Neuro Marketing | When machines get into your subconscious

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on October 01, 2020 Published on October 01, 2020

Brain mapping, eye tracking and facial coding tell marketers what the customer liked in a commercial   -  ismagilov

Emotion AI is helping brands get truer customer feedback, but it has its pluses and minuses

A few years ago, when Tata Sampann was working on a recast and new visual brand identity, it experimented with a new way of figuring out what would work and what would not. Rather than the usual focus group discussions and surveys, it opted for neuro research.

“The thought was to use the technique and understand elements that capture attention, high points of emotional engagement and trigger memory retention to create packaging for the brand to make it stand out from the rest,” says Richa Arora, president, packaged foods, India, Tata Consumer Products.

From eye tracking to virtual reality-based tests, Tata Sampann used novel techniques to gauge the subconscious feelings of consumers about the design and how they reacted to it. As a result, says Arora, it could come up with clutter-breaking appeal in its final packaging and visual identity. According to Arora, the research covered a gamut of information — such as the consumer’s eye travel across the pack, the areas that occupied maximum attention, the parts which are missed by one’s eye gaze and also, overall, which packs captured more attention on shelf.

When spice did the trick

The agency that it used — Entropik Tech, which describes itself as India's first emotion AI company — got some interesting insights on pack design. For instance, Tata Sampann’s spices range initially had a picture of finished dishes on the package. This did not seem to be resonating with consumers. When replaced with a picture of the spice, it connected better.

Neuro research, which gauges the subconscious reactions of consumers, has been around for a bit. Now with Artificial Intelligence getting better, the research tools are getting more advanced. Emotion AI, a subset of artificial intelligence, is being used a lot by advertisers and marketers to improve everything from TV commercials to package design.

If you were asked what you liked in an advertisement, you might struggle to give a lucid answer— but through brain mapping, eye tracking and facial coding, the brand marketer or ad agency knows exactly what points in the commercial appealed to you, and which were the emotions evoked.

That’s exactly what Entropik Tech is helping brands with. “Emotion tech was actually my B Tech project at IIT Kharagpur,” says Ranjan Kumar, CEO of Entropik. It is technology meeting psychology, he says, and a way for brands to get non-biased insights about the consumer. It is helping brands improve conversions from marketing campaigns, without asking a single question.

Decoding emotions

For instance, for a brand, Entropik video-tested a campaign online with a panel of respondents, who could watch it from their mobile phones or laptops. The phone or laptop camera tracked their eye movements, and transmitted this back to the company, which used AI to decode their facial expressions, figuring out which parts made them sad, happy, excited, or held their attention. “We have the ability to capture about 62 facial expressions — everything from the eyebrow movement to the eyes to lips and forehead give away clues,” says Kumar.

According to Richa Arora, in some ways neuro research provides a truer response as it does not rely on a stated response but uses brainwave mapping to understand the consumer’s subconscious thoughts. However, while these technologies have advanced, Arora says these tools are not immediately replacing the old ways. “India is still a country with 90 per cent of grocery shopping happening in Kirana stores and hence traditional ways of understanding consumer reactions towards packaging, positioning or communication are irreplaceable.”

Globally, where modern retail rules, emotion AI has not got all that pervasive even there because of some inherent challenges. Different cultures have different expressions, how a westerner reacts may not be the way an Asian does. Moreoever, there are privacy issues.

Technology is giving brands great power, but with that comes great responsibility. Used thoughtfully, no doubt it is a great tool. But will it be used so, is the concern.

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Published on October 01, 2020
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