Is thinking of Marketing as a quantum mechanical process useful? It is when you are seeking to attribute consumer response to media impressions, and when you’re crafting and testing effective messaging. This white paper explores a few selected topics within this theme under active research, development, and use in marketing and advertising campaigns.
Exactly why someone buys or not, and why they buy one brand over another, will always have some aspect of the mysterious unknown, and therefore marketing will always have a magical component requiring art and inspired creative initiative. Even when directly asked, most people are unaware themselves of all the influences motivating them to buy and value brands. However, there are aspects of marketing that are scientifically measurable and predictable.
Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, 40, is chairwoman and chief executive of Hawthorne Direct, an 85-employee advertising agency that uses “neuromarketing” to generate a stronger and quicker response from consumers. This year, Hawthorne-Castro was the winner in the transformational leader category of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards of Greater Los Angeles. Hawthorne Direct’s clients include Apple, Nissan, Spectrum Business, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the U.S. Navy.
Marketers have always tried to tap into consumers’ subconscious, Hawthorne-Castro said, but her company uses neuroscience to enhance campaigns so that they are more likely to resonate with the audience and employs detailed analytics to measure what is working. “Neuroscience aims to go beyond figuring out what people want or like and dives into the underlying forces that shape consumer decision making,” Hawthorne-Castro said. For instance, she said, neuroscience explains that testimonials work by exploiting humans’ need for social validation, and products and services that help consumers avoid a bad outcome are leveraged by humans’ “pessimism bias” that helped our ancestors survive.
The Philadelphia native grew up in Iowa and later became a fine arts major at UCLA, showing talent for painting and photography. But it can be very hard to pay the bills with the usually uncertain income stream that comes with being an artist. “I was an artist, but I was also a realist, right? So, I thought ‘Well, I’m good, but I’m not great.’ Nor is it a really good career to go into,” she said.
An internship during her UCLA days provided a better idea for a career. It happened when she was working for music video and film director Bille Woodruff. A member of his crew made an important suggestion. “He said, ‘Have you ever thought about becoming an agent?’ I had not. Of course when I heard that, then I started reading all about it. I knew artists so well, that representing them, whether they be actors, writers or directors, was actually just a natural fit,” Hawthorne-Castro said.
In 2001, she joined what is now known as William Morris Endeavor, remaining there through April 2007 as a television literary agent. “I represented writers, directors and producers for TV,” Hawthorne-Castro said, helping clients work on shows including “Lost,” various iterations of the “Law & Order” franchise, and “Entourage.” She was particularly fond of the latter because she had “lived that real-life story, because I had worked for Ari Emanuel as an assistant.” Emanuel, said to be the real-life inspiration for “Entourage” character Ari Gold, is now the co-chief executive of William Morris Endeavor.
Find your mentor
Some people hope to be discovered by higher-ranking employees who will advise and promote them. That’s way too iffy for Hawthorne-Castro. “You need to kind of self-select a mentor,” she said. “So, finding someone at partner level or management level, I think, is always critical: working hard, improving yourself and making their life easier so that they want to bring you up the ranks.”
Her next gig was with Hawthorne Direct, her father Tim’s company. It had been an infomercial pioneer when that advertising platform was wildly popular in the last century but was struggling in the digital age. She was coming in to help but wasn’t sure it made sense because it involved a substantial pay cut. “No one just stops being an agent if you’re successful, right? No one. Maybe they do so more now, but, they certainly didn’t 10, 15 years ago, unless you were kicked out.”
Working with dad
Hawthorne-Castro also wasn’t sure she would work well with the boss. “My father and I were fairly reluctant because we never thought we would work together,” she said. Hawthorne-Castro worked her way up through the company, from vice president of operations and client services to chief operating officer. She became the company’s chief executive in May 2014.
“I just worked harder than everyone, just set the pace that no one had ever seen. And so it was a pretty natural. No one told me to take over the company or take on these roles,” Hawthorne-Castro said. “Whatever I’m doing, whether it’s a board or organization, I just naturally kind of start kicking things over, seeing where the holes are and kind of organizing the troops.”
Know the biz
“Working your way, seeing all aspects, is really important,” Hawthorne-Castro said, especially if the task involves a sharp change in direction. “I saw from the very beginning what was good, what was working and what needed to be improved. And there’s nothing that anyone can run by me, or get past me,” she said. “It definitely kind of gives you the bulletproof way of operating, that you know all aspects of it.”
In an advertising campaign for Home Advisor, Hawthorne-Castro’s company focused on the unanticipated problems that can suddenly happen around the home; “vignettes were used,” according to her company website’s case studies, “to create humorous problem/solution scenarios at multiple time lengths.” For Credit One, the idea was more psychological. Knowing that credit card customers hate giving out personal information, Hawthorne Direct “portrayed a world where everyone asks for ‘too much information,’ and then shared a more private and secure credit card experience.”
