Category Archives: Neuromarketing

El método de “Lie to me” ya se usa en Argentina para investigar marcas

Las microexpresiones dicen lo que los focus groups callan. Cicmas acaba de lanzar un servicio que permite leer el registro emocional en testeos de piezas publicitarias o productos. Cómo funciona la herramienta de investigación que se hizo famosa gracias a la televisión.

La idea es sencilla pero muy prometedora: según los estudios del psicólogo Paul Ekman (quien está detrás de la serie “Lie to me” y es un consultor de prestigio internacional), el rostro humano tiene 43 músculos, que combinados crean más de 3.000 expresiones faciales -la mayoría de ellas involuntarias- que duran apenas un cuarto de segundo.

Para los investigadores de mercado, acostumbrados a lidiar con las inhibiciones verbales y las “verdades parciales” de los focus groups, es un caudal de información invalorable. Y ya hay quien lo desarrolló y lo ofrece en nuestro país. “En realidad, no sé si nuestro servicio es algo demasiado comparable con lo de ‘Lie to me’ -puntualiza en diálogo con BRANDS Brian Haiquel, consultor en Cicmas, empresa que lanzó el sistema-, porque aquel caso es más bien un sistema de detección de mentiras. La base de nuestro sistema es que analizamos siete emociones básicas universales, comunes a cualquier cultura o nivel socioeconómico, y vemos de qué forma reflejan cualquier estímulo, como puede ser un comercial en testeo”.

Sin embargo, Haiquel reconoce que la ventaja del sistema es que pone al descubierto ciertas “inconsistencias” entre lo expresado y lo que se piensa: “Es probable que en un focus group, una persona frente a un producto nuevo o un comercial ponga un puntaje de siete, pero por su gestualidad vemos que le otorgó un cuatro”, explica.

Cicmas lo presenta en el mercado local bajo la marca de “Facecode”, y lo lanza luego de un año de estudios previos en los que profundizó en el sistema y formó un equipo multidisciplinario que integra psicólogos, analistas, moderadores de grupos y asesores en programación neurolingüística. “Hay un enorme interés de nuestros clientes por empezar a utilizarlo. Se lo ve como un plus para llegar al corazón de los consumidores y está muy en sintonía con la búsqueda de comunicación emocional que las marcas hoy intentan establecer con sus públicos.

Hay que recordar que, más allá de lo que se verbaliza, las emociones son involuntarias, y quedan expuestas en esas microexpresiones del rostro, que nosotros filmamos para evaluar después, porque son tan rápidas que ni siquiera son captadas por el ojo humano”, revela Haiquel.

Según el consultor, no se trata de una licencia comprada en el exterior, sino que es un desarrollo propio, basado en los estudios y las enseñanzas de especialistas como Ekman. “Generalmente se lo empieza a utilizar integrado con otras herramientas de investigación. El costo que tiene es un 30% superior al de los otros testeos habituales, y vemos que es muy aplicable a cualquier categoría de consumo masiva”, expresa.

Los estudios se pueden hacer a individuos o a grupos, y se filma de manera separada a cada participante. “Las expresiones a veces duran milésimas de segundos, y suelen verse varias de ellas seguidas y encadenadas, de modo que el análisis de las filmaciones es fundamental. E indudablemente, dicen muchas cosas que desde lo racional no se expresan”, concluye el entrevistado.

Publicado en Brands Magazine. Ver nota


Want To Sell Product? Sleep With Your Customers

By Martin Lindstrom

Knowing the bathroom, eating, and cleanliness habits of consumers can make or break a campaign. Question is: How far are you willing to go?

How well would you say you know your consumer–not just the broad-stroke stuff, either, like their income or marital status.

How many of them brush their teeth in the shower? (Answer 4% of the general consumer populace.)

How many of the teenagers routinely grab a box of cereal on their first day at college, empty it into a bowl and then begin munching away? (Answer: 37% of first-year students, and it makes them feel closer to home.)

