Neuromarketing: The Final Piece Of The Marketing Measurement Puzzle?

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All CEOs know they need their marketing department. However, many senior marketers have found that, once they make it to the boardroom table, their contributions to corporate strategy discussions are not taken quite as seriously as they might be. Industry commentators have suggested that this is purely to do with numeracy – that marketers simply do not have the financial skills to be a part of strategic debate. However, I would venture a different theory.

The metrics that most of today's marketers rely on are now so complex that good skills in figures and analysis are, in fact, all but essential for anyone holding the senior position in the marketing department. However, for all the details that modern digital metrics can provide there is a sense in which their interpretation is still just a reading of the runes.

After all, the best metrics in the world can only tell us how many people looked at an advert, but not what they thought of it. We all know that emotional response is as important as raw viewer figures, but measuring it has historically proven tricky. Until recently, we've been largely reliant on traditional audience perception surveys as a means of guaging emotional response, but since so much of advertising's success is dependent on context, often these are all but useless. I believe it is this failure to find the crucial last piece of the measurement jigsaw puzzle that often prevents marketers from selling the value of their work as effectively as they might.

There have, of course, been many attempts to solve this problem. But solutions based on laboratory brain-scan technology are very difficult to implement in a manner that yields accurate results. Recently, I've been working with some very talented scientists, designers and developers to build a solution which combines wearable sensors and galvanic skin response technology with real-time conscious response measurement and dimension theory. This makes it possible to measure conscious and unconscious emotional response to every second of a piece of media.

This technology was first introduced in a corporate context as part of interactive entertainment productions, but it offers a unique opportunity for marketers to gain insight into how their content is received by a particular audience. A sample of 72 people gives a result with an accuracy of 95%, and this is a response which can be measured across different demographics and sections of the population. The tests can also be administered remotely and in the setting in which content is expected to be viewed. Also, because this technology measures change in activity, not activity itself, it cannot be skewed by circumstances and there is no way in which subjects can tell testers the thing they think they want to hear. This technology produces an exact representation of the strength of the emotional response that is provoked by any given piece of content whether or not the subject wishes reveal their true feelings to the tester.

Technology like this allows marketers to say for certain what effect their campaigns have upon their audience, which means they can engage with greater confidence with those responsible for sales, service, product development and operations, and make more informed and more effective contributions to the overall running of the business. It doesn't make the marketer omniscient, but it is a huge step forward over what has gone before and can produce insights that have not been available in the past.

Today's highly sophisticated metrics might tell us much about those who view content, but it cannot say what effect it had on them – a wearable, wireless neuromarketing package offers a data-driven way to measure the exact emotional impact of media on the viewer. By quantifying the previously unquantifiable it offers a significant step towards the holy grail of marketing measurement – the ability to tell how successful a campaign will be before its release to the public.

We still cannot say whether emotional engagement will lead directly to the customer making a purchase – that is a matter for sales branding, pricing and design – but we can say for certain whether a marketer's content has provoked an emotional engagement from a target audience. Crucially this can also give insight into strength of brand within a given demographic, as it is possible to see the emotional impact of branding itself upon the viewer. It leaves CMOs a little closer to be able to point to the sort of concrete contribution that their fellow senior managers can lay claim to when they have reduced a tax liability, increased customer satisfaction or made efficiency savings.

Marketing will always be an art, and the old skills of content creation and distribution will never die, and never become redundant. However, when it comes to the boardroom presentation, new technology gives the marketer many more tools with which to explain that art to those who know it is important, yet may not understand exactly why, nor how good work differs from the great.