Communication is all about changing the perception of target audiences. With the increasing and constantly changing demand of consumers and stakeholders, understanding true perception that motivates and moves people at the most fundamental level, and establishing relevance by building deeper and more meaningful emotional connections with people, can empower organizations to make the right move. This is even more relevant given the global events this year. The public’s perception has been reshaped by evolving global contexts, ongoing transformational change, uncertainty, and disruption of systems.

Neuroscience has been used in marketing for an in-depth understanding of consumers for years. Utilizing both non-conscious and conscious data, marketers are able to elicit emotional response to ensure that their messaging impacts both purchasing behavior and brand loyalty. The majority of neuroscience research applications are conducted through stimulus and response testing by exposing participants to certain advertisements and gathering consumer data beyond what is self-reported.

What perceptual neuroscience allows us to do is to go even deeper, by pinpointing with absolute precision the elements, experiences, language, and other stimuli that create interest and action

among audiences. BCW’s NeuroLab, a new offering based on an exclusive partnership with the Lab of Misfits (the world’s only neurodesign lab), is focused on discovering true perception and providing deeper insights about audiences, in a bid to create compelling ways to build meaningful connections between brands and their stakeholders. It’s designed to help the agency and its clients understand the conscious and unconscious mechanisms that shape audience perception and spark behavior.

“Our goal here is to really understand what’s driving people's motivations at the most fundamental level and use that information to drive greater connections between brands and audiences," BCW chief innovation officer Chad Latz said to PRovoke. “Our solutions use brain science and experiments that enable us to study how people experience a variety of stimuli – from language and ideas to images, emotions, and events – all in an effort to help find values and connections shared between clients and their stakeholders.”

While behavioral science studies outcomes, BCW NeuroLab evaluates the underlying motivators that move people to act and, as a result, provides the opportunity to make communication more engaging. Let’s take neuroscience for brand communications strategy, one pillar of BCW NeuroLab, as an example. Advanced technologies can be used to design experiments, in order to generate a holistic understanding of stakeholders’ thoughts, feelings and the things they value most. This will include a psychographic understanding of the audience, which focuses on factors such as motivations, beliefs, and priorities, which will help to refine brand purpose, marketplace strategy, positioning, and activation.

An example of how we design experiments comes from some work we did with a company that specializes in protecting, repairing and replacing damaged tech products. Through monitoring participant’s brain waves, heart rates, and galvanic skin responses in a smartly designed environment, the experiment was able to provide a further understanding of how tech frustrations affect a user’s body and mind. The results showed that, while seemingly small in impact, tech frustrations bring out the worst versions of ourselves and make us feel more distant from those closest to us, more cautious, less creative, delusional, and can even unleash unconscious social biases. What an interesting finding with the potential of leading to a more resonating messaging and positioning of technology with purpose! 

This case paints a future scenario of communications practices, where the understanding of stakeholders’ perception and deep needs allows organizations to further refine their strategy, and even identify ownable territories. We can use perceptual neuroscience to analyze the obstacles and opportunities for organizations to better drive engagement, transformation, and impact.

The new era of communications is here. With the broader application of big data and AI in communication, perceptual neuroscience can be added to better understand stakeholders’ behavior on modern-day communication channels such as social media. With AI algorithms used to analyze increasingly robust data and neuroscience helping to find values and connections shared between organizations and their stakeholders, communication practitioners will be empowered to further enhance their persuasive messaging and targeting strategies.

While there are concerns around this field when companies exploit blind spots in human psychology to gain an advantage, we advocate for transparency, accountability and supervision to understand stakeholders' subconscious thoughts to provide genuine value for clients and their audiences.  Communication practitioners can optimize the story and create more powerful and authentic connections with stakeholders based on neuroscience. Consider too that the effectiveness of public service announcements can be boosted by encouraging society to engage in positive behaviors. As human behavior continues to evolve in response to the world around us, the future of the communication industry will rely on the limitless opportunities through neuroscience and other innovations. By using innovation to build genuine, lasting connections with key stakeholders, communications will play an even more important role in creating value for brands and the consumers they serve.

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Joe Peng, Regional Managing Director and Head of Digital Innovation, BCW Asia Pacific

To help brands understand the conscious and unconscious mechanisms that shape audience perception and spark behavior, BCW NeuroLab™ was launched in August 2020 as part of an exclusive partnership with the Lab of Misfits, led by world-renowned neuroscientist R. Beau Lotto, Ph.D.  


image: iStock.com/ whitehoune