How Neuroscience Is Poised To Disrupt The Advertising Industry

How Neuroscience Is Poised To Disrupt The Advertising Industry

BeyondDark conducts a brainwave reading experiment with consumers to validate the creative copy in their campaign. Should other brands follow suit?

Allie Walker
  • 29 january 2013

Does eating chocolate make you happy? How much can one piece of chocolate affect your mood? While it’s a feeling that’s hard to articulate, many chocolate brands try to capitalize on this ‘love’ for chocolate through marketing campaigns. Take for example, Hershey Bliss. The product tagline, ‘One Square Inch of Bliss,’ promises consumers a feeling of ‘perfect happiness’ (aka the definition of bliss) when eating the chocolate. But how can Hershey be so certain? What substantiates their claim beyond clever marketing?


BeyondDark, an emerging chocolate brand in the UK, also promises to be the ‘ultimate chocolate feel good treat.’ But unlike Hershey, they can back their claim with scientific evidence. How? BeyondDark turned to neuroscience and the use of EEG headsets to measure consumers’ brainwaves while they ate their chocolates- and found, on a scale where ‘100’ was the greatest pleasurable feeling, just one chocolate drop elicited a pleasurable feeling of 65. BeyondDark partnered with neuroscientists at Birkbeck University and technology company MyndPlay (who provided the EEG headsets and analyzed the brainwave data) for a scientific study called Measure Of Pleasure, to create a ‘pleasure scale’ to compare how eating chocolate ranked against other common ‘pleasurable’ activities like finding money, blowing bubbles, and stroking a puppy. Not surprisingly, unexpectedly finding money elicited the strongest reaction, while eating a piece of BeyondDark chocolate was found to be more pleasurable than playing with kittens.

Watch the experiment below:

BeyondDark’s reliance on neuroscience is an example of the growing field of neuromarketing. Neuromarketing allows advertisers to go beyond traditional focus groups to tap into consumers’ subconscious minds by relying on biometric indicators (heart rate, respiratory rate, brainwave activity, etc). While an advanced way to effectively target consumers, neuromarketing and the reliance on scientific evidence inherently goes against the creative ‘gut’ instinct that has led advertising decisions for decades. Intrigued by the campaign and it’s implications on the future of advertising, PSFK reached out to James Nester and Graham Jenks, UK Creative Directors at OgilvyOne, for their thoughts on how the use of advanced technology and a reliance on science are poised to disrupt the advertising industry:

Tell us a little more about the experiment. Why did you take such a scientific approach to proving  Beyond Dark actually provides users with a pleasurable experience? Most brands would have just made the claim– why take such an in-depth approach?

It’s easy to make a claim about being ‘delicious’, and so many chocolate brands do. So how could we make people really believe us? Well, we knew we were working with an exceptional product, so we wanted to prove it.

In advertising terms, applying neuroscience to measure the actual pleasure of eating Beyond Dark chocolate ticks three boxes. It allows us to entertain by filming these quirky tests. It allows us to persuade with real, scientifically verified results. (The 80 participant study will be a white paper.) And it allows us to create sharable news (the story made headlines across the UK).

How can the scientific approach used in ‘Measure Of Pleasure’ be applied to other advertising campaigns?

There’s so much ‘fluffy’ advertising out there, with little substance behind the product claim.Top chefs (Heston Blumenthal etc) have brought scientific principles to food. In the same way, I believe there’s huge opportunity for science to become more integral to advertising. And that doesn’t mean more focus groups, customer segmentation or anything else that sucks joy from life. I mean solid scientific proof behind a brand claim, expressed in a way that captures the imagination. In brains terms, you’re then involving both the emotional and the rational sides of the brain, and you’re far more likely to persuade.When creativity and science do successfully fuse, the result can be surprisingly explosive.

What can the use of neuroscience give advertisers that traditional focus groups can’t?

Two things. Drama and transparency. ‘Drama’ because to see what’s going on inside the brain is inherently fascinating. ‘Transparency’ because showing the results of scientific white paper by a University is more believable than a focus group run by some unknown research company. I firmly believe what we’ve done with EEG here is the future of proper research. Not filmed ethnography but the ability to actually scientifically measure a person’s response to a brand. Imagine testing how different suspension settings affect a driver’s pleasure when driving a Ford around town. Or how different people feel walking into a shop. The potential is huge. Focus groups can sometimes suffer from people giving what they perceive to be the ‘correct’ answer. This technology instantly overcomes this problem.

Consumers are growing increasingly skeptical of advertising claims– ‘Measure Of Pleasure’ combats this skepticism with scientific proof– will we see more advertisers adopt a similar approach? Are advances in technology, like the brainwave reading headsets, poised to fundamentally change the advertising industry?

I really hope so. But of course, like any technique, advertisers will continually need to find fresh and original ways to use science to capture the imagination. I’d like to add that its not just advances in science that will make baseless advertising claims lose their value. Social media is having the same effect. Inferior products can’t hide any more thanks to Twitter, Facebook and legions of review sites. Brilliant products and truthful claims will increasingly triumph, which is great news for everyone.

Thanks James and Graham!

Measure of Pleasure was a joint project between the UK offices OgilvyOne, OgilvyLabs and Ogilvy PR for BeyondDark chocolate.

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