Things will be slowing down on the blog, I'll still be posting as much as I can as I see things that are relevant. This weekend, I did come across this article in Fast Company about Neuromarketing political ads. Neuromarketing is, well as the article points out there is some debate about what it actually entails. To my mind, it basically means looking at physical reactions (brain scans or non-voluntary physical responses like public dilation) to determine underlying emotional states.
There's obviously something very intriguing about this research. Scientific studies have often shown, most people are not very good about describing why they're feeling what they're feeling. They often give rationale's cloaked as rational reasons. I also think the focus on emotion over logic is a step in the right direction for political advertising.
On the other hand it all feels like snake oil to me -- psuedo-science at his best. A physiological response is just that, you still have to interpret it. Maybe more importantly, the person having the response also has to interpret the response based on the filters they've collected in the course of their life. Neuromarketing seems like a silver bullet, trying to quantify what is not quantifiable (like this scene from "Dead Poet's Society").
Who remembers New Coke? It was one of the most tested product roll outs of all time, it surpassed classic Coke in taste tests, and when it was introduced to the public...? Well, it failed the only test that really matters. A friend of mine said of focus grouping spots, who are you going to trust, the consultant who you're paying a lot of cash for their expertise or the person you're paying with $20, a diet coke and a ham sandwich.
I think there is a role for testing ideas, concepts, messages, but not executions. The familiar, the tried the true, the boring and same old will always win over the cutting edge, the interesting, and the novel. People will tell you they want logic, when they're longing to be touched emotionally.
Back to Neuromarketing, here are the spots they looked at in the article with my brief thoughts (I've already written about most of them):
This spot was the highest testing in the sample. The tester points to the constitution and the pledge of allegiance as "making it pop." I would say it's an interesting idea, that's not executed very well, and comes off as rather flat. The fact that it tested well, makes me doubt the effectiveness of the test.
I've already described this two minute spot as one of the best of the year. The test and I agree it feels authentic and real.
I thought this commercial was a little creepy, but to the extent that Ted Stevens' endorsement carried weight after his death, I thought it would be effective (as long as you could put the fact he was dead behind you).
I've reviewed this spot as well. Good commercial that feels authentic to Hickenlooper (but wouldn't necessarily work with someone else). I agree with the analysis that viewers connect with Hickenlooper's disgust for negative ads, though not sure you need a brain scan to tell you that. Also which ad is stronger this ad or the West ad that started off the analysis?
Now the ads viewers did not like so much:
This ad has been talked to death. Good ad? Bad ad? Effective? Is it just a coincidence that the worst testing ads were negative/attack ads? Or do negative ads routinely test worse?
The final ad also negative used the fake Morgan Freeman voice over:
Again do negative ads get a bigger neurological response? Is that what makes them more effective? Did folks hate this ad because they believed the Morgan Freeman voice over was fake? Or did they hate it because other than the Morgan Freeman voice over and the restrained patriotic music, the script is so hack and generic that it's almost cliche?
Neuromarkerting -- new tool on the cutting edge of political advertising? Or pseduo-science?
Definitely something I plan to learn more about this off-season.