the budget. It can give the online marketer a new and powerful tool that doesn’t result in an extra large IT project.

What do you tell your CMO when asked to explain desirability? “I know it when I see it” is probably not going to do it. Use the mind. Neurons tell the truth.

In Summary

  • Create personas now. If you already have them be sure they are up to date.
  • Get buy in on personas from your DM marketers and Product Managers.
  • Bring them into the design and development process early and keep them there through the validation cycles.
  • Integrate NeuroMarketing techniques in your usability testing plan.

Read my other Forrester Marketing Forum 2008 posts here for Part I and here for Part II.

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  1. Outside In: Forrester Customer Experience Forum 2012 | Expedient MEANS - July 1, 2012

    […] years ago I wrote a post on neuromarketing. This is a set of emerging techniques allowing us to get at the physiology of consumers. By […]

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