A new start-up research and consulting agency, HeadSpace Neuromarketing, is combining traditional marketing research with neuroscience to create a richer and deeper comprehension of the efficacy of marketing communications on a second-by-second basis.
The two directors, John Laurence (MD) and Dr Gary Sudwarts (R&D) have combined their expertise in marketing and radiology to unlock the behaviour that is driven by neural processes that occur below the level of consciousness.
The company uses modern electroencephalography (EEG) technology to provide biometric markers of non-conscious consumer response to advertising communications. EEG's greatest advantage is that it allows them to measure response during the actual exposure to the commercial rather than having to rely on consumer recall after exposure.
It helps clients build superior strategies, utilising innovative marketing principles drawn from disciplines such as behavioural economics and neuroscience.
Laurence is an experienced marketer with over 15 years in the marketing and advertising industry. As well as having worked in marketing research, he has headed the marketing divisions of two blue-chip global brands in South Africa and developed strategy for several well-known brands. He has a deep interest in Neuroscience and the applications it has for bringing a new level of proficiency to the practice of marketing. He has an Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree and a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing Management.
After completing his medical degree, Sudwarts spent several years in the high-pressure field of emergency medicine and trauma before obtaining a specialisation in radiology. Functional neuro-imaging is a flourishing field where the frontiers of medical imaging are constantly being pushed - a field where he enjoys the challenge of applying the science to a new area of application. He is a Fellow of the College of Radiologists of South Africa and has a postgraduate degree in Radiology.
Old habits, new thinking
The psychologist, Bertram Forer conducted an experiment in 1948, where he administered a personality test to students. A week later, he deviously provided all of the students with the exact same profile and asked them to rate it on its accuracy. Over the years, the test has been replicated many times and the average rating of how well it applies to each individual hovers around 4.2 out of a maximum of 5.
"These statements are called the Barnum Effect after PT Barnum's maxim, 'We've got something for everyone'. Mentalists, fortune-tellers and clairvoyants often use them to make 'accurate' predictions about their subjects and I've seen them used in marketing research," explains Laurence.
"Psychographic segmentation is often based on a personality construct, with statements such as 'I like a lot of variety in my life', 'I have more ability than most people' or 'I like trying new things'. These are actual statements from a research questionnaire and they look suspiciously like Barnum Effect statements to me.
"Likewise, focus groups (which in my opinion still have value in certain areas if used correctly), can often involve a string of Barnum statements where the respondents eagerly agree with assertions made by the invigilator and marketers walk away satisfied that their presumptions have been validated.
"Is your research free of Barnum Effect statements? Sometimes it is better to phrase a question in a way that does not result in a self-fulfilling prophecy and sometimes it is better not to ask a question at all," concludes Laurence.
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