How neuromarketing can unlock cross-cultural understanding
Prof Gemma Calvert of the Institute for Asian Consumer Insight
discusses new techniques that could be key to the future of global
Asia is fast becoming the centre of gravity for big consumer brands.
By 2016, Asia will account for a quarter of the consumer goods market
and 40 percent of total consumer growth. In the bid to dominate and
maintain market share, brands compete ferociously to attract and
maintain the rising tide of middle class consumers in key markets
including China, Indonesia, Japan and India.
Vital to their success is the ability of these global brands to
communicate their unique assets in an increasingly cluttered market
environment and cut through the morass of cross-cultural differences
that shape consumer behaviour.
Yet all too often, these prevailing cultural norms are impenetrable
by traditional market research methods, and marketers are left
scratching their heads as to why new products, campaigns and other
marketing initiatives fail despite millions of dollars invested in
It is now well established that as much as 90 percent of our
behaviour is driven by emotions and motivations that operate below our
conscious awareness. These so-called 'System 1' or 'implicit' brain
processes are now accessible via a range of neuromarketing techniques
including MRI scanning, cap electrode EEG, biometrics, facial decoding
software, eyetracking and implicit association tests. Of these,
web-based methods such as implicit testing, facial decoding and
eye-tracking, wich offer scalability, practicality (no equipment
necessary) and fast, cost-effective solutions, are beginning to dominate
the rapidly expanding neuromarketing industry.
Implicit association testing is one of the most established
approaches now at the forefront of cross-cultural market research. These
tests use online respondent panels and capture consumers' 'gut instinct
responses' at timescales too fast for the conscious brain to respond and
influence the outcome.
They are now being used to predict the likely acceptability of new
products, brand extensions and packaging designs, as well as measuring
advertising effectiveness, the ease with which shoppers can identify a
brand on shelf, and what is really stored in their heads about a brand's
perceived benefits and assets.
By acting in the brain as shortcuts to expected rewards, powerful
brands will increasingly become guides to aid consumers through the
unfeasibly large choice of purchasing options, winning advocates by
simplifying and enhancing the shopping experience.
Many implicit association tests are language agnostic, exploiting
images rather than words, and are able to expose individual differences
in consumer attitudes, stored brand memories and product preferences. In
a study carried out in Malaysia, a global supplier of personal care
products commissioned Neurosense to identify which of several designs
communicated the concept of the modern Muslim woman.
Where explicit qualitative failed to elicit a clear winner (partly
due to this group's discomfort about talking about such concepts),
respondents' implicit reactions (obtained in less than a second) to the
different illustrations of women produced a clear statistically
significant frontrunner and gave clear insights into which features of
the design elicited different emotional attributes.
Beyond the marketplace, governments and non-profit organisations are
also gaining greater insight into how best to effect behaviour change,
to encourage sustainable choices and connect at an emotional level with
the world's growing populations.
In a study using functional MRI that we conducted in connection with
the French Government's initiative on anti-smoking behaviour change,
cigarette warning labels designed to put smokers' off or make them think
twice, was found in reality to stimulate the brain areas involved in
nicotine addiction to a greater extent than images of the same packs
without these warnings - a counterintuitive insight that was not
revealed by focus groups or explicit surveys.
- Green Futures