‘Brain friendly’ ads get better brand recall: Noel Coburn

JAIPUR: Cognitive neuroscience - the study of how our brains function – as a means to improve ad effectiveness? Whatever next.



Well, Noel Coburn, former science and math teacher, market and media researcher and now South Africa’s largest educational and text book publisher, is a believer and puts forth a pretty persuasive case.

Coburn has an almost messianic conviction that cognitive neuroscience has yielded crucial insights that have a direct bearing on marketing effectiveness.

This may sound like a primer on brain science but it is really linked to neurons and the electrochemical messaging that is constantly at play in the brain and the events that trigger them.

How can this be applied to advertising and marketing? Speaking about brands, Coburn says, “A brand is a set(s) of neural networks, and the ease and speed of accessibility, and the complexity of the set(s), are a measure of how strongly or weakly we are aware of the brand.”

If all this sounds like Double Dutch, what this means is that audio-visual stimuli that goes to the brain impact the neural networks as a record of the of a consumer’s experience of a brand. Media advertising creates part of that record.

For an ad to be recorded in the neural network, it would therefore have to be “brain friendly.” A brain friendly would result in positive brand recall while an unfriendly one would be probably be forgotten.

Coburn said there was a problem more so with television advertising than print. “This is not because TV is a bad medium, but because it is a very complex medium. Print is an easier medium to understand as it is a static one, more literate-friendly as it were,” says Coburn.

There are just so many communication messages that the brain can process at a time, says Coburn. If the number of images flitting across the screen in a regular commercial is 25 to 30, then there will be lousy message retention. Cutting it down cut down to six to seven images results in a 40 per cent higher brand recall, he says.

Coburn said he understood that creative people would be intimidated by such a concept because they would feel it set limits on how they function. “I love advertising. I believe it’s about time they got more professional. Effective advertising is all about getting into the consumer’s head. And cognitive neuroscience the study of how our brains function - will help you do that,” he exhorts.

Putting things in perspective, Coburn said what brain science did was provide warning sign posts in terms of what not to do. After that it is pretty much in the creative honcho’s ballpark.

Cognitive neuroscience can be applied in other related areas as well, says Coburn in conclusion. Like disrupting the auto-pilot mechanisms of the brain, especially in retail environments, to create better sales and getting consumer brains to rehearse purchasing targeted brands, for instance.

Sounds like science fiction but Coburn assures you it’s serious stuff.

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