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Consumer studies & neuroscience: using cutting-edge techniques, PART 2

consumer studies neuroscience

What neuroscience techniques can be used to improve the efficiency and reliability of consumer studies? In this article I describe two: the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and predictive validity.

 

 

 

 

In a previous post (see here), I explained how behavioural sciences can improve the efficiency of customer studies. For another one (see here), I introduced the eye-tracking technique and the use of moderating variables as means to reach that aim.

 

 

 

 

Today I introduce two other techniques: Implicit Association Tests and predictive validity

 

 

IMPLICIT ASSOCIATION TESTS

 

Implicit Association Tests (or IAT) is a psychological tool that assesses to which extent two concepts are unconsciously related in our brain.

 

 

The basic idea is that consumers’ brains very quickly associate two concepts that are closely related. And less rapidly associate concepts that are not. For instance, words from the concept ‘holidays’ (travel, airport, hotel, beach, restaurant, shopping, hiking) will be more automatically and quickly sorted with words from the concept ‘summer’ (sun, sea, shorts, dress, fruits, light) than from the concept ‘work’.

 

 

Implicit association tests assess the extent to which two concepts are unconsciously related within our brain Click To Tweet

 

 

On the contrary, words from the concept ‘work’ (taxi, meeting, costume, computer, office, colleagues) will be more automatically and quickly sorted with words from the concept ‘autumn’ (orange, pumpkin, chestnut, advent, cold, rain). Of course, some words from the concepts ‘holidays’ or ‘work’ could equally be sorted with the two concepts ‘summer’ and ‘autumn’.

 

 

consumer studies neuroscience

Ultimately, Implicit Association Tests consist of asking people to sort words between combinations of concepts. For instance ‘holidays/summer’ vs ‘work/autumn’, or ‘holidays/autumn’ vs ‘work/summer’. Let us consider that ‘holidays’ and ‘summer’ are more tightly linked in people’s brain than ‘holidays’ and ‘autumn’. We then expect people to sort the aforementioned words (sun, fruit, cold, rain…) more quickly with a combination of concepts (‘holidays/summer’) than with another (‘holidays/autumn’).

 

 

 

Implicit Association Tests are complex, but you can find out more about them on the dedicated Wikipedia page. The most important is to understand that IATs enable to reveal people’s unconscious conceptual associations.

 

 

WHICH APPLICATION FOR CONSUMER STUDIES?

 

consumer studies neuroscience

Implicit Association Tests can be used for customer studies. For instance, imagine that you would like to assess the opportunity to source coffee from a new Asian provider. Are your customers ready to buy coffee grown in Asia? What about Africa or South America like your current products? An Implicit Association Test will assess customers’ unconscious mental association between the concept ‘coffee’ and an Asian origin.

 

 

 

 

 

Two situations can be expected. On one hand, customers show a good association between the concept ‘coffee’ and African and South American origins. But a poor association with Asian origins. It would then be adventurous to try and sell Asian coffee to these customers. On the other hand, unconscious mental associations between the concept ‘coffee’ and African and South American origins are not as high as expected. Then there would exist an opportunity to sell a coffee with an alternative origin, such as Asian.

 

 

 

These results can further be confirmed by testing the predictive validity of alternative packaging.

 

 

CONSUMER STUDIES: PREDICTIVE VALIDITY

 

Neuroscience- and psychology-based consumer studies can assess the predictive validity of packaging’s impact on perceptions. Here we want to understand whether perceptions generated by your packaging can affect people’s intentions and behaviours in real life. That is to say, beyond a simple subjective answer to a survey.

 

 

For instance, our last client wished to emphasize the British origin of its pasta. We tested whether new packets would affect the representation of the pasta as a British product in people’s daily behaviour. To this end we provided a list of 6 meals: 3 British ones and 3 Italian ones. Then we asked people to sort these meals as a function of the likelihood that they would use a given product to cook them.

 

 

If the results indicate that new packaging generates a powerful identification with British origins, we expect people to prefer to cook British over Italian meals with the product. And these are the results we have obtained. Conversely, old packages were preferentially selected to cook Italian meals.

