Emerging Entrepreneurs

Mind is the metaphor for this marketing tool

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on May 13, 2019 Published on May 13, 2019

AK Pradeep, Founder and CEO, MachineVantage   -  N. Ramakrishnan

Pradeep’s platform combines machine learning, AI with neuroscience for product innovation

Do you know, says Pradeep, as we sit down for a conversation at a lounge in ITC Grand Chola, that 95 per cent of desires and decisions are in the non-conscious, and only 5 per cent in the conscious. “Even in the five minutes of our conversation, you have already decided whether you like me or not. The rest of the time we spend will be merely validating what you have decided,” he says.

Even as you assimilate this nugget of information, Pradeep asserts that the world of marketing, market research and product innovation is focussed on the 5 per cent. “We do innumerable focus groups, innumerable surveys, mine tweets of people, the Facebook posts of people to see what is it that the consumer wants. Unless you get to the 95 per cent, you will not know what they really want,” says Pradeep. Which begs the question, how do you get to the non-conscious. “We have some unique ways of getting to the non-conscious,” he adds.

While no one can literally look into your non-conscious, there are, says Pradeep, three primary influencers of the non-conscious. And, when he lists out the three influencers, you ask him whether they are really true, to which Pradeep gives exhaustive examples of how they influence. The three influencers, according to him, are music, binge-watched TV shows and metaphors.

It is using these three influencers, combining them with machine learning, artificial intelligence and neuroscience that Pradeep is building his latest venture MachineVantage to help companies improve their marketing and product innovation.

Power of music

Music, says Pradeep, is very potent. Most ancient philosophy is set to music. The Vedas, the Christian choir or the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer are all set to music, he explains. Why, he wonders and answers it by saying, “music penetrates the barriers moved to the non-conscious.”

He refers to an experiment reported in a reputed international medical journal where identical surgeries were performed on two sets of patients. One set opted to listen to music during surgery and the other chose not to. In the group that opted to listen to music, the recovery rates were higher, stress levels lower, use of painkillers lower than those who did not listen to music. The most interesting fact here, says Pradeep, is that both sets of patients were administered anaesthesia. “They were not supposed to have listened to anything. Even when they were unconscious, their brain, their neural mechanisms were processing music. It is so powerful. You walk around the streets of any city, there are people with their headphones on, listening to music,” he says.

The marketers are doing so much advertising, but their consumers are listening to music day in and day out. “You ask yourself what concepts are neurally bound in those songs. Our algorithms analyse millions of lines of lyrics of songs to see what concepts are neurally bound,” says Pradeep. When you say ice-cream, what else is in a song about ice-cream that is closely bound.

MachineVantage’s algorithms tease out what concepts are wired together. He gives the example of a client in the US, one of the largest ice-cream makers. By analysing lyrics and other influencers, MachineVantage found that somehow the notion of ice-cream and breakfast was connected in the brain, which they communicated to the company. Three months later the company decided to make an ice-cream that had the same flavour as breakfast cereal, which scored really high when they ran through consumer tests.

The connection, says Pradeep, is that in lyrics of songs, ice-cream and breakfast show up close together and in a highly emotional context. When things show up with great levels of emotionality and are close together, those concepts are called neurally bound. “Our brains have somehow connected them. Because they have connected them, when you make a product leveraging that connection or you create a marketing message that leverages that connection, the brain says something about this appeals to me,” explains Pradeep.

TV shows & product innovation

MachineVantage has algorithms that analyse millions of lines of dialogues in binge-watched TV shows to see what things are connected, what are neurally bound. Likewise, it has algorithms that extract category by category, what the core underlying metaphors are. Unlocking the metaphor, says Pradeep, allows for product innovation, allows for brand positioning and market definition. Consumers invariably look for a single number to differentiate products. Through some interesting machine learning and AI, MachineVantage is able to figure out what those numbers are. Also, according to him, every brand has a personality. The company’s algorithms automatically extract the personality of a brand from the articulation of consumers, when they are not even thinking they are talking about the brand.

All these help marketers position the brand and price the product. The company will use all the three influencers for its clients. It has some of the leading brands as clients globally, including a few leading ones in India.

According to Pradeep, India is an important market for the company. It has appointed Rajan Srikanth, an angel investor and mentor to start-ups, to head its India operations. The Centre of Excellence in Chennai will be used for global data analytics, and it will have ML and AI expertise. It will have eight employees, which will double in the next few months.

Pradeep says what is unique about MachineVantage is the combination of ML, AI and neuroscience and their focus on marketing and product innovation. “If you are a product maker looking to innovate for a particular set of brains – for instance, a particular age group – the principles of neuroscience that govern those brains are infused into the algorithm. It is the algorithm plus the infusion of the target group that you actually go and build something for,” he adds.

 

Published on May 13, 2019
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