The power of AI

If neuroscience looks at individual trees, AI takes in the entirety of the forest, rapidly analyzing large datasets and identifying patterns. The two approaches, when taken together, can cut the costs of a campaign and drive efficiency. 

GlassView specializes in neuromarketing and uses a machine learning tool to inspect the performance of ads against neurological metrics previously collected using EEG-like headbands. For a campaign in April to increase sign-ups for a credit card company, GlassView’s AI model identified consumer brain wave patterns that correlated with higher ad performance; that is, ad experiences more likely to result in site traffic and sign-ups. The AI then directed more media spend to audience segments reflecting those patterns, resulting in a 70% reduction in cost-per-page-landing.

The combination of neuroscience and AI “allows you to not just optimize toward the buy, but to understand the why behind the buy,” said Brooks. 

The typical route of audience segmentation is to leverage mostly static demographics—such as age, gender and income—to inform the design of a campaign. Less detailed data going into the effort usually translates to less detailed data coming out of the effort.

Neurological data, however, is very detailed, making an AI-powered analysis of consumer response potentially more comprehensive. The patterns derived from these second-by-second findings are key information for re-designing a campaign to maximize resonance for different audiences—almost like having the answers to a test before taking it.

Generative AI, which has become marketers’ latest must-have tool, is beginning to see applications in the neuromarketing space.

Endel, the music technology company that creates personalized soundscapes, combines generative AI with health and fitness data, including neurological information. With permission from the users, the firm accesses health and fitness apps on mobile devices, then uses AI to map cognitive states from that data. Finally, Endel’s proprietary model curates sounds to guide those states toward a specific purpose, such as tranquility, focus or sleep.

“Neuroscience informs the AI,” said Stavitsky. Neuroscientific studies have also been conducted on Endel’s application, which, in turn, have informed how the firm develops its technology.

Endel’s product functions as a content marketing strategy, Stavitsky said. Last month, the firm teamed with musician 6lack to turn his latest album into two distinct soundscapes—one for sleep, one for focus. The goal is to expose the album to audiences that may not otherwise listen to it.

GlassView’s Brooks, though, is less convinced of the immediate impact that generative AI will have on neuromarketing, due to the many problems the technology still has to work through. These issues, framed by a lack of regulation, range from copyright infringement to data insecurity and the spreading of biased information. 

Until brands are confident in its ability to protect data and prevent outputting harmful material, generative AI will see limited interplay with neuroscientific data on consumers, Brooks said.

Invasive or innovative?

That generative AI does not always act with purity is a reminder of the pitfall of feeding people’s neurological data into AI models for the purpose of better advertising. The marketing industry, after all, wants to sell products, and sometimes leans on less transparent methods for doing so, such as fingerprinting. 

“Marketers can exploit your psycho-emotional state to just offer you more stuff to buy,” said Stavitsky. For example, studies show that impulse buyers reflect low self-esteem and high levels of depression and anxiety. Advertising, especially on social media, can often exacerbate these feelings, leading to more impulse purchasing.

Whether acting knowingly or unknowingly, marketers could leverage comprehensive neurological data in a way that drives sales at the expense of consumers’ mental health. AI technology, moreover, will only amplify the effects of an underlying action. If these actions pose negative externalities, the result could deeply undermine industry efforts to prioritize consumer privacy and safety.

Brands appear to be cognizant of an optics issue. NIQ has worked with a handful of the top 25 advertisers as measured by U.S. ad spending, yet some have been hesitant to promote their neuromarketing efforts, said Bases’ Belden.

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