It’s called “R&D” not “D&R” for a reason…
As we observed in the previous post, market research goes beyond determining the best strategy to communicate a social policy, it can alter and refine the policy itself. Research is undoubtedly a crucial part of the social marketing process, but what methodology drives said research? How can we be sure we’re asking prospective audiences the right questions?
The problem presented by Will Goodhand, of U.K. based marketing research firm BrainJuicer is that traditional market research probes the rational, cognitive mind (system 2), rather than the dominant, more primal, unconscious, emotional brain (system 1). Goodhand credits psychologist and Nobel laureate (for his work in behavioural economics) Daniel Kahneman with establishing this model for human decision making.
Goodhand opened with a quote from Winston Churchill, no doubt uttered by the great leader of the allied forces between stiff highballs and saving the free world from Nazi terror: Man’s mastery of things has developed in all areas… Except, that is, in his mastery of himself. What does this idea mean for social marketers? It means that, in spite of all our progress, in spite of all our rational schools of thought, mastery of ourselves eludes us; some other thought-process prevails.
Goodhand suggests that the success of much emotionally-visceral advertising relies on the fact that it can “sneak round the side” of the rational brain to speak directly to the the emotional brain.
There are some decidedly Freudian overtones to any methodology that relies on tapping the unconscious, emotional brain (more or less the id, in Freudian terms), and where Freud is invoked, there are sure to be detractors. But let’s remember, Freudian approaches have only really been discredited from a treatment perspective, not from a strict, theoretical perspective.
The notion that there is a system beyond rational, cognitive grasp that influences our decisions is not at odds with contemporary psychology. In fact, the most commonly employed psychological treatment methodology, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), relies on the idea that underlying most unhealthy behaviours, are false, irrational premises. These premises result from distorting the reality around us, a process known as cognitive distortion. The presence of cognitive distortions suggest that while we’re entirely capable of thinking rationally, once seeded with a “false premise”, we will subconsciously follow that premise to its conclusion.
All this to say, the idea that “something deeper is at work” in human decision making is neither a new, nor a radical idea. What is new are the means by which psychologists and neuroscientists map, measure and qualify these processes, and how market researchers craft them into methodologies.
But I digress…
Goodhand then presented the above video, an unabashedly emotionally-charged PSA from Sussex Safer Roads, aimed at getting drivers to buckle up. He then compared this to another more “traditional” (or typical) seatbelt PSA (that unfortunately he couldn’t load but I believe I’ve found here):
These were his findings:
So what does this mean?
Presuming we’ve got the right second video here, they are indeed stylistically very different, yet the questions asked in the focus-group result in very similar overall responses.
Asking all the right questions…
The implication of this, is that the questions being asked are wrong. The questions probe the rational brain, not the emotional brain, and for behavioural change to occur, the emotional brain much be broached.
Goodhand then presented BrainJuicer’s unique approach to market-research, that endeavors to tickle the emotional brain; it’s called FaceTrace. Here’s what it looks like:
He then mapped that data on an “emotional response” spectrum:
BrainJuicer then had participants describe their “emotional journey” whilst watching an ad through it’s duration:
Now here’s the clincher. BrainJuicer’s research can not only identify what types of emotion translate into action, but also what paths of emotion, meaning, an ad promoting seatbelt usage is least effective when it ends on a neutral note, and most effective when negative emotions are resolved, as Goodhand described: “Emotional journeys during the course of a TV ad also have a bearing on effectiveness – resolving negative emotions the most powerful, with happiness/surprise building at the end also good.”
Now, all of this is well and good, but I need to follow up with Goodhand to get a clearer understanding of how exactly BrainJuicer has determined what emotional reactions will provoke action in the audience member. That’s still a little foggy for me, so look out for an interview with him on this blog in the coming weeks.
The Economics of Behaviour
Drawing on Kahneman, BrainJuicer applies the emerging social science of Behavioural Economics to weight and gauge consumer metrics. What I got from the talk, was that the essential difference between standard economic models and behavioural economics was that the latter had much less implied rigidity, and accounted for a more holistic view of the individual as a member of a society, rather than an isolated individual with fixed-opinions (Bernbach’s Unchanging Man?).
Wait! Where does this leave us? We have the Freudian notion of ego balancing righteous impractical superego and unconscious, instinctual id. We’ve got the Bernbach idea of the unchanging individual, and now we’ve got the emerging science of Behavioural Economics telling us that individuals are indeed malleable, social creatures. What does it all mean?
I don’t know what it all means but here’s some more juice for thought…
Goodhand then demonstrated a new BrainJuicer research product called DigiViduals�™, which are, effectively, research robots designed to tap social media channels for insight.
The premise itself isn’t entirely new. For a few years now, marketers have wanted to mine the tremendous amounts of consumer information available on social media channels. Social media is, in effect, the world’s largest (free) focus group. And, because people aren’t in a controlled setting whilst tweeting/blogging/facebooking and the like, the opinions they post are more likely to represent their true feelings.
Here’s one of 9 DigiViduals BrainJuicer is currently running, Nicole:
According to Goodhand “The DigiVidual goes out onto the web and finds Tweets that match the words in its character profile. It discards the words that are already part of its character, and instead searches for new things based on the tweets it brought back. It hunts for these on You Tube, Last FM, Google books, Ebay and Flickr, and what the DigiVidual is up to can easily be followed on the ready-made dashboard that is it’s Twitter feed. Whenever it finds something that fleshes out its character, it posts it to a blog and retweets it.”
What BrainJuicer has done is create an artificial twitter user, with variables tuned to represent a certain “type”. This “type” of person would presumably scan through other tweets, pictures and videos that feature certain key terms. Following this robot, this DigiVidual’s online journey builds a rich profile of the target type of individual in question.
It all sounds like pretty wild stuff, but when you think about it, when we choose to follow certain Twitter users or “Like” certain Facebook pages or subscribe to certain RSS feeds, we’re essentially building a basic digital (aggregated) representation of ourselves too.
I wonder, will someone one day develop a DigiVidual modeled after my “type”? And I wonder if I’d follow it…
Which brings me to something Justin Trudeau said, about closed-networks; the tendency for social media users to follow mostly like-minded individuals… But we’ll save that for another post.
Until then, thanks for reading.