Sunday, November 7, 2010

Brain Meets Campaign 2010

An EEG recording cap being used on a participa...Image via Wikipedia
As I am into all things neuro these days and having just worked on a campaign, I thought I would share with you an article I found on neuromarketing and political persuasion.   A number of those ads and messaging  that we have been bombarded with have been run through focus groups using neuromarketing. 

Apparently, in election 2008, neuromarketing researchers "went public" with research showing how political ads  unconsciously drive emotional triggers.  Often using fMRI or EEG machines to read brain waves, neuromarketers and their clients aim to optimize stimuli (political messages) and reaction in consumers’ brains and drive their (voting) decisions.

So, who's doing this?  No candidate on either side is admitting to using it.   The only people to go public with this are GOP operatives like Darryl Howell and Fred Davis.  According to Darryl Howell:  We measure everything including the storyline, level of the language, images, music. Using critical point analysis, we identify specifics that may drive voters away or attract them," he says. The techniques are non-invasive, and include measuring muscle, skin, and pupil response. "We prefer our methods over some EEG/fMRI methods because our approach is quicker and more importantly can be done in the script phase, saving production time and money and tells us the level of honesty of the ad.” 

  I am guessing that he is also using some techniques out of biofeedback to measure heart rate and breathing.  There is also some very interesting work being done with eye tracking as well as pupil response and marketing/occupational/sports therapy that is applicable.   There are computerized devices that actually measure what you are looking at, how long you are looking at it and how your eyes move and feed the data into a database.

Apparently, the ads get scored from 1 to 1000 with 500 being the threshold marker:  "That is the level of the 'heart,'" says Howard. Anything below 200 is negative--and ad scoring 140 would drive voters away. "Worse yet, they register the ad as false and associate that falseness of the ad with the sponsor," says Howard, "not necessarily with the one they are aiming at."

But an ad that scores above 500 still only works on half of the electorate. An ad in the 365 range is sometimes more effective because it's geared to appeal to most of the electorate ("not too hot and not too cold," says Howard).
Score Emotion
1-125 Shame, Guilt, Apathy, Grief, Fear
126-199 Anger, Pride
200-299 Courage, Neutrality
300-349 Willingness
350-399 Acceptance
400-499 Reason
500-549 Love
550-599 Joy, Unconditional Love
600 and above Rarely if ever seen in advertising

Three of the campaign ads shown here score of over 500. "They bypass the linear-logic brain and register in the emotion-tied-to-decision-making part of the brain," says Howard. It's also known as the "red brain," a term coined by author and consultant Drew Westen in his book The Political Brain. One example of a mainstream ad that scored above 500 the Olympics ad for P&G titled "To their moms, they'll always be kids." 

Here's a Newt Gingrich ad scoring 540, "Joy and Unconditional Love".

No one on the Democratic side is admitting to using neuromarketing techniques.  They are appealing to the emotion of voters' “Red Brain” triggers. "No Democratic candidate I know of has used them [neuromarketing tactics], nor has any major Democratic organization appeared to express any interest in them,” says Drew Westen, author of The Political Brain and consultant to major U.S. national Democratic Party candidates.

Apparently, these techniques are being tried out overseas first before being brought here into the US.  A number of political operatives have been using neuromarketing techniques in political campaigns in Asia and South America.   

However,  a lot of people in the academic neuroscience community pooh-pooh the validity of neuromarketing in politics.   I think that they  understand that we aren't there yet with the understanding of the brain and how to manipulate it.  “We are in no danger of being brain-washed by super-effective, neuromarketing-based political propaganda!" says Martha Farah, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society.   I know that the Wharton School has been running behavioral labs on consumer research involving neuromarketing and if they are still working out how consumers will  buy more soapI think that we have a ways to go before we buy more sophisticated products like politicians.

"It has already been used in the last two elections and I believe it will become an even more significant factor in the future," says Patrick Renvoise, a neuromarketing consultant. "This is, for good or bad, an inevitable evolution. It’s easier to trust the response you visualize on a MRI than to trust what people tell you.”  
So, welcome to the brave, new world!
Related articles
Enhanced by Zemanta