Behavioral Science: Broadway flop or long-lasting marketing hit?

Alex Hunt, President, the Americas at BrainJuicer, reflects on the IIEX Behavioral Marketing Forum in New York City – and explains the industry’s need to continue to adopt behavioral science as fundamental to modern marketing.

Last Monday BrainJuicer had the honor of chairing the IIEX Behavioral Marketing Forum in New York City. The day-long forum was held at the New World Studios, currently home to one of the longest running shows on and off Broadway: Avenue Q. In terms of drama and excitement, the forum surely left its 250 plus delegates no less energized than the musical itself.

avenue q

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The Top Ten Tips For Better Concept Writing

People make decisions about new things in exactly the same way they make any decision – quickly, intuitively, and emotionally.

So why make your concepts long, discursive and full of rational benefits?

Force of habit, mainly. But get your concepts right, and your concept testing becomes a whole lot more accurate and useful. Mark Johnson, our Europe MD, has put together a booklet with our best tips on how – and here it is!

(If the embed doesn’t work for you, go look here.)


To Make Adverts Shareable, Go With The Flow

One nice thing about testing thousands of ads is that we collect loads of data, and sometimes that data turns out to be useful in ways we hadn’t imagined it would.

For instance, we generally measure emotional reactions to video ads from moment to moment – so we can see where in a commercial happiness peaks, and whether it tails off towards the end. This is vital for working out how ads can be improved – spotting flat parts or unresolved negative emotions.

What we realised, though, is that it also gave us a way of measuring the emotional movement within an ad – in other words, how dynamic and dramatic the ad is. If we added up every time the emotion within an ad changed, we’d end up with a cumulative measure of how emotionally dynamic it is.

We called this measure Flux. If an ad takes you on a rollercoaster ride from happy, to fearful, to sad, then back to happy again, it would score a very high Flux rating. And if an ad just made you evenly happy from the first second to the last, with no other emotions coming in, its Flux would be really low.

What's your flux capacity?

What’s your flux capacity?

Investigating this stuff is fun, but it’s only useful if we can relate it to real-world behaviour. We know that if you feel nothing, you do nothing – ads which make people happy are better than ads which don’t, no matter how much dynamism and Flux we detect. So what sort of behaviour might the emotional movement in an ad predict? What is Flux good for? Continue reading

Branding: A Shift In Perspective

Last week I was lucky enough to go to the annual Polish Market Research Congress, to talk about branding and behavioural sciences. The organisers were friendly and incredibly helpful, even providing me with a simultaneous translation device: I felt like a UN delegate! Through it, I learned that the issues affecting Polish marketers are universal – what to do about new data sources, new media channels, new competitors, and the ever-changing relationship between brand owners and research buyers?


By devoting a session to behavioural science, the Congress acknowledged that shifting perspectives on branding aren’t all to do with screens, devices or generations. Understanding what happens in the mind of a decision-maker can be just as revolutionary. And since I was presenting in Poland, there was an obvious comparison to make: Copernicus. Continue reading

Fame, Feeling And Fluency – The Only Brand Metrics You Will Ever Need

Orlando Wood, MD, BrainJuicer Labs, takes a look into our new BrainJuicer Brand Tracking model – and explains why we developed it.

There has been a growing awareness in the marketing community that traditional Brand Tracking doesn’t really help much to guide and predict brand growth, and there is desire to see it reinvented from the bottom-up. Why not start with Behavioural Sciences as a guide, because the great thing about science is that it simplifies and clarifies things? And if there’s one area of consumer research that needs cleaning up, it’s brand tracking.

tesco extra

What the Behavioural Sciences tell us is that we humans are fast and frugal in our decision-making. The truth is that people think much less about brands than we, as an industry, previously believed. People don’t evaluate options carefully, but instead rely on mental shortcuts – rules of thumb – to help them decide between options quickly and effortlessly.

There are three key mental shortcuts that help people decide between brands. We call them Fame, Feeling and Fluency. To our fast-thinking, System 1 minds:

  • If a brand comes readily to mind, it’s a good choice (Fame).
  • If a brand feels good, it’s a good choice (Feeling).
  • If a brand is recognisable, it’s a good choice (Fluency).

These rules of thumb are what behavioural scientists call the ‘availability heuristic, the ‘affect heuristic’ and the ‘processing fluency heuristic’. Continue reading

Fame, Feeling And Fluency: A VW Case Study

Volkswagen, as you just may have heard, is in a spot of trouble at the moment. The kind of trouble that wipes a quarter or more off a company’s share price and removes CEOs. Whether the legal fallout from their emissions-test-fixing scandal, and the fines the company face, will cripple or even destroy VW is an open question. But there’s another question to answer too – what are consumers making of all this? How likely are they to forgive VW, or didn’t they care much in the first place?

Image (C) Telegraph Newspapers

Image (C) Telegraph Newspapers

Predicting consumer reaction in the wake of a scandal is a tricky business. It’s easy to overestimate the effects of news stories on people’s perceptions – particularly as the common ways of gauging that effect are often flawed. Asking people to predict future behaviour, for instance, is very unreliable, particularly when a single negative news story is dominating perceptions and making certain future behaviour seem more socially acceptable. Looking at social media data is just as problematic: social media is a performative medium with a high degree of norming. Or to put it more plainly, mob mentality today is no guide to brand strength tomorrow.

So what can you do? Keep an eye on the fundamentals. Decisions about brands are like decisions about anything: most of them are made quickly and without much conscious thought. As Gerd Gigerenzer puts it, we are “fast and frugal” decision makers, and we rely on certain broad heuristics to make choices that are good enough.

We rely on Fame – if a brand comes quickly to mind, it’s a good enough choice.

We rely on Feeling – if we feel positively towards a brand, it’s a good enough choice.

We rely on Fluency – if we recognise a brand easily, it’s a good enough choice. Continue reading

Branding Reality Bites: The Strange Tale Of OK Soda

2015 brings us a little-heralded marketing anniversary – it’s been 20 years since Coca-Cola pulled OK Soda from the market. If you’ve not heard of OK, or you’ve forgotten it, that’s more than forgivable. The drink – meant to appeal to the ironic, cynical, Nirvana-loving teens of Generation X – was launched in 1993 but never made it to general release. OK Soda survives now as an occasional case study and minor cult – like the Ford Edsel, it haunts the graveyard of global brands that never were.

But can OK Soda hold any lessons for modern marketers? I think it can. Let’s start with the name…



The origin of OK Soda’s name is one of the most interesting things about it. Supposedly, it drew on market research suggesting that while the word “Coke” was globally recognised, it was beaten by the word “OK”. Hence, OK Soda – a brand waiting to happen. Continue reading