The research was low-tech but revealing.
Near a display of French wines and German wines inside a supermarket, researchers played French music one day, and German music on the alternate days. They did this for two weeks.
Guess what happened?
On the days French music was played, the store sold three times more French wine than German. On the days German music was played, the store sold three times more German wine.
No surprises there. Music is a great way to elicit an emotional and cognitive response—if it’s the right music. What was really interesting was the customer survey that accompanied the research.
Every shopper who bought a bottle of French or German wine was asked the question: “What factors influenced you to buy this wine?”
Only one person in 44 said music had any effect!
Danger of using surveys to predict behaviour
The wine/music experiment reinforced that people can’t really tell you what they think. It’s not that they don’t try to, they can’t.
There is a big difference between people’s behaviour and their understanding of that behaviour.
I met a woman who had moved her shop from one location to another 400-metres away. Six months later, the store was closing down. Her surveys had found customers were willing to walk further, but their behaviour showed they were not. (The shop went online.)
Even big companies like Apple, Ford, Coca-Cola & Pepsi have suffered market research failures.
Real test marketing
Instead of relying on surveys, do you have a prototype you can test?
If you sell a physical product, weekend market stalls are great places to get honest feedback on demand and desirability.
eBay could also work to test demand and price for single items.
For online and digital testing, Google has a great A/B testing extension called Optimize that you can use for free on webpages to see which version of a web page works best.
If you think something could work, and you can afford to take a risk, try it. Introduce it and judge from the results.
Brainscans… or a spreadsheet
At a university campus in Munich, 35 students were asked in a survey how much they’d be prepared to pay for an on-campus latte macchiato from a vending machine.
The prices in the latte machine were set to vary constantly between 0.05 and 4.65€. The same students were then monitored with an electroencephalography (EEG) to see how much they would actually pay.
The EEG brain data turned out to be much more accurate than the questionnaire.
TIP: If you can’t afford EEG to set a price point for maximum demand and profitability, consider using a real-world test of different price points and look at the elasticity of your demand.
You could also use past sales data and then use linear regression techniques like this one to calculate the highest price that won’t stifle demand.
Eye-tracking and close observation
Companies with big budgets often use eye-tracking and facial expression analysis software when running user experience (UX) tests for websites.
Close observation works too. With their permission (of course), try looking at clients and customers when you show them new printed material, or a new website.
Avoiding confusion is a key thing. Online – increase the size of your web font. Make it easy to read, not gimmicky. If in doubt, Open Sans. Try bigger buttons with good colour contrast.
If you don’t have a huge budget, but want to run some eye-tracking tests for a new website or print ad, Real Eye is an online service that will get research for you from $59US.
Avoid the Corner of Death
Eye tracking has also revealed that if a logo is used on the bottom of the ad, many people won’t see it. The bottom right hand corner is even nicknamed the Corner of Death.
I’ve been guilty of this more than once. Where is the logo usually placed?
If there’s a beautiful model in the centre of the ad, people will remember the model, but they won’t necessarily connect them with the brand name at the bottom right-hand corner.
Website logos are often centred for mobile responsiveness. When it comes to brochures or print ads, why not consider incorporating the branding more creatively?
Have you seen the Continental soup redesign from a few years ago? The C now wraps around the packaging.
A lot of brands are doing this now and it’s worth thinking about how your logo elements could be enlarged and used as graphic devices on stationery, marketing and advertising.
Happiness is profitable
Don’t try this at home, kids. Subliminal advertising isn’t legal anymore in Australia.
A self-service vending machine study showed that a hidden smile could generate up to triple the price for a mystery drink. People served themselves more after seeing the flash of happiness.
Those who saw the unhappy faces—even though they could not consciously detect them—drank less.
There’s a glut of software and APIs designed for detecting emotion in faces. A perceptive human being might be as good.
A serious face can be mistaken for a frown or anger. Even if you are a serious litigator, just a hint of a smile on an otherwise neutral face can help build rapport.
The music study and the subliminal faces study both go to show that a positive environment will have an impact on customers’ sense of value.
Think of staff, any photos and images you use on your website and marketing material.
Happy experience equals happier customers equals bigger profits.
There are lots of valuable takeaways from expensive research paid for by others. While neuromarketing research is a growing industry, the fundamentals of service, quality, clarity and truthfulness still go a very long way.