Using Multiple Research Methods is Like Sensory Integration

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Just as Affectiva found that combining self-reported data with facial coding produced better results, Carlos Jaime Velasco of Neurosketch in Columbia found that combining old and new research methods offers a better understanding of consumer behavior, he reported at the 2013 ESOMAR Annual Congress in Istanbul. “Sensory integration is a good metaphor for this: when the brain integrates sensory information, when we listen to other people and look at them, watching their lips, our brain takes that visible information and auditory information together to help us understand what people are saying. This reduces ‘noise’ to help us understand, and that is what we want to do with different research methods and different types of information to understand the complex world of consumer behavior.”

Is there a link between consumer reports, crossmodal correspondences and emotion? “Crossmodal correspondences are how we tend as humans to match information with different sensory modalities – for instance, we associate high pitched sounds with sour tastes. Understanding these helps us design better brands,” said Carlos. To learn more, Starcom Mediavest and Neurosketch conducted three quite different studies.

The first was a survey of 80 people where respondents did word association exercises and shape symbolism (a sensory congruence test) for the logos and typefaces of three brands. Respondents had more negative reactions to Carrefour, a supermarket chain, and the associations produced by their logo and typeface were all over the place. Samsung, in contrast, evoked consistent results for its typeface, which independently was seen as evocative of technology; however, it had consistent opposite results for its logo. Coca Cola evoked consistent results for its logo and typeface, both of which were associated with rounded shapes and positive emotions.

The second study was facial expression analysis, categorized manually, for 25 respondents of three brands. Participants would sometimes say “I like their product” but make a face, indicating that they rejected the product.

The third study was of 30 people doing eye tracking on four packages. Too often in Columbia and Latin America, eye tracking is used “for the sake of using it…without a proper experimental design.” Starcom Mediavest and Neurosketch tested indentations in four different bottles, and found that those indentations drew the eye. “By combining eye tracking and word association, we saw what other things got the attention of people.”

Milena Sabogal Uribe of Starcom Mediavest in Columbia said that, “Because our clients are global brands, one brand couldn’t have a different brand strategy in different countries.”

Carlos asked, “What is universal and what is cultural specific? Facial expressions are recorded the same way everywhere but what evokes those emotions can differ by culture. High pitch and sour taste are associated around the world, but flavor and food can vary culturally – lot of questions to answer yet about what is culturally specific.”

To conclude, Carlos said, “If we keep measuring bits of the consumer, we will have incomplete answers. By combining traditional measures and neuroscience methods we will have something more accurate.”

Jeffrey Henning, PRC is president of Researchscape International, a market research firm providing custom surveys to small businesses. He is a Director at Large on the MRA Board of Directors; in 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award.

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