Content Marketing

Is Neuroscience the Future of Content Marketing Measurement?

By Alyssa Hertig October 8th, 2014

When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of creative content, it’s always difficult to balance intuition with science. But some neuroscientists think there’s room to completely turn marketing on its head.

“I guarantee that if you’re relying on traditional measures like surveys and focus groups to understand the whole consumer in today’s modern media landscape, you are dead wrong in terms of your ability to capture everything,” Dr. Carl Marci, founder and chief science officer at Innerscope Research, told the crowd at Advertising Week‘s “Creating Great Content with Neuro: Now That’s What I Call Brain Science” panel. “We now know definitively after decades of neuroscience that there’s a whole lot going on in this brain that’s below our conscious awareness.”

Since neuroscience can provide a more accurate picture of how we operate as consumers, companies like Budweiser are beginning to tap into its insights.

“Bleeding edge,” a popular phrase from the presentation, is one way to describe leveraging subconscious responses to create emotionally stimulating content. Brands can now turn to a suite of cool “non-conscious” metrics like eye movement, skin conductance, and heart rate—which helps measure how consumers really feel. Electroencephalography (EEG) can also paint a fuller picture by measuring attention levels and neural activity. But since each metric has strengths and weaknesses, the panelists recommended combining a few.

“The biometrics provide a granularity that allows the creative team to understand at a very refined level what’s working and what’s not,” said Dr. Michael E. Smith, director of industry relations for Nielson NeuroFocus.

Rather than letting experts simply flag content as “good” or “bad,” neuroscience teams should find a more fluid, integrated approach. “It’s not used as a post hoc scorecard, but rather as a tool in the hands of the creative,” Smith added.

This scientific approach refined Budweiser’s Super Bowl hit, “Puppy Love,” and might have helped spur it to success. Budweiser applied biometrics to determine emotional reactions, locate exactly when people flipped the channel, and used this information to build a better commercial. (It sounds like Contently’s flywheel approach—create, engage, optimize—with a neuroscience twist.)

Budweiser videos may have dominated the session, but the panelists stressed how neuroscience techniques could be applied to different forms of content, from articles to website design.

However, even though the charts, case studies, and data on display were impressive and persuasive, high-end neuro toolkits are likely too expensive for some companies. For now, only giants like Budweiser, Google, and Fox are participating. But, prices will continue to drop as sensors and other hardware become cheaper and more accessible.

Corley Miller, associate at Neuro-Insight, was unflinchingly optimistic on the subject: “The good news for us is that we are so sharp on quality creative that I think the future looks really bright for us,” he said. “Neuro is so far ahead of any other methodology in terms of assessing creative quality—whether it’s in development or once we have a finished product. As quality starts to become more of the point with new media—as it already is in conventional TV and radio kind of stuff—I think we’re going to have a big advantage because we’re so good at creating and guiding quality creative.”

Image by Doggygraph
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