“I give people a lot of leeway,” Hawthorne-Castro said, “but I also expect a lot of out of them. So, there’s always going to be problems or things to improve, in anything — in life or in business — and that’s fine. So I’m always looking for how to do things better, but don’t just come with your complaints, come with your suggestion” on how things can be improved.
Hawthorne-Castro has been married to husband James Castro for 17 years. Their son Braden, 7, “aspires to be a magician at the Magic Castle” in Hollywood. When she’s not working, she loves to travel. “Traveling is really, really one of probably my biggest passions,” she said. “I don’t get to do it quite as much as I would like to, especially since my son has been born. But I think I’ve been to all the continents, except for Antarctica, and 130 countries at this point.”
Marketing has always relied on tapping into the consumer’s subconscious — how they think, what they do, and why they make certain decisions. The ways of answering these questions, however, have grown more sophisticated over time thanks to advancements in science and technology.
Where marketers used to rely on observation, focus groups and intuition, they now look to insights from data analytics and research to shape their strategies. This shift, combined with the overwhelming amount of content consumers are confronted with in their daily lives, is why neuroscience is becoming more important than ever.
Today, every marketer can amplify any campaign’s strength and impact by using neuroscience to drive engagement.
CREATING CAMPAIGNS THAT STICK
People today are overexposed to content. They have an overwhelming amount of choices for where to spend their time in terms of media, apps, channels and services. The average American navigates between multiple screens and is active on social media, which means they are surrounded by noise. While all this digital engagement creates marketing opportunities, it also makes it much harder to break through.
Neuroscience, which is all about understanding human behavior and mental function, can help marketers overcome these challenges and create campaigns that stick. The Association of National Advertisers defines consumer neuroscience as the practice of integrating “nonconscious measures to capture responses moment by moment, offering a more complete view of the consumer.” Or in the words of Uma R. Karmarkar, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, “neuroscience can help us understand those hidden elements of the decision process,” such as why people assign value to certain things or what factors influence them and why.
Neuroscience aims to go beyond figuring out what people want or like and dives into the underlying forces that shape consumer decision-making. These deeper insights can lead to more effective campaigns.
NAVIGATING A SATURATED MARKET
Neuroscience has always had relevance for marketers, but its role has grown in importance in today’s saturated media environment. Estimates of how many brand messages the average consumer sees in a day vary wildly, from 4,000 to 10,000. On either side of the spectrum, that’s a lot of messages.
And brands aren’t only competing with each other, but also with all the content (branded or otherwise) people see on social media and share themselves. Add in circumstances, like election season or the holidays, and the competition is fierce. In 2019, marketers have to target consumers and deliver messages in a brief but compelling way that resonates deeply and can help them stand out.
One example of a simple yet powerful neuroscience technique is acoustic encoding. Human brains prefer to take the path of least resistance when processing information. The easier something is for us to grasp, the more readily we believe it and the more tenaciously we’ll hold onto it. Using sounds in ads that rhyme and repeat make them stickier.
Today, every marketer can amplify any campaign’s strength and impact by using neuroscience to drive engagement.
A similar principle is true for images. The developmental molecular biologist Dr. John Medina has done research that found humans are likely to remember just 10 percent of a piece of written information three days later, whereas including a relevant image boosts that figure to about 65 percent. That’s a huge jump. Visuals can serve as a shortcut and eliminate a step from the recall process, while also reinforcing meaning.
UNDERSTANDING BEHAVIORS EMPOWERS MARKETERS
Other neuroscience techniques draw on human behaviors. For instance, people have a “pessimism bias” thanks to evolution. Our ancestors had to be pessimistic because it helped them survive and vestiges of that instinct remain. Marketers can leverage this aspect of neuroscience to promote their brand by emphasizing how a certain product or service can help consumers avoid a bad outcome.
Social validation is another powerful motivator. Research into neuroscience shows that humans have an innate need to fit in with a group and seek the validation of our peers. When making decisions, we are comforted by knowing that others have made a similar decision and were satisfied with the results. This is why testimonials can have such a significant effect. Testimonials are hardly a new technique, but neuroscience reveals exactly how and why testimonials work; that knowledge can empower marketers to use them more strategically.
In 2019, the media landscape is only going to get more crowded and competitive. Brands are going to have to think out of the box and integrate cutting-edge techniques into their campaigns if they want their messages to break through. Neuromarketing has never been a more important tool in campaigns or branding to deeply resonate with customers and create a more personalized experience.