 

 

BACK TO COFFEE

 

consumer studies neuroscience

 

Let us return to our coffee example. We want to determine in which situations (work, restaurant, service area, coffee shop…) customers would like to drink a given type of coffee (Asian, African or South American). Each situation does not lead to the same expectations in terms of service quality or products served. Such a test could assess the relevance of Asian coffee and its appeal to your customers.

 

 

To conclude, neuroscience sets up reliable and powerful customer studies thanks to innovating tools. That way you can access relevant data and insights for your marketing strategy. All of this while avoiding the biases of traditional consumer studies.

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr Morgan DAVID   

A former academic and behavioural sciences expert, Dr Morgan David is the founder and director of ANALYTICA, a consultancy agency based in the UK and in France. ANALYTICA uses the way our brain works to design better products and better services in the realm of neuromarketing, webmarketing, customer experience, sales strategy and pricing tactics. ANALYTICA created CogniSales, a neuromarketing sales service, CogniMenu, the first new-generation menu engineering service, Predicta Sports, a science-based talent identification tool for predictive recruitment in sports, and the neuromarketing service applied to packaging CogniPackaging.

 

 

 

Neuroscience applied to marketing & sales, what are we talking about?

neuroscience marketing sales packaging

Among current marketing and sales innovations, neuroscience is holding a leadership. Why? Just two words: efficiency and performance. Efficiency, because neuroscience techniques exclusively rely on science. Performance, because they make marketing and sales strategies more powerful. In this post I describe various applied neuroscience techniques.

 

 

TECHNOLOGICAL TOOLS

 

Whenever neurosciences and neuromarketing are mentioned the same mental pictures often come to mind. Pictures of technological tools taken from sci-fi movies, of researchers in lab coats, and of nonsense brain scans. Recognize any of your own mental shortcuts? Indeed, neuromarketing sometimes consists of measuring consumers’ physiological responses when placed in various situations and under various stimuli.

 

neuroscience marketing sales packaging

Magnetic Resonance Imagery (MRI), for instance, helps determine which brain areas fire when consumers are exposed to these stimuli. Eye-tracking consists of identifying what customers gaze at and pay attention to when watching adverts or looking at supermarket shelves. Skin conductance is considered as a measure of stress and focus.

 

 

 

TALKING ABOUT EFFICIENCY?

 

Technological tools are probably the most well-known neuromarketing techniques. Yet, their relevance should be toned down a little. Indeed, these tools are mainly descriptive, and only slightly functional. Concretely, it means that their main purpose is often to measure customers’ unconscious reactions, such as emotions, to various stimuli.

 

These measurements’ predictive value on intentions and behaviours is often weak. For instance, as dramatic and shocking as road safety or anti-tobacco ads can be, their impact on people’s behaviour is rather weak.

 

Eye-tracking techniques helps determine what elements of adverts or packaging consumers place their attention on. This is an interesting tool for branding. For instance to understand how to increase brand familiarity. From a strict functional point of view though, determining where customers gaze is of little interest to influence their judgments and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

 

 

 

 

In conclusion, technological tools are probably part of the most well-known neuromarketing techniques. Their use and efficiency are still restricted to a very limited array of situations and contexts.

 

 

MASTERING CUSTOMER PSYCHOLOGY

 

neurosciences marketing ventes

Customer psychology refers to the techniques, and our knowledge, of how people perceive information, memorize it and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Contrary to technological tools, customer psychology techniques are less familiar, but more functional and directly applicable.

 

For instance, at ANALYTICA, we have developed CogniMenu, a menu engineering service aimed at boosting restaurants’ sales. To this end, we anticipate how customers make decisions when facing several options. With that in mind, we work on the menu’s layout and pricing so as to encourage customers to pick the highest-margin meals. Thus increasing restaurants’ average benefits.

cognimenu logo menu engineering

 

This is possible because the way that people process information and make decisions is to some extent predictable. CogniMenu organizes information on a menu in a way that guides customers’ towards buying the meals restaurants want to promote.

 

 

IMPROVING CUSTOMER STUDIES

 

neuroscience marketing sales packaging

The benefit of neuroscience-based customer studies is to avoid ineffective, traditional methods that record people’s subjective verbal statements. Contrary to general belief, people do not say what they do, and do not do what they say. In contrast, neuromarketing enables us to understand customers’ perception, representations and judgments whilst avoiding the biases of traditional studies.

