How does it work?
Our scanning is done at the Ahmanson Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA. The fMRI is similar to a standard MRI machine; it consists of a donut shaped machine that respondents lay down in. They are wearing a set of goggles thru which they view the stimuli.
What does fMRI stand for and what does it do?
fMRI stands for functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. It allows researchers to view the human mind in real-time, as emotions and cognitive thoughts are at play. Using fMRI, we can literally "map" the human mind as it reacts to stimuli it is presented. This has led to a wide range of academic studies in the past decade and an immense amount of insights into how the human mind functions.
Why does this matter to you?
Academic research, as well as the proprietary work we have done for Fortune 100 companies, shows clearly that what people say in focus groups and in response to poll questions is not what they actually think, feel and do. fMRI scans using our analytical methods allow us to see beyond self report and to understand the emotions and thoughts that are driving (or impeding) behavior.
Looking beyond the spoken word provides immense and actionable insights into a brand, a competitive framework, advertising and visual images and cues.
How does this actually work?
The human mind is not one, large mass of grey matter. Instead, it is modular in design; different regions perform different tasks. Over the past decade, fMRI has allowed us to "map" several key regions of the brain with a high degree of specificity.
Our work develops a "research protocol" - a set of stimuli that can be TV ads, print ads, Internet web images, logos, slogans, sounds, even smells - and exposes that protocol to recruited respondents. This work generates huge amounts of data and we have spent over two years developing analytical meothods to analyze this information. A key part of that data is how the brain reacts in 9 well known and well mapped areas, such as the Ventral Striatum (reward), Orbitofrontal Prefrontal Cortex (wanting), Medial Prefrontal Cortex (feeling connected), Anterior Cingulate Cortex (conflict) and the Amygdala (threat/challenge).
Using this mapped data, as well as data from other parts of the brain, we have developed a set of norms that help us understand what is happening.
What have you learned?
Most of our non-academic work is proprietary. Broadly, we have learned that 30% to 50% of the brand images, advertising and marketing material that is shown to respondents does not even fundamentally engage the human mind. In short, consumers filter out much of what they only see and hear. This filtering is either passive - they just don't engage; or active - they smell a rat and forcefully don't engage. Our research has shown the importance in understanding the emotions that create this filtering and how to address it.
What about my brand?
We have also found great insights into the "architecture of the brand." Where does a brand live in the human brain? There are sometimes immense and important insights into this basic question. For example, when we did an academic study on the impact of iconic brands, such as Pepsi and Coke and McDonalds, we found that the same part of the brain lit up over images of sports logos - say, for the NBA or NFL. There is a clear connection in the human brain between the anticipation of eating that you get from, say, the Coke logo and with the NBA logo.
Where does your brand live? Where does the competition live? What are the powerful, emotional thoughts that are - and can be - evoked around your brand? These are critical marketing questions that looking into the human mind can help answer.