Why do so many women bypass the first toilet in the bathroom mall and urgently head directly into the second stall? (Answer: It seems the majority of women believe that the second seat is the cleaner one. Ironically, this leaves the first toilet relatively untouched, and many a toilet in the first cubicle still bears the “sanitized for your protection” notice.)

Stupid questions, silly insights, right? But they’re relevant questions and interesting answers if you’re in the business of selling toothpaste, dental floss, breakfast foods, or sanitizing liquids–all items which are part of the $100 billion personal care business. It’s a hugely competitive market sector, and products jostle to find the smallest feature that will give them a marginal edge over their competitors and ideally create a platform for another $1 billion product launch.

Here’s the truth: I have come to spend a large part of my time living in consumers’ homes. It began a few years ago when I was asked to the Philippines to help an ailing coffee brand. For years the major coffee manufacturer in the region had attempted to run an advertising campaign during the rainy season. It’s traditionally a time of celebration, and if a coffee brand could “own” this, it would be a license to print money. The coffee company had run an expensive television campaign featuring smiling people drinking the brew in the shelter of their homes while rain pitter-pattered down on the roof. To everyone’s surprise, it seemed the association with the rainy season was a major turn-off. Sales decreased, and in turn left everyone baffled. Just before the annual rains were due, I headed off to Manila to work out why.

To everyone’s surprise, the first thing I requested was to move in with a local family. Over the next 10 days I spent time in five different family homes, singing, talking, eating and, of course, drinking a lot of coffee. My agenda was to understand the psychology of the rainy season.

One night, as the rain hammered against the tin roof, it occurred to me that the sound of the rain in the commercials had been misrepresented. In the ads that went to air, the rain was created from stock sounds, great in Hollywood movie, but far removed from the realities of the average Filipino family. The sound wasn’t right, and so the emotional stirrings the brand had hoped to evoke, simply did not occur.

I immediately set out to record the very sound I was hearing beating against the tin roof. I emailed it to the production company and played the revised commercial for the next family. It brought them to tears. Sound was the missing piece in the emotional puzzle, and the following rainy season, coffee sales increased by 19%.

I regularly ask CEOs when they’ve last spent a day in the homes of their core consumers. The best I can usually hope for is that they’ve intended to but have never found the time. In reality, most executives operate from large offices where they function with all the information that technology can provide. This was the experience of a CEO running one of the largest hi-fi manufacturers in the world. He was having doubts about a new product that had been in development for years. He showed me a prototype of this product–a stealth remote control he planned to unleash on the Chinese market.

I was curious about the reasons for targeting China. He had done his research, and it showed that Chinese families embrace new technology, have the resources to purchase it, and generally like to impress friends and family. I inquired if he or any member of his team had spent any time in a Chinese home. As I predicted, not a single member of the development and marketing teams had even spent 10 minutes in the field. If they had, they would have learned that Chinese families tend to wrap their remote controls in transparent plastic to keep out dust. So, under layers of protective plastic, one remote looks just like another.

The planned release of the product in China was cancelled. The money was moved to Northern Europe, where the new remote proved to be hugely successful. But success aside, the organization now demands that everyone involved in the development and marketing of a product must spend at least two days in a consumer’s home.

This is a lesson that Procter & Gamble learned quite some time ago. Before they came up with one of the world’s most popular stain removers they spent months observing women tackling their laundry. They discovered that it wasn’t the big stains that disturbed, because they could be tackled head on. It was the tiny small obsequious stains that were most feared, the insignificant ones that can fly under the radar and then be noticed by the world at large. This became the foundation for Procter & Gamble’s next big stain-removal innovation: “Tide to Go” Instant Stain Remover.

But hey, let’s stop here for a minute. What about you? When did you last spend a day with your consumers? At worst, you’d find out why those 4% brush their teeth in the shower. At best you might stumble across that tiny nugget of insight that could transform your product.

Martin Lindstrom is a 2009 recipient of TIME Magazine’s “World’s 100 Most Influential People” and author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy (Doubleday, New York), a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best–seller. His latest book, Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy, will be released in September. A frequent advisor to heads of numerous Fortune 100 companies, Lindstrom has also authored 5 best sellers translated into 30 languages. More at

[Image: Flickr user rockygirl05]

How Apple And Gucci Tickle Your “God Spot”, by Martin Lindstrom

And how other brands could get messianic in their message and convert consumers to acolytes.

