An action on reactions
Dr Adrian Attard Trevisan, AAT Research director, explains how neuromarketing provides the kind of scientific accuracy that allows marketers to fine-tune and make products more attractive and engaging.
What inspired you to study clinical neurophysiology and sound perception?
I left Malta a decade ago to read for an audio engineering degree in London. While reading for my degree, I rapidly became fascinated with the biological processes associated with sound.
Following my dissertation, the head of department referred me to UCL’s Ear Institute to further my studies in audiological sciences, which is the study of ears and their link to the brain.
Following my post-graduate studies, I was then encouraged to read for a Ph.D within the area of neurosciences, with a particular emphasis on human neurophysiology and novel ways on how to effectively record biological signals through a number of medical imaging technologies.
You have also conducted biometric research – what projects were you involved in?
While I was in the UK I was engaged in several research projects, mainly within an area called biometrics.
This gave me the opportunity to collaborate with the R&D departments of companies such as Philips in the Netherlands and Neurosky in the US.
In 2010, I relocated to France to work on a brain computing project funded by the European Space Agency and Orange Labs.
Since the project involved researchers from all over the world, I gained a great perspective of working within a multinational environment.
Why did you set up AAT Research and with what main aims?
AAT Research has been in formation for some time and is now a registered company owned by Alex Grech and myself. Grech is an experienced strategist with a wealth of experience in business and change management and he is just completing his Ph.D in digital media.
I believe a mix of disciplines and approaches will enable AAT to remain focused on cutting-edge solutions. We currently have a small team of engineers, software programmers and scientific researchers working on products and services based on our own intellectual property, and have just released our first EEG (brainwave reading) device.
Apart from our core research and development work, we’re involved in consulting a number of local and foreign clients on their own product development and production. For instance, we have a full line of 3D scanning printing equipment to enable us to develop client ideas into physical prototypes (or small quantities) without the need to use a third party producer.
We also have ongoing working collaborations with foreign institutes, including a project with the University of Milan – this project, called Sorriso, is enabling our engineering team to collaborate on a system that will be deployed in operating theatres to help maxillofacial surgeons.
What is the role of music in brain therapy and what research have you conducted in this area?
For several years I have been involved in developing a system to help children with a number of neurological and behavioural conditions live a better life. The results of this research have appeared in 12 peer-reviewed papers and a book titled Introduction to Brain Music System, which was published by a UK university and is now available from a number of online book stores. The system includes software and a special type of EEG headband that helps children with extreme cases of autism. It uses the auditory system to deliver special triggering signals to the brain, which in turn help balance out the present brainwave levels. The system is patented and was launched as a product in the US last June. Our local distributor will be launching the Brain Music System and Mente Headband on the local market on Friday.
Neuromarketing is a relatively new area of research – how does it differ from traditional marketing?
We are very passionate about neuromarketing. The difference between neuromarketing and traditional marketing is that the latter techniques look at people’s behaviour from an observational point of view, while neuromarketing looks at more objective responses.
Comparing traditional questionnaires to a neuromarketing survey is a classic example. While in traditional consumer behaviour questionnaires, the element of who is conducting the survey may influence the answers some respondents provide, in the case of neuromarketing the subjects are wired up in a way that their brainwaves, eye tracking, skin galvanic response and heart rate are monitored, and there is no need of physical answers or output by whoever is taking part in such studies. This greatly eliminates errors that are usually associated with such fieldwork.
The advantage we have within the neuromarketing industry is that apart from being a service provider, we also develop all the tools and software we use in our projects. We are also accredited by the Neuromarketing Science and Business Association, which provides us with the requisite certification to operate within the area.
Is neuromarketing more trustworthy than, for example, focus groups and surveys?
The basis of neuromarketing is neurophysiologic data, so it is inevitably morereliable in terms of interpretations of data and the way such data can be processed. In terms of focus groups, we still run similar brainstorming groups called neuro-focus groups, as a human being’s behaviour is different when placed in a group setting. A recent article on Scientific American magazine came up with the figure of 800 per cent less rejection rate from techniques used in neuromarketing as opposed to other methodologies used in traditional consumer data gathering.
Marketing has always been regarded as a creative art – how does neuromarketing successfully combine science and art?
At its most basic, neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience knowledge and methodologies to marketing. Neuromarketers study the brain’s reactions to certain social triggers, including appearance, smell, descriptive language, a chain of events or story, or associating a celebrity with a specific brand.
Biometric sensors such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging and electroencephalography machines are often used to monitor brain activity before, during and after exposure to neuromarketing techniques. Neuromarketers also use physiological sensors that monitor heart rate, breathing, and skin response, as well as eye tracking. Neuromarketing uses such scientific techniques to gauge a person’s reaction to a product that needs to be marketed.
How does neuromarketing help businesses and advertisers to produce more direct forms of marketing?
Neuromarketing includes the direct use of brain imaging, scanning, or other brain activity measurement technology, to measure a subject’s subconscious responses to specific stimuli such as brands, products, packaging, advertising, in-store marketing, and other marketing elements. This data is more revealing and bias-free than self-reporting on surveys, questionnaires, in focus groups, or other classic research methods.
What role does neuromarketing play in developing better products and services?
With our expertise in neuromarketing, we are able to help companies market their product more efficiently by targeting the areas of the brain that will produce the desired response in the demographic group being targeted.
We help companies redesign products that aren’t working by market-testing them on the human brain in real-time. We also fine-tune advertising and marketing campaigns to enable differentiation in the cluttered marketplace. Neuromarketing provides powerful insights into the consumer’s mind and provides clients with a competitive advantage.
What research have you conducted in the area?
Over these past years, I worked in a number of hospitals, utilising most of the tools we use for neuromarketing but primarily to detect a number of physiological conditions. It was through a landmark meeting with David Lewis, an expert in neuroinformatics, that I commenced my research into neuromarketing. As AAT Research, we are working on projects alongside a range of clients, from software houses and design agencies to radio stations and NGOs.
In the process, we are also establishing invaluable data which feeds back into our database of physiological tendencies – this makes it easier for us, in the future, to predict the most likely answers in particular situations. Soon we may even start to move away from the very notion of focus groups.