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.


CEO Follows Advice of Deity, Decides to Blog

Part II from the Forrester Marketing Forum held in Los Angeles, April 7-9, 2008. Part I, Understanding Customer Engagement is here.

Forrester’s CEO, George Colony led off the second day with a talk entitled Confessions of a CEO Blogger. As he tells the story, he had a dream some years ago in which a deity-like voice spoke to him and said, “start blogging.” He ignored it (not a surprise for a CEO). But with all the fuss and hype blogging is getting these days he started to feel like it might be the right time. After all, two of his top analysts, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff just published a book called Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. Personally I think he was a little worried about disregarding divine direction.

 George’s confessions are.

  1. No one is reading my blog.
  2. What do you mean once a week? I’ve got a company to run.
  3. Why does blog technology suck?
  4. It’s like speaking into a dark room and not getting any response.
  5. Where’s the money in this thing?

During his presentation he asked one of his analysts and respected blogger, Jeremiah Owyang, to take the mic and explain why he should give away his intellectual property for free on a blog. Jeremiah responded by saying that he thought of his blog as if it was a restaurant. He gives away the appetizers, but hopes people will come in and order the main meal. Obviously George wonders that his business, which is all about research and analysis, might lose monetary value through social networking. Certainly he gets paid to think about these things, and this concern is probably at the heart of why more CEO’s don’t blog.

George gets it, has a great sense of humor, and a sharp mind as you can read for yourself on his blog here. Please read so he doesn’t stop writing. Despite running a big, intellectual organization he is well grounded. A project manager partner of mine attended some Forrester sessions on Monday and then sat next to George at dinner. The report was he went out of his way asking people what they wanted to get out of the forum, and made everyone feel comfortable. When my colleague spoke up, he took a to do note. Impressive.

Understanding Customer Engagement

I attended the Forrester Marketing Forum in Los Angeles (April 7-9), where over 850 marketers from many of the world’s best known brands gathered to discuss customer engagement. I know customer engagement is not a new concept. We throw it around the office all the time. But what does it mean? How do you measure it? Better yet, how do you create more of it among your customers? Asking these kinds of questions, then providing guidance on how marketers can answer them for their own business is what Forrester Research does very well.

Brian Haven, Senior Analyst at Forrester, presented a framework entited, Engagement: A New Approach to Understanding Your Customers. He recounted the true story of Jen, who is super passionate about Ikea. She lives in Cincinnati and would travel hundreds of miles to shop at Ikea because there wasn’t one in her city. Jen started a blog four years ago in hopes of getting the Ikea execs to build a store in Cincinnati. Ikea corporate was well aware of Jen and her blog. They eventually decided to build Cincinnati, and when Jen applied for a job, they didn’t even give her a call back. Wait, it gets better (or worse). They also asked her to relinquish her domain ( because when execs searched Google Jen’s site got top billing (another consumer blow to the evil empire). Ikea also made her post a disclaimer on her blog. Why would they do these things? Jen doesn’t write bad things about Ikea or any of their products on her blog. In fact it is quite the opposite, see for yourself.

This is a common reaction among execs of big brands when consumers take control. They just don’t know what to do with these super consumers. There is so much inertia built up around wanting to maintain control, “Our brand must be controlled by us, protect the brand.” What a missed opportunity! Ikea had a fanatically engaged customer spending her own time and money to advocate for the brand, and they wouldn’t even let her work in the store.

Marketers want more customer engagement, but are we ready for it? The web has flattened the world. Are we ready to deal with excessive customers like Jen? They aren’t about to go away, and if we’re not careful, it will be the super customers’ sites that rise to the top of the Google search result page. And since consumers trust consumers more than companies, guess who will get the clicks. So if you’re ready, here’s what Brian has outlined.

A simple 4 i’s framework for thinking about customer engagement. First ut all this on paper.

  • Involvement – The presence of a person at a touchpoint.
  • Interaction- The action a person takes at the touchpoint.
  • Intimacy – The affection a person holds for the brand.
  • Influence – The likelihood of a person to advocate on behalf of the brand.

Everyone wants the magic bullet metric, but there isn’t one. Customer engagement is human engagement, not physics. Brian then laid out three exercises steps to help get started on building an engagement strategy. Next, define all these.

  1. Define engagement – Establish your own benchmarks for engagement. In other words define what is excessive use (Jen) or non use and what is average. Remember to include context (what channel). Establish engagement personas and an engagement hierarchy.
  2. Measure engagement – Pull together your existing measurement sources and data. Get data from all channels. Supplement from outside sources to fill in the gaps. Be sure you can track the excessive use or non use benchmarks.
  3. Encourage engagement – Once you have tied all these points together, it’s time to take action. Provide more content in the appropriate context (touchpoint). Offer more tools to help the customer. Ask for more information from your customers, but be sure to give something in return.

Being the good analyst, he placed the 4 i’s in a quadrant. I couldn’t couldn’t keep up with the slides, so this sketch is a little well, a little sketchy. But I think you get the basic idea. Next, place your specific business metrics inside the appropriate quadrant (from the 1, 2, 3 exercise above) and you get a the beginnings of a roadmap.

Keep these following tips top of mind as you go through the exercise.

  • Think life-cycle, not just point in time. Getting customers to more deeply engage with your brand requires we establish a fundamentally different relationship with customers than we are used to.
  • Think like a media company. The raditional media channels are weakening. Control is in the hands of the consumer. Create content and tools, publish cross channels, unlock your content and information.
  • Put your product devleopment hat back on. Products for the people. Solve a customer problem. Keep it simple. Iterate.

Here are some of my personal experience tips. I’m pretty old and have been around the block a few times.

  • Always validate your numbers with the finance department.
  • Involve your public relations and legal teams. They will be afraid, very afraid, so you have got to reassure them.
  • Be sure you have senior management buy in once you create the framework.
  • Start small, measure, learn and then inch forward.
  • Include all channels in order to have the greatest impact.
  • Once you have begun and people see that the sun still rises they will feel more comfortable.

This was the first presentation of the forum, and Brian did a great job of setting the stage for what was to follow.