Personalization is now a fundamental feature of any good customer experience. For instance, 84 percent of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business. In other words, customers expect brands to remember their names and preferences throughout their customer journey. But marketers have found that when it comes to gathering all that data, conventional methods like web forms, interviews, focus groups, and surveys provide insights into consumer preferences, but they’re usually lacking in accuracy.
Due to the complex nature of the human brain, it has been known for consumers to conceal — perhaps subconsciously — their true preferences and opinions. This has proven true in voice of the customer (VOC) campaigns where brands have attempted to gauge consumer happiness and gather feedback, only to find that customers sometimes gave answers that contradicted their actual behavior.
It’s a question of psychology — as well as a question of context. Maybe you’re talking to a relatively happy customer who’s had an awful, tiring day, and is, therefore, less forgiving of your services at that moment. That’s just one way the human mind can work against marketers trying to gather data, which is why neuromarketing is such an interesting prospect.
What is Neuromarketing, And How Does It Work?
Neuromarketing is a marketing technique that utilizes the application of neuroscience to attain a more accurate reading of consumer behavior. Typical neuromarketing activities include direct use of brain imaging, scanning or other brain activity measurement technology to observe a consumer’s response to certain elements of the product, including packaging, advertising, and other marketing elements. “Neuromarketing is a technique used to improve the effectiveness of marketing efforts by studying the psychology of a company’s consumer base. The goal is to better understand your customers and how your marketing will have an effect on them by tracking their brain activity,” said Jonathan Rosenfeld, Account Executive at Boca Raton FL.-based ScribbleLive.
Kellogg Insights reported that the neuromarketing industry is estimated to be worth around $2 billion — which shows that many brands are taking this data collection method seriously.
PepsiCo’s potato chip brand Frito-Lay is one brand that used neuromarketing to test their products, packaging, and commercials. They discovered that the matte beige packaging picturing potatoes and other healthy ingredients didn’t trigger any activity in the brain that associated with feelings of guilt as much as the shiny bags with pictures of the final product. Based on these findings, Frito-Lay promptly switched from the shiny packaging to the matte beige one.
Bob Clary, Director of Marketing at Lafayette, CO.-based DevelopIntelligence, explained how PepsiCo may have carried out their research. According to Clary, human brain activity can be measured by either functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or electroencephalography (EEG). “fMRI uses a magnet to measure the brain’s blood flow, allowing examiners to access the brain’s “pleasure center” and measuring responses to different audio and visual cues. EEG uses electrodes to measure the electrical waves produced by the brain, which allow examiners to track emotions like sadness, excitement, and anger when exposed to different audio and visual cues,” Clary said.
What are the Advantages of Neuromarketing?
Neuromarketing focuses on the subconscious mind, which is a lot less bias than the conscious mind, according to Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO at Los Angeles-based Hawthorne. Hawthorne-Castro explained the many advantages that neuromarketing enjoys over traditional customer insight acquisition methods. “Conventional marketing methods like surveys, focus groups and observation all have value, but they do have limitations. Consumers are biased, even when they aren’t trying to be. The subconscious mind processes much more information at a quicker pace than the conscious mind, so appealing to consumers based on neuroscience principals offers the ability for marketers to achieve better results,” she said.
Devin Pickell, Content Marketing Specialist at Chicago-based G2 Crowd, added to Hawthorne-Castro’s point by describing how neuromarketing provides a “perspective that quantifies traditional marketing approaches. It gives concrete information to how we, as humans, process information, rather than through the psychological perspective that marketing originally developed from.”
Rosenfeld added that brands can use neuromarketing when, “deciding on new brand guidelines, packaging, prototyping and their overall messaging strategy in advertising.” He also shared that by using the data gleaned from neuromarketing marketers can, “get more out of their marketing efforts as it will be tailored to the emotions of the audience it is received by.”
What Are The Limitations of Neuromarketing?
Conversely, Rosenfeld noted that, while neuromarketing does have its advantages, the operating costs can get “very high”, especially if you plan on using fMRI to monitor the brain activity of consumers.
Pickell also agreed, “Just like any other research method, neuromarketing can quickly eat up monetary resources because of the need for very specialized equipment and research methods.”
Naturally, as with any other technology, the prices for purchasing, leasing, or operating these technologies will eventually fall, making neuromarketing an accessible strategy for medium and perhaps one day small businesses. But the limitations don’t end there.
In addition to the high costs, Rosenfeld mentioned the difficulties in finding the “right personnel” to carry out these studies as another major limitation. “It is imperative that the staff assigned to this initiative possess both a deep understanding of psychology and the human brain as well as marketing as a discipline.”