India 2nd fastest market to adopt neuroscience in advertising: Joe Willke

Not only is India on an early part of the adoption curve, it also accounts for 10 per cent of Nielsen Neuro's business globally, says Joe Willke, President, Nielsen Neuro

e4m by Aditi Raval
Published: Nov 19, 2014 8:07 AM  | 6 min read
India 2nd fastest market to adopt neuroscience in advertising: Joe Willke

Nielsen Neuro is a division of Nielsen, which brings neuroscience to advertising, branding, packaging and in-store experience. Nielsen has launched its neuroscience lab in India (a syndicated lab open to all types of clients), to observe consumer behaviour in order to help enhance advertising effectiveness and targeted reach.

One guided tour through the lab lets you witness the exact application of neuroscience in consumer research.

The subject is shown a series of images/ videos (marketing stimuli) and by measuring and analysing brainwave activity and tracking eye movement of the subject through EEG signals, three key metrics come into play for one to observe; whether a viewer’s memory is being activated, when and how far people’s attention is engaged and whether the viewer is drawn emotionally towards a stimulus. From these, the technology derives gauges of purchase intent, novelty and awareness.

The Mumbai Lab started testing two years ago and the intent of the operation is not only to work on ad hoc projects, but also to partner with clients on R&D and be embedded in their ecosystems.

Nielsen Neuro Labs are in existence across UK, USA, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Japan, China and India.

“Mumbai is a critical research market. India is one of the early adopters of the technology behind USA and it is the second fastest market to adopt the new technology to their business applications,” says Joe Willke, President, Nielsen Neuro.

Not only is India on an early part of the adoption curve, but also it also accounts for 10 per cent of Nielsen Neuro’s business globally, adds Willke.

Willke says bringing science to the art of advertising is a smart way to stop waste in marketing and ad spends. “What neuroscience gives you, is a second by second response of your viewers, which is not possible with traditional surveys and focus groups.” Articulated response is often manipulated by the subjects as they are in control of what they say, while neuroscience results are undiluted and precise.

Globally, there is a sizeable shift from 60-year-old traditional focus groups to scientifically aided research eliminating the limitations of spoken responses, which are prone to manipulation and filtering by subjects, says Willke.

With respect to measuring the accuracy of results derived from neuroscience research and correlating them in market sales data (i.e. did they buy the product?), Willke said the correlation is .8, which is a strong correlation.

Shonali Ghosh, Executive Director, Nielsen Neuro India comments, “While EEG measures brain activity through a cap that tracks brainwaves, eye-tracking technology measures pupil movement. By pairing the two, we are able to pinpoint precise areas of focus and a person’s response to them.”

She further adds, “FMCG, automobiles, BFSI are sectors that spend the most on marketing and advertising. With the help of our neuroscience expertise, we can also help with media planning to make efficient use of ad spends as well as enhance that process with priming i.e. which ad will work well in which slot on what platform, thus improving ROI.”

“Interestingly enough, one of the auto companies we are working with, has used our research with their car design with desired results,” said Piyush Mathur, President, Nielsen India region.

Willke explained that making technology used in neuroscience more untethered and portable is also something they are working on. A case in point is a new wireless headset in development, which replaces gel-based wires. Next on the cards is taking the wireless technology out of the labs and into respondents’ home so that the research process can be fast-tracked and expanded.

The next city likely to see another Nielsen Neuro Lab is Delhi, as Willke believes India being a diverse market; research in all geographies is essential. The only challenge he sees not just in India but globally, is for clients not being open to adopting newer technologies as opposed to older and more qualitative market-based research.

“Ninety five per cent of what we do is before the ads go into the market. Our neurological tests are a pure measure of the creative (as to what held a viewer’s interest, what spiked it and what caused it to wane) and also granular details that are impossible to be found with traditional methods. First seven seconds of the advertisement are very crucial,” says Willke.

Within the area of pre-market testing and research, Willke also explained that neuroscience research helps at all stages of ad making, with the fine-tuning of copy writing, to other conception stages, while accurately mapping customer response to the finished ad. He also commented that this science is a tool for marketers and advertisers, not a substitute for creativity.

“Some years ago, architects were completely opposed to computer-aided design but today no architect can do without it. The same goes for neuroscience in consumer research, marketing and advertising,” he explains.

Willke believes that his association with neuroscience has dramatically changed his notions on branding.

“Things I was told or heard, like brand needs to be mentioned in the first five seconds of the ad and all other recipes handed down, are not true. Branding is much more complex than that. A brand is a collection of associations. Sometimes, a brand shares certain benefits (and therefore generates associations) across the category, for instance an analgesic. But sometimes a brand uniquely owns an association, for example Volvo comes to mind when one thinks of safety. Even colours are associated with a brand, for example Coca-Cola owns red,” elaborates Willke.

“A client needs to know what the customers associate with their brand. What associations do you share with the competitor? What associations are uniquely yours? Apple and Coca-Cola are very consistent with their brand associations,” he further adds.

In Willke’s opinion, brand managers are not really doing a great job if every two years the brand manager changes and the consistency of brand association is not maintained with respect to the consumers. Not falling in the trap of brand misattribution and the art of brand linkage is something the industry can do a lot better with, he says.

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