A few years back, an Australian teenager with an unusual surname submitted his bare neck to a plastic surgeon’s laser. The doctor worked carefully, slowly eradicating the tattoo of a striped bar code with the letters G-U-C-C-I etched underneath. An hour later, the tattoo was history, and so was Will Andries Petrus Booye’s brand-obsession, one that had become, in his words, “My one and only religion.”

I first met Will in the late 1990s, back when the ink on his tattoo was still wet. For Will, Gucci was companion, confidante, soul mate, hero, mirror image, and friend with benefits combined. When asked, he could go on at length about the company’s designs, colors, and textures, as well as about the distinctive smell of the stores. Entering the Gucci flagship, he told me, was like coming home. From the store design to the overhead music playing overhead to the uninterrupted luxury of the place, everything Gucci put Will completely at ease. And of course, the brand’s sheer exclusivity made him feel like a member of a small, choice, like-minded club.

Fast-forward five years. Almost overnight, the Gucci brand lost its grip on Will. Suddenly the thrill was gone. So what do you do when you break up with your soul mate, your reason for living? You get a haircut, and you lose the tattoo. Some people even join the military. Will did all three.

To me it was fairly obvious: He’d lost his religion.

A recent study conducted by the BBC found striking parallels between how one devoted Apple fan responded to religious imagery and to the brands he loved.

In fact, I devoted a whole chapter of my 2007 book, Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy to this very same subject. The similarities between the world’s great religions and some of the world’s most renowned brands has been one of my passions ever since I stumbled onto Bangkok’s Pariwas temple nearly a decade ago. There I found myself confronted with an extraordinary-looking Buddha. The Buddha was compelling in part because of the modern-day company he kept. Carved into the altar below his form, alongside several other less well-known deities, stood a resplendent gold-leaf statue of mop-haired soccer icon David Beckham. This wasn’t a case of vandalism, or sacrilege; a Thai sculptor had created the carving in 1998 as part of the World Cup celebrations. Said Chan Theerapunyo, the temple’s abbot, “Football has become a religion, and has millions of followers. So to be up to date, we have to open our minds and share the feelings of millions of people who admire Beckham.”

The Thai people are far from alone here. Pay a visit to India, and you’ll find that the local Bollywood film scene has spawned an entire celebrity-obsessed generation, so much so that you will find countless temples built or sponsored by Indian celebrities to honor or worship their own graven images.

If Hindis and Buddhists are willing to bend the rules of religion to cater to our worldwide celebrity obsession, wouldn’t it follow that brands might be next in line?

The short answer is yes. So in 2007, I carried out a scientific research study testing 32 volunteers. By using an FMRI to scan their brains, I found that religious imagery not only stimulates the same regions of the human brains as an iPod or the Apple logo does, but that a handful of other global brands, from Hello Kitty to Harley Davidson to Guinness, also ignites these same “God spots.”

Notice I said handful (I unearthed only a half-dozen examples in all). In the weeks, months, and years following the study, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why doesn’t every brand in the world pursue this tactic? Wouldn’t it be the ultimate behind-closed-doors strategy? Think about it: a campaign that makes your customers so preoccupied with your brand that they camp out overnight in sleeping bags in anticipation of a new release, cannot be rationally argued with, and are so blindly smitten that in one case, an adolescent boy gets a bar code tattooed on his neck?

Problem is, the way 99% of companies manage most brands is entirely, thuddingly, concretely … rational. They focus on consumer awareness. They ask consumers about a brand’s benefits, attributes, and functionality. Can you imagine trying to explain why you “love” one religion over another? Why do you love your old college or school? For that matter, why do you love your spouse or partner? Bet you have no rational explanation whatsoever.

