Emotional branding is nothing new. Connect with the heart and the sale is much more likely to follow. Most of what's happened with emotional branding, though, has been based more in psychology instead of the brain. And when companies do lean on your noodle, it's usually looking at elements like what the brain actually does with sensations and memories.

But that was yesterday.

Your brain, measured

SPARK Neuro is a neuroanalytics company with the goal of using the brain to objectively figure out how people respond to different marketing messages and approaches. They tap into the nervous system to measure how your body is reacting to a campaign.

For instance, the company, which scans between 50 to 100 brains every single day, uses techniques like

  • Electroencephalography (EEG)--Reads electro activity from your brain. Requires sophisticated algorithms to make sense of the data.
  • Galvanic skin response (GSR)--Measures microscopic amounts of sweat and electricity conducted by the skin as your nervous system responds to what's around you.
  • Facial coding--Tracks tiny movement in facial muscles, which activate in response to how you feel and what you experience.
  • Eye tracking--Uses sensors and algorithms to follow the pattern of your gaze. Accurate to the millimeter. Helps reveal what's truly grabbed your visual attention.
  • Mouse tracking--Looks at how you subconsciously move your mouse as you answer questions. Unlocks clues about what's really happening as you make decisions.

Spencer Gerrol, SPARK Neuro's CEO, asserts that these tools and strategies beat out traditional options like surveys and focus groups, which are prone to heavy biases. That includes problems like groupthink, the inability to be constantly aware of how you feel in real time, and people answering based on how they want to be seen.

"The level of granularity and accuracy necessary to know whether or not content is really working (and exactly when) is not there," says Gerrol. "Our neuroanalytics technology helps to remove these biases; we are able to measure consumers' unfiltered reactions and engagement with content."

Yeah, but does it work?

Gerrol offers the Mr. Clean Super Bowl ad for 2017,  Cleaner of Your Dreams, as an example of the company's success. Men who saw the ad said they didn't like the ad and its message ("You gotta love a man who cleans.")

But SPARK Neuro's data showed wonderfully high attention and engagement rates. The company had proof that the "sexy" Mr. Clean in fact did work, and the ad became one of the top ads SPARK Neuro has tested.

You also might remember Budweiser's famous Lost Dog commercial. That's SPARK Neuro's work, too, as shown with the video's corresponding emotional tracking overlay.

Looking in other arenas for more applications of the tech, there's the 2016 presidential election. Whereas most polls predicted a win for Hillary Clinton, SPARK Neuro's data revealed that the "undecided" voters weren't as undecided as they claimed. The company predicted Donald Trump would win, and he did.

The competition, it is friendly

Gerrol says that, while SPARK Neuro stands alone in comprehensiveness and accuracy, the company's two main competitors are companies that still focus on traditional approaches (e.g., focus groups) and businesses that track some of the metrics SPARK Neuro uses for its algorithms. But his view of these businesses is optimistic and refreshingly cordial.

"As time goes by, we won't see this as competition, but rather as potential partners who are ready to augment their older approaches. [... The metrics companies] are legitimate companies that we greatly respect and have helped pave the way for an openness to biometric approaches."

The key for progress

The big question then is, if a neuro-based approach is so awesome, why isn't it everywhere?

It's cost, of course.

Gerrol asserts that leaders have recognized that the old school techniques aren't cutting it anymore. But they've struggled to develop alternatives, and they're watching their pocketbooks.

"The best way for SPARK Neuro to accelerate [the transition away from traditional methods] will be to provide much more value at a similar cost to traditional qualitative and quantitative methods. History shows that better methods are not fully adopted until price comes in line with older method, making it a no-brainer."

(Grabbing last year's model phone or TV comes to mind here, as does a look at solar power.)

But the concept still has significant traction behind it. In August, SPARK was valued at $53.5 million and secured a $13.5 million Series A financing round. That round was led by titans like Michael Eisner and actor/producer Will Smith, who have plenty of sway around entertainment. The company's staff is six times what it was just six months ago, and Fortune 100 clients like FedEx, Clorox, Paramount and JetBlue are using SPARK Neuro's insights to stay on top.

With that kind of support, the decrease in cost likely isn't going to take long to materialize.

The way to people's hearts, it seems, will be the brain.

Published on: Apr 15, 2019