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New Mind-Reading Tools Predict Consumer Behavior

Zach Brooke

By stacking several mind-reading tools into a single study, researchers used neuroscience to find a predictive whole greater than the sum of its parts 

One of the big takeaways from 2016 seems to be that we’re still bad at understanding one another. It’s a considerable challenge for marketers, whose livelihoods depend on being able to know and influence others. The usefulness of self-reported market research stops short of a grand theory of buying behavior. Many subjects can’t explain why they responded well to a particular ad, or they can’t articulate their connection. 

For years, marketers have been turning to neuroscientists in their quest to drill deeper. Each new tool sheds insights on what actually drives consumer response. Facial coding is able to account for 9% of explanatory power, while the Electroencephalogram (EEG) reveals as much a 62% of decision making. But when Dr. Carl Marci, chief neuroscientist at Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience, combined all the tools into a single measure, he developed a way to see further than anyone else.

The official name of the method he developed is the Video Ad Explorer. Unofficially, he calls it the “Holy Grail of marketing”—a penetrating probe of consumers’ brains that is able to measure results with up to 77% explanatory power with in-store sales. Now, Marci talks about the significance of his research and how it could reset that ad-making process.

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Zach Brooke is a former AMA staff writer turned freelance journalist. His work has been featured in Chicago magazine, Milwaukee Magazine, A.V. Club and VICE, among others. Follow him on Twitter @Zach_Brooke.