It’s no secret that science has been largely co-opted by corporateers. Just look at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which has just announced a reorientation to serving the corporate sector.
But science is useful to corporations beyond merely serving as a source of new products. It’s also proving very useful in telling corporateers the best strategies for picking our pockets.
The latest example is the new MediaLab Time Warner is opening in it’s New York headquarters to use the latest technologies from the behavioral and medical sciences to seduce us into buying their latest, soon-to-be-obsolete products.
It includes a 50-seat theater, a home-like living room, a consumer retail area and checkout station (no word on whether they’ll make this ultrarealistic by including a phony shopper ahead of you sorting through dozens of coupons and at least one unpriced item), an eye-tracking station and gaming stations. The behavior of subjects can be observed both by local and remote researchers.
Time Warner is partnering with consumer research firm Ipsos MediaCT and neuromarketing specialist Innerscope Research. Innerscope uses biometric measures to gauge consumer response to ads and media. Read more.
The New York Times covered the lab’s opening, noting that applications go beyond ads and video programming:
In December, HBO used the facility to test new features for its HBO Go iPad app, specifically related to the hit fantasy series “Game of Thrones.” A moderator observed as a consumer scrolled through character guides and additional videos related to the second season, to have its premiere in April.
The research, said Alison Moore, HBO’s senior vice president for digital platforms, “helps us narrow our roadmap when we have multiple features to launch” and “helps us anticipate consumer reaction.”
University of California joins the game
It’s not just corporate labs who are getting in on the mind-reading-for-big-bucks game.
The University of California is a major player, too.
From Adam Benforado of The Situationist:
The Super Bowl isn’t about sports; it’s about making money.And with 90 million or so viewers, there is a lot of money to be made.
With CBS charging an estimated $2.6 million for each 30-second advertising spot, it’s no surprise that corporations don’t mess around with guessing what the most effective approach will be for selling their products.They call in the scientists.brain-on-advertising.jpg
For the second year in a row, FKF Applied Research has partnered with the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, to “measure the effect of many of the Super Bowl ads by using fMRI technology.”The research involves “track[ing] the ads on a host of dimensions by looking for activity in key parts of the brain areas that are known to be involved in wanting, choosing, sexual arousal, fear, indecision and reward.”As the FKF website explains, why this research is useful to Fortune 100 companies is that it
shows clearly that what people say in focus groups and in response to poll questions is not what they actually think, feel and do. fMRI scans using our analytical methods allow us to see beyond self report and to understand the emotions and thoughts that are driving (or impeding) behavior.
Looking beyond the spoken word provides immense and actionable insights into a brand, a competitive framework, advertising and visual images and cues.
As it turns out, “brand” lives in a particular place in the human brain:
[W]hen [FKF] did an academic study on the impact of iconic brands, such as Pepsi and Coke and McDonalds, [they] found that the same part of the brain lit up over images of sports logos – say, for the NBA or NFL. There is a clear connection in the human brain between the anticipation of eating that you get from, say, the Coke logo and with the NBA logo.
So just remember, the next time you feel that urge to gobble down a fattening snack, guzzle an extra beer, or buy that SUV, the brain scientists of the University of California may be steering your impulse.
Ain’t life grand?