Brainy Bar 8 – Neuro in Action: the role of neuroscience in creative development.

Posted by Chantel Ingarfield on the 14th May, 2019
Neuroscience is helping build bridges between science and marketing and using neuroscience tools can fuel our creativity.

Walnut Unlimited and WARC were excited to bring you the eighth instalment of the Brainy Bar at Unlimited House on 29th April 2019. The evening was packed full of excitement, with our speakers providing case studies and a practical understanding of how neuroscience tools have been used to inform creative development.

What was so interesting to hear about were the applications of a variety of tools and methods from neuroscience, showing just how far these technologies have come in recent years. It was also interesting (and reassuring) to hear some of the commonalities with the work we have done here at Walnut, combining neuroscience tools with other methodologies for maximum impact. What we could all agree on was the importance of achieving richer, more human insights to inform creative strategy and the role of neuroscience tools in helping (not hindering) this creative process. Art and Science are both constantly evolving, and it is the tension that exists between these two disciplines where the magic happens.

Dr Cristina de Balanzo, Consultancy Director at Walnut Unlimited kicked off the event by inviting us to consider “Is creative development an Art or a Science?” In her words, “It’s a little bit of both.” She spoke about how neuroscience is helping build bridges between science and marketing and how using neuroscience tools can fuel our creativity.

Our first speaker of the evening, Chris Christodoulou, CEO at Saddington Baynes began by demonstrating some of the challenges he and his clients face in developing creative solutions that communicate the key product cues whilst still being disruptive. They needed a deeper layer of insight to test their intuition and understand the impact of subtle changes to creative design. This led them to Implicit Testing, a tool which uses speed of response to measure associations not only at an explicit, rational level, but also the non-conscious strength of association: the faster we respond, the stronger the association in the brain. This has been shown to drive our behaviour and decision making as he explained “we feel first, then we think.”

Describing his work with Honda, they set out to develop a virtual online showroom for customers that would work globally, he stated how subtle changes to the background imagery and the colour of the car were shown to influence people’s perceptions of the product. These insights would not have been identified via traditional measures alone. He finished by reinforcing the value of measuring the non-conscious and how implicit techniques have helped them and their clients to test their own intuition, optimising it for greater impact rather than disproving it.

Our next speaker to take the stage was Barbara Monteleone, Head of Planning at Ottosunove, who visited us from Turin, Italy. She began by explaining how Ottosunove are integrating neuroscience in all that they do, including, bravely testing their own branding, after all, as Barbara says “if you’re not convinced with what you’re saying you will not convince the minds of your consumer.” In doing this they were able to understand how the logos and branding engaged with their audiences. Using this crucial insight, they were able to optimise the creative across different channels and create a more impactful brand story.

She went on to give an example of an Italian coffee brand, Segafredo. The advert had not performed well in the initial pre-testing. Reaction Time testing identified that the advert wasn’t delivering in areas such as premiumness and EEG measurement revealed one of the issues was due to a lack of storytelling to help tie the different scenes of the creative together – we know at Walnut that our brains love stories, storytelling is an important creative tool to drive engagement. To optimize the creative they overlaid a voiceover to give meaning to the scenes, all integrated with the existing footage. This helped to significantly increase perception of premiumness of the product and demonstrated how even small changes can have a significant impact.

Dan Bowers, Head of Planning at TMW Unlimited, was our final speaker of the night. He dived straight into the heart of the matter, is creative development an Art or Science? Drawing on Cristina’s introduction he spoke about how the art can drive the science but the science also drives the art – where the two meet is where creativity comes in.

He introduced us to Catalyst, a new approach developed by the Unlimited Group agencies designed to create data driven solutions. The focus was honed in on the ‘human understanding’ element of Catalyst and how you can build this into creative development. The complexity of human understanding was captured in Dan’s diagram which explored the two directions of decision making: We are habitual by nature, with nearly 80% of purchase behaviours made by habit, however, we are also goal directed and constantly look for solutions.

He shared examples of how they applied neuroscience to inform creative development, one of which was a two-and-a-half-minute digital advert from the Lynx Men in Progress campaign. In a world of social media where they “make you believe every advert should be 6 seconds with no room for storytelling or creativity,” this research helped prove this is not always the case. With the use of facial coding, they took their audience on an emotional rollercoaster that demonstrated the power of storytelling. This demonstrated that the creative worked with the audience, but also that longer executions can still be impactful in a digital space.

Following the speakers, was the panel discussion, chaired by Imaad Ahmed, Head of Marketing, EMEA at WARC, allowing the audience to put their questions to the speakers. Joining the speakers was Louise Furneaux, Marketing Communications Section Manager at Honda, to give a client perspective of how neuroscience tools informed their creative development.

Working with Chris at Saddington Baynes, Louise expressed Honda’s need to gather insight that would work across multiple markets and as buying a car involves rational and emotional decision making, they needed a method that incorporated both of these elements. With only 2% market share, any research Honda does needs to work as hard as possible. Implicit techniques gave them a unique perspective for a competitive edge. The results? When the optimised content went live on their website, Honda saw a dramatic uplift in engagement with their content and the brand. Reaction Time testing provides them with quick feedback and learnings to take forward into other areas of the business.

Responding to questions about the tension between Art and Science and if there is a concern that neuroscience will kill creativity – Cristina firmly expressed the need to be careful we do not fall into neuro-determinism: “neuroscience brings the ingredients but not a recipe for creative development.

Another question was in how we balance ‘gut instinct’ with science when developing creative; Barbara responded that “It is understanding when to defend the creative idea and optimising the execution.

Thank you for joining us and supporting these events it would not be possible without you…until next time.

If you would like to know more about the Brainy Bar or find out more about how Walnut can help you please contact:

Meet the Author: Chantel Ingarfield
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