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Neurocreativity Gives Brands an Emotional, Competitive Edge

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Sensational imagery has the power to move people and inspire brand devotion – especially when it has an emotional hook. Emotions travel five times faster than rational thought, according to a recent BBC interview with the marketing agency Lida. Ultimately, we feel first and then we think, which can have a huge impact on purchase decisions and overall campaign success. By engaging audiences on a deeply emotional level, Saddington Baynes has helped create hugely impactful campaigns for Honda, Jo Malone London, Asics, and other iconic global brands.

But how do you know if an image or video resonates with audiences on this deeply emotional, nonconscious level? Neuroscience opens up a whole new world of insights – a better understanding of visual triggers – making it possible to identify nonconscious, emotional responses to visual content.

By combining Neuroscience with the creative production, it’s possible to optimize film, photography, and visual effects to bring a campaign more in line with desired responses and brand attributes – before it even launches.

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How Does That Make You Feel?

People find it difficult to access, or even fully understand, the exact emotions they are feeling at any given moment. We might only be able to draw on a gut-feeling about whether it feels right or wrong. This is particularly important when it comes to brand imagery, which is a key component of purchase decisions – 95% of which happen at the nonconscious level. In order to be able to truly understand how consumers are feeling, we need to look at ways to measure implicit associations.

‘Implicit’ is the type of thinking that happens on autopilot. It gets us through the day and controls most of our decision-making, without us actually being aware of it. For example, what comes to mind when you think of your best friend or Disney character; a favorite brand; or Christmas? Each of these constructs is effectively a bundle of implicit associations stored somewhere in your brain – a collection of memories, values, and emotions.

The better our understanding of those associations, the better position we’ll be in to understand why one particular brand image is perceived differently to another.

In fact, there’s a direct correlation between the strength of associations and the speed at which they spring to mind. This is called priming. The deeper the association, the faster the responses will come to you. Measuring the speed of response, therefore, reveals the level to which a trigger image resonates with different emotions.

In their quest to better understand emotional responses, many global brands have been adopting this new approach across product design, packaging, advertising, user experience – to name a few. For example, the IPA found that emotional campaigns are almost twice as likely to generate a high ROI, compared to those based on rational thinking.

Creative execution of a campaign is central to delivering on that emotional response, and as a production studio, this is where Saddington Baynes comes in.

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Combining Creativity and Science

We know that creative execution of a campaign can have a significant impact on brand perception. However, creatives only really have their intuition and aesthetic experiences to guide them. There’s no certainty or proof to reinforce that gut instinct when it comes to visual design. At Saddington Baynes, we’ve been producing beautiful and believable imagery for years, but we’re still regularly caught in the crossfire of differing opinions – whether between agencies, clients or indeed ourselves.

Turning to Neuroscience, we wanted to back up our instincts with evidence. That’s why we partnered with two of the world’s foremost Neuroscientists, Thom Noble and Darren Bridger, to develop Engagement Insights. It’s a tool that effectively measures the emotional impact of creative decisions made throughout production – unlocking deep, previously hidden emotional responses to the imagery we craft. Using this data, creatives have the unique ability to refine still and moving imagery, optimizing its impact on the audience.

Engagement Insights is a ‘Speed of Response’ test, carried out online by at least 200 recruited respondents. Built on 20 years of Neuroscience research, the test takes just 12-15 minutes to run, with initial study results available within a day or two.

Subtle variants of a single design – or even a range of competitor brands – are flashed up on screen alongside a number of different emotions to select from. Participants have little or no ability to consciously control their reaction speeds, to the point where they’re generally not even told what exactly is being measured, avoiding any rational bias or consciously filtered responses.

Engagement Insights offers a number of measures:

Emotional Pull – The overall measure of attraction vs. repulsion. Is the image perceived positively or negatively?

Implicit Attribute Resonance – Measures how much the image resonates with specific brand attributes, like ‘trusted’ or ‘premium’.

Distinctive Assets – Looks at brand design motifs, logos, fonts, colors and other assets to see whether they trigger associations back to the brand itself.

Visual Saliency – Measures the degree to which visual assets attract attention.

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One of the biggest projects to date using Engagement Insights was Honda’s ‘Real View Test Drive’ – the brand’s flagship digital content campaign in Europe. Saddington Baynes was tasked with creating a new virtual world for Honda – a digital showroom to highlight key features of their various car models across 20 films, totaling 60 minutes, intended for 22 markets across 17 languages. Engagement Insights was used at multiple points to validate and optimize our visual design choices.

We tested eight different architectural spaces to see how each image resonated with English and German audiences, then placed a fully CGI car in the environment which resonated strongest with desired attributes. From here, we steered the design through further tests to assess lighting, textures, color palettes – and whether there should be a window showing outside space. By studying viewers’ implicit responses to the test imagery, it was clear that certain virtual architectural designs stood apart from the rest.

Real View Test Drive demonstrates how valuable neuroscience-powered insights can be when combined with creative production, especially when it comes to optimizing brand perception and effectiveness. ‘Neurocreativity’ helps to boost the emotional impact of an image or video, giving brands a substantial competitive edge. Results of the campaign have been outstanding:

– Viewers spend 6 times or 13.5 minutes longer on the Honda website

– Viewers are twice as likely to enter the Honda Car Configurator process

– Viewers are twice as likely to book a Honda test drive

It goes to show that consumers are emotional, so in order to influence their behavior, we have to pull their emotional levers, avoiding any rational bias or consciously filtered responses. In short, if you want to know how your consumers really feel about your brand… don’t ask them.

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