 

 

 

Neurosciences vs. traditional marketing: customers do not say what they do, and do not do what they say... Click To Tweet

 

 

It is an alternative method aimed at determining what customers really think about a product, beyond unreliable verbal statements. In a traditional customer study for instance, customers can be asked if they would buy UK-grown tomatoes (verbal answer). Instead, a neuroscience-based study would first assess consumers’ perception of vegetables’ origins from the packaging. Then be asked about their preference between two products. One in which the packaging mentions the tomatoes’ origin and one in which the packaging does not.

 

 

neurosciences marketing sales packaging

 

 

NEUROSCIENCE-BASED PACKAGING

 

neuroscience marketing sales packaging

“Vice product” corresponds to the biscuits, and “Virtue product” corresponds to the fruit juice

Scientific literature is full of neuroscience studies showing how small packaging details affect consumers’ unconscious perceptions and judgments. By understanding how these details influence buyers’ intentions and behaviours, you can set up a marketing and sales strategy that is more powerful and efficient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEUROSCIENCE-BASED SEGMENTATION

 

neuroscience marketing sales packaging

Taking customers’ personality into account can help you communicate better and more efficiently. Do you think that you should communicate with a whole age category the same way? Then think again. Scientific studies show that whatever the segment you target (age, geographical location, socio-economic status), it is more efficient to adjust promotional messages to your target’s personality to generate sales.

 

 

 

 

 

In conclusion, neuroscience offers many innovative methods to improve your marketing and sales strategy. This enables you to reach your target more efficiently.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr Morgan DAVID   

A former academic and behavioural sciences expert, Dr Morgan David is the founder and director of ANALYTICA, a consultancy agency based in the UK and in France. ANALYTICA uses the way our brain works to design better products and better services in the realm of neuromarketing, webmarketing, customer experience, sales strategy and pricing tactics. ANALYTICA created CogniSales, a neuromarketing sales service, CogniMenu, the first new-generation menu engineering service, Predicta Sports, a science-based talent identification tool for predictive recruitment in sports, and the neuromarketing service applied to packaging CogniPackaging.

 

 

tests consommateurs neurosciences

How to improve customer studies with behavioural sciences?

customer studies packaging neurosciences

Customer studies… Let’s face it: customers do not say what they do, and do not do what they say. So how can we really understand how customers perceive and evaluate your products and their packaging?

 

 

 

 

In his recent book Experimentation works, Stefan Thomke, a professor at Harvard Business School, quotes a manager from Booking (booking.com) speaking about customers’ behaviour:customer studies packaging neurosciences

 

“We see evidence every day that people are terrible at guessing. Our predictions of how customers behave are wrong nine out of ten times.”

 

 

TRADITIONAL VS NEUROSCIENCE-BASED CUSTOMER STUDIES

 

Traditional customer studies are beneficial to understand people’s preferences and habits. They are a strategic phase of the development of products and packaging. Once strategic decisions have been made, how can we be sure that creations and messages are perceived as expected by customers?

 

 

customer studies packaging neurosciences

Are the colours and texture of a new mobile phone congruent with the claim that it is the lightest phone on the market? Is a Union Jack sufficient for a product to be perceived as made in the UK? Does the font type reflect a product of quality and authenticity? Should the teaspoon on the cereal packet be placed on the bowl’s left or right? Shall the advertisement’s background be the same colour as the displayed product? Should the triangular shape of the pasta packet’s transparent window be pointing downwards or upwards?

 

 

 

Customer studies based on psychology enable us to objectively assess people's perceptions and judgments Click To Tweet

 

 

Such questions about the impact and efficacy of products and packaging can hardly be answered with traditional customer studies. Conversely, all of them have been answered thanks to behavioural science. Customer studies based on psychology enable us to objectively assess people’s perceptions and judgments. They are also useful to understand your clients’ unconscious judgments; the very judgments that they cannot express because customers’ answers are usually biased and influenced by many factors! Eventually, you will obtain accurate information about the psychological impact of your product and its packaging on consumers (e.g. font, colours, claims, weight, size, texture, etc.).

