Choosing a research method should be objective and not a habit

The sexier side of market research got a slot in the Advertising Week Europe agenda today (2 April) with a session on neuroscience and biometrics, which highlighted inertia and entrenchment as a key challenge in the mainstream adoption of the techniques. 

Mindi Chahal

In the session ‘It’s not brain surgery but brain science’, Nielsen’s director of industry relations Michael Smith said that brands are finding it hard to do anything more than minor experimentation. Many marketers are limited to what they are already doing due to the entrenchment of existing methodologies.  

Smith also noted that once brands start trying new things, they might have concerns around scaling the research, particularly if the company is small. If the business is larger, clients can be worried about the resources to take projects global for international brands. 

While the concern around scale and resources for global brands is a valid point, entrenchment in companies in using traditional methods is something that can change.

If a brand is looking to measure in-depth emotional responses to ads, it might be better to record facial expressions based on second by second analysis, rather than following up in a focus group asking respondents how an ad made them feel.

One example, in packaging design, is the new puppy on Andrex packs that is designed to play on emotional triggers. 

Former Andrex marketing director Jon White told Marketing Week that people are “hard-wired” at an instinctive level to respond to certain stimuli, or ‘biomotive triggers’, which affect shoppers’ subconscious and generate emotion and action before the conscious part of the brain kicks in. 

This subconscious aspect is something that Andrex could have tested using neuroscience to see if the puppy encourages those emotional responses it desired.  

However, new techniques like neuroscience and biometrics, which record emotional responses through measuring brain activity, facial expressions, heart rate and even sweat, might not be right for all research projects. 

During the Ad Week discussion Horst Stipp, an executive vice president at the Advertising Research Foundation, advised marketers to think about the objectives, consider when the method would be most valuable and evaluate the pros and cons of the chosen method.  

The choices are there for marketers to make the most of all techniques in market research that exist today and falling back to traditional focus groups and surveys should be done because it’s the right choice not the usual one.   

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