As any religious devotee knows, it’s not about the church, the minister, the congregation, the sound of the bells, or the old-wood smell of the pews. Belief isn’t rational. It’s about a lot of things: our intermingled senses; our desire to lead a simpler life; our relationship with ourselves; our need to belong to a community, to feel as though we’re not just drifting in space. And that’s just for starters. Placing your faith in something or someone may be fanciful, and out-of-vogue among the smart set, but I’ve long believed that creating belief is essential to brand-building.

In light of the recent BBC study, what I wrote about in 2007 certainly bears repeating: The successful brands of the future will offer consumers the same ingredients that the world’s great religions serve up, including mystery, powerful storytelling, sensory appeal, and a sense of belonging. They will have an enemy (think Coke versus Pepsi, Mastercard versus Visa, or even Harvard versus Yale). They will create a constellation of their own icons, rituals, and in some cases, branded language. They will inspire church-like evangelism in their users, hey, maybe even a sleeping bag or two.

Obviously, as Apple’s market cap shows, consumers are more than ready to throw rationality aside and believe. As for companies, the only thing I can do is say a little prayer.

[Homepage image: Flickr user wowstanley; top image: Martin Lindstrom]

Apple Fanboy = Religious Fanatic?

When you stick a big Apple fan in an fMRI machine and show him Apple images, his brain lights up in the same areas associated with religious belief. And, according to a BBC TV show, one of the scientists associated with that study proclaims, “big tech brands have harnessed, or exploit, the brain areas that have evolved to process religion.” A typical example of the press coverage of this is this article from Apple triggers ‘religious’ reaction in fans’ brains, report says

This doesn’t merit a whole lot of discussion, but it’s worth a mention because of the press coverage it’s getting. Comparing Apple to a religion, and Steve Jobs to a Messianic figure, is simple and irresistible for the mainstream press.

First, I don’t doubt the fact that Apple “true believers” exhibit religious fervor. They evangelize for Apple, they demonize the (evil) competition, and reject even the mildest, most objective criticism as heresy. If you have any doubt, read the comments on my post, Revealed: How Steve Jobs Turns Customers into Fanatics.

Second, I don’t think that Apple (or any other brand) has found the secret to push some kind of “religion button” in the brain. It’s enticing to fantasize about how powerful that would be, but, like the rest of our brain processes, forming a religious belief is far to complex to accomplish with some clever ads.

Having said that, I think the point I made in my earlier post about Apple’s rivalry strategy does have parallels to organized religion. Religious fervor is often intensified when there is an enemy that can be demonized. The focus on the external threat and emphasizing the differences between the two groups solidifies the faith of the believers. For decades, Apple has exploited this technique, and its true believers spread the message with unrelenting zeal.

Sadly for marketers who want to be like Apple, though, their hunt for the religion button will be futile.


How the brain shapes the taste of food

Unilever R&D partnered the University of Manchester in a project to understand how a person’s brain shapes the taste of their food, and how consumers make and maintain healthy food choices.

Looking at behaviour

The team studied the way that food is perceived through all our senses, how consumers acquire ‘rewards’ from food through signals from the brain and what all this means for food product design. The aim is to generate great products for consumers as we uncover the underlying processes, laws and rules that govern their behaviour.

Using neural science

The task of neuroscience is to explain behaviour in terms of the activities of the brain: how the brain marshals its millions of individual nerve cells to produce behaviour, and how these cells are influenced by the environment.

But the process of observing patterns of neural behaviour as a person swallows a drink at the same time as their brain is being scanned is technically challenging. This makes these studies of liking, expectation and taste – and the interactions between them – genuinely unique.

Subtle differences

‘What is undoubtedly new about our research’ explains Dr Anna Thomas, Unilever R&D, ‘is that we explore the neural response to really subtle contrasts in stimuli such as sweetness. Until now, research has focused on comparing very unpleasant to very pleasant stimuli, but using more sophisticated research techniques, comparisons have been made that map very realistically the ways in which consumers experience products. Thus, the results have an unprecedented realism, an attribute particularly important to innovative product design.

Sensory science and the real world

This research involves the area of science called Multisensory Integration. This examines the subtle interplay of the senses in our perception and appreciation of food. Understanding the perceptual processes taking place in multisensory integration with decision making is critical for innovative product design.