Ad agencies focus on how consumers feel

Ad agencies focus on how consumers feel
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First Published: Tue, Jan 22 2008. 11 00 PM IST

Illustration: Malay Karmakar/ Mint
Illustration: Malay Karmakar/ Mint
Updated: Tue, Jan 22 2008. 11 00 PM IST
Mumbai: The emotion meter is ticking faster in the ad creation process these days. Knowing how the consumer “feels” about an ad or brand is becoming far more important than what he “thinks”, since defining emotions attached to a brand cannot be usurped by rivals as a functional product differentiator can easily be.
Some call this motivation research; others say this is part of the so-called neuro marketing. An expert in the field, A.K. Pradeep, has a company called NeuroFocus Inc. in Berkeley, California. His team of neuroscientists uses portable tools such as a “skin response meter” to gauge consumer response to a given ad. This involves putting 64-128 sensors on a consumer’s skull to measure electrical signals (MRI) produced by the brain.
Dan Hill says in his bestseller Emotionomics: Winning Hearts and Minds that smart communicators don’t just tap into consumers’ emotions and reflect them in their communications; they start by strategically modelling the emotions they “want” the target audience to feel and the emotions they want to dispel.
Illustration: Malay Karmakar/ Mint
Brand Disney, hence, owns happiness, Ben and Jerry’s, fun; Onida, envy; Benetton, controversy; Apple, surprise; and Nike, determination.
The beacons of psychology and neuroscience are increasingly guiding ad men across ideation, strategy and research. WPP Group Plc.’s Kantar Group has a new market research tool called Emotional Brand Connection, which probes how consumers think the brand will make them feel. They invite consumers to imagine themselves using a particular brand, and then write a story about it.
Interestingly, this tool was invented by a Kantar executive who tapped thinking from neuroscience and social psychology.
Various Indian ad and media agencies are now looking at putting their feeling, and not thinking, caps on.
Mediacom, the media agency of Group M Media India Pvt. Ltd, has a tool called Real World Street, which taps into such insights related to various brands and categories from a panel of 30 households across Mumbai. This will roll out across other cities as well.
Another media specialist, Starcom MediaVest Group, uses an approach called Passion Group Marketing to segregate consumer groups on the basis of their possible interests or passions and tailor communication accordingly.
And TBWA/India Pvt. Ltd has used social scientists such as Shiva Vishwanathan to guide the communication development process.
Agencies are also recruiting some account planners and strategists with a bent towards psychology. Arvind Sharma, chairman, Leo Burnett India Pvt. Ltd, says that ever since brands moved out of purely functional advertising, they have started depending on emotional differentiators to connect with their consumers.
“It becomes increasingly important for branders and advertisers to understand the human being behind their consumer, and what aspirations and anxieties dictate her actions. We hence recruit planners with an aptitude for psychology,” says Sharma.
The agency has also asked external researchers with a background in psychology to forecast consumer motivations. Sharma cites how for a brand such as Thums Up, positioned as the cola for men, it is important to tap into contemporary values that make up masculinity to stay relevant for today’s man.
Rajeev Sharma, national director, brand planning, Leo Burnett, says that though there are planners with degrees in psychology, advertising-based inputs often come from real-life experiences, human insights, feelings, etc.
“It’s not so much about the academic aspect as much as pure common sense,” he says.
Media and ad agencies will rely more on qualitative (behavioural, psychological, social) insights over pure quantitative or number-crunching inputs. They already use fields such as ethnography that examine the link between culture and behaviour, and how cultural processes develop over time. Says V. Arun Kumar, national director (insights, strategy and business science), MediaCom: “Emergence of ethnography studies in communication planning and consumer understanding points to qualitative research gaining prominence. Qualitative is critical as it can reveal far more about why people do things, how they really feel about brands in a deeper way and what they will respond to.”
The agency of the future will have mind/behaviour analysts, trend watchers, sociologists, psychologists, perhaps even hypnotists. Kurien Mathews director, TBWA India, explains why: “The media environment is becoming increasingly complicated. There are too many brands jostling for limited space. Our business has to move to a far higher level of ‘specialist’ orientation in order to provide real value to brands.”
The application of neurosciences in advertising is currently more in learning than in application. And we don’t have enough specialist talent or that level of equipment for brain scans—yet.
Still, ad experts say the future rests in being emotions-on and understanding feelings.
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First Published: Tue, Jan 22 2008. 11 00 PM IST