Live from TMRE 2011: It’s All About the Brain

What a day at TMRE! Like yesterday, there seemed to be at least one blatant theme: the brain.

It started this morning with Dr. Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing, describing the complexity of consumer decision-making. For example, in some cases, we may only prefer seven choices to choose from (like shopping for jam), but in other situations (such as getting your nails painted), you might prefer to have 40-50 color options. In any case, it is our role to understand how consumers are making decisions and how we can increase the probability of them either a) choosing to purchase anything at all or b) increase our product. This level of understanding is critical for understand how consumers are choosing us.

Jennifer Nelson of Johnson & Johnson (in the Activating Insights track) also discussed the role of the brain in decision-making in her discussion of “Integrating Marketing Transformation with Marketing Research Innovation.” She discussed, like Ipsos yesterday, the difference in instinctual and deliberative mindsets. Her focus, however, was slightly different. She focused on how we can communicate the differences in consumer mindset to other business units (who may believe that consumers are rational decision-makers). A problem, she explains, is that humans are not wired to notice slow, subtle, change; and this applies to a business where we are trying to educate business units the complexities of decision-making and consumerism. Her suggestions?

  1. Bring the thinking to a broader context (bring people in that will challenge different thinking)
  2. Apply to business issues (get the buy in to apply emotion mining to one of your current business issues).

Dr. Leeza Slessareva of Visa (in the New Tools & Breakthrough Methodology track) discussed one my favorite topics (as it relates to advertising), priming in her presentation of “Quantitative Methods for Understanding Subconsciousness.” Priming, she explains, is the influence on our thoughts, feelings and behavior with the environment. For example, during the week, a grocery store might play slower music (the primer) that subconsciously influences shoppers to take their time through the store, and be more relaxed. The music during the weekend, however, might be much faster to subconsciously influence people to shop must faster to help move the lines faster and avoid crowding. Priming is a can be used in advertising (for example, media placement), to transfer the feelings and perceptions of a show or magazine to “rub off” onto the product or brand experience. The subconscious is activating with priming and measured across groups to understand the effect of priming.

Of course, the presentation by Dr. A.K. Pradeep, CEO of NeuroFocus, Inc., was also laser focused to helping us understand our brains (and those of our shoppers) and for getting at true shopper experiences (on a side note: I am absolutely expecting this video to go viral – “Listen to your Brain” – Just sayin’). At a 10,000 foot level, these are the shopper experience dimensions that we need to be focused on for understanding our shoppers’ experiences:

Shopper Experience Dimensions:

  • Self-worth
  • Simplicity
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Interaction
  • Information
  • Community

The Main Takeaway

The brain is an inevitable force that’s responsible for all decision making; yet it is still a mystery – a big black box. Neuroscience is reaching many areas of our field, and there is a great need for accessing human emotions, feelings, and thoughts that guide traditional research metrics that have been based in the absolute outcome of all thinking: behavior. To keep up with, or ahead of, your competitors, understanding what’s behind behavior is incredibly important, and that was evident in many of today’s sessions at The Market Research Event.

Garrett McGuire (@GJMcGuire) is a Consumer Insights Analyst for a major retailer. His areas of focus are advertising research, brand equity, and providing consumer insights for many marketing initiatives. Prior to his current position, he was a graduate student at Michigan State University where he began his blog, “The Journal of a mAD Man,” that explains the theories and methods of advertising.