 

 

customer studies packaging neurosciences

 

 

EXAMPLES OF CUSTOMER STUDIES

 

For these products, the darker version was judged by consumers as heavier and more durable than the lighter version, but also less user-friendly.

 

 

customer studies packaging neurosciences

 

 

In this example, biscuit and fruit juice manufacturers wondered whether person-like drawings could improve purchase intentions. Customer studies have shown that the impact of person-like drawings depends on the type of product sold. It improves purchase intentions for “hedonic” and calorific products (biscuits = vice product). However, it decreases purchase intentions for healthy products (fruit juice = virtue product).

 

 

customer studies packaging neurosciences

“Vice product” corresponds to biscuits, and “Virtue product” corresponds to fruit juice

 

 

See these packaging infographics about Campbell’s soup. Each improvement has been tested and validated through studies about customers’ perceptions and judgments. Traditional customer studies could not have found that the logo placed on top attracted too much attention. Or that the spoon triggered a minimal emotional reaction.

 

 

customer studies packaging neurosciences

 

 

The benefit of using neurosciences and psychology for customer studies is thus manifold:

 

 

AVOID INFLUENCING CUSTOMERS’ ANSWERS

 

It is easy to influence people’s answers to a survey. One just has to ask questions in a way that encourages a particular answer.

 

 

Often, the survey designer is not aware of that influence. As a consequence, collected data turn out to be useless and of poor quality. But these data will still be used to make strategic decisions. For instance, Steve Jobs, the iconic but this time misled Apple CEO, said in 2003:

Steve Jobs

 

“People have told us over and over and over again, they don’t want to rent their music… they don’t want subscriptions.”

 

 

Conversely, customer studies based on social psychology principles enable us to assess people’s perceptions and judgments objectively, including unconscious representations and judgments that customers do not verbally express.

 

 

DETERMINING CUSTOMERS’ PERCEPTIONS & JUDGMENTS BEYOND VERBAL STATEMENTS

 

If you think that customer studies are only about assessing your target’s preference for a given product or packaging, then neurosciences won’t help you. Ordinary surveys are sufficient to understand such preferences. Conversely, behavioural sciences allow for more innovative customer studies to be conducted. Collected data about the impact of a product or a packaging are virtually limitless!

 

 

Every detail of a product or its packaging can have a tremendous impact on consumer perception Click To Tweet

 

 

Customer studies based on neuroscience help to confirm whether new products and packaging trigger the expected perception. They enable us to understand customers’ unconscious judgments. Genuine judgments that your customers cannot properly express. Every detail of a product or its packaging can have a tremendous impact on consumer perception. This is why behavioural sciences have become essential for customer studies.

customer studies packaging neurosciences

 

 

In this example, the labels of Champagne bottles vary in complexity. Do you wish to communicate a ‘feminine’ feeling? The label on the right should rather be used. Do you wish to communicate a sensation of ‘modernity’ and ‘authenticity’? The label on the left is more likely to generate them. Would these conclusions have been reached following traditional customer studies and creators’ mere intuitions? No.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN SUMMARY

 

Behavioural sciences enable us to access significantly more data that traditional customer studies. Perceptions, representations, judgments, intentions… Neurosciences, along with social psychology, possess technical tools to accurately assess the objective impact of a new product or its packaging on consumers. And these tools go beyond simple statements that often turn out to be biased and subjective. Your customers show unconscious judgments and representations that traditional customer studies cannot identify. Because each and every conception detail can have an unexpected but substantial influence on consumers’ perceptions and intentions, neurosciences provide more reliable and more objective methods than intuition or chance.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Morgan David

Dr Morgan DAVID   

A former academic and behavioural sciences expert, Dr Morgan David is the founder and director of ANALYTICA, a consultancy agency based in the UK and in France. ANALYTICA uses the way our brain works to design better products and better services in the realm of neuromarketing, webmarketing, customer experience, sales strategy and pricing tactics. ANALYTICA created CogniSales, a neuromarketing sales service, CogniMenu, the first new-generation menu engineering service, Predicta Sports, a science-based talent identification tool for predictive recruitment in sports, and the neuromarketing service applied to packaging CogniPackaging.