Neuroscience helps to confidently predict a campaign’s effectiveness, before it launches, says Simon Collister PhD, Director of Unlimited’s Human Understanding Lab and Cristina de Balanzo, Ph.D. Director at Walnut Unlimited.

We know there is a crisis of creativity in B2B. Just look at the research: 75% of ads analysed by LinkedIn’s B2B Institute were found to be rated 1 Star or less (where 5 Stars = likelihood of greater growth). The same source has found that using effective creative to build B2B brands becomes more effective over time, with a greater commitment to creativity delivering nearly 2x more very large business results in the long-term.

Then there’s the IPA’s database of B2B marketing campaigns, analysis of which has shown that emotional campaigns are 1.4x more likely to generate business results vs 0.2x for the rational campaigns which are the norm for this sector.

Despite all the data, however, we know that at the frontline of B2B marketing there is a reality that often makes it difficult to follow the evidence and put more creativity into your campaigns.

The hard reality of achieving creative cut-through in B2B

B2B brands continually produce underwhelming creative concepts.

Many B2B brands struggle to stand out for several reasons. Firstly, brands are faced with low product differentiation, with competitors offering similar solutions. It can be challenging to find new and different ways to talk about the same themes and solutions to the same audience.

Secondly, B2B brands are routinely communicating in heavily saturated marketplaces, with an emphasis on achieving short-term performance, meaning that longer-term brand-based investments are neglected.

And thirdly, brands can feel uncomfortable developing bold creative concepts over safer, tried and tested creative choices.

This all creates the perfect marketing storm where B2B brands continually produce underwhelming creative concepts and communicate with messaging often indistinguishable from competitors leading to poorly differentiated brand experiences.

Using neuroscience to unlock creative effectiveness

But what if there was a way to break out of the conventional B2B mould? And to do that in a way that offered safety and confidence in choices?

This is where neuroscience comes in.

Science shows us that the majority of human decision-making and behaviour operates below the level of consciousness.

In particular: we know that brand-buying behaviour is explained by emotion, memorisation, and recognition which leads to decision making. But these are not concepts or metrics usually measured by performance marketing platforms or digital engagement scores.

And conventional research techniques, like focus groups and surveys, offer limited insight into creative effectiveness. The effect that creativity has in influencing buying decisions plays out mostly below the level of conscious thought.

So, asking people what they ‘think’ doesn’t get the right insights, as it can’t capture consumers’ full emotional and motivational influences. It means we can’t get to the bottom of the key questions, including:

  • What truly drives consumer behaviour?
  • What creative concepts communicate at a cognitive and emotional level?
  • What creative concepts really drive the right emotional reactions?

By measuring and analysing the real, subconscious forces which influence decision-making we can plan our creative and message strategy in ways that empower us to confidently predict what will help us to stand out and deliver more effective creative outcomes.

We all know that, regardless of the audience, human communication is about feelings, not just information; and it is not only what you say it, but how you say it. The power to unlock effectiveness relies on both.

To do this, we need to deploy more sophisticated research approaches. Neuroimaging techniques such as EEG, biometrics tools like galvanic-skin response, eye tracking, facial coding and implicit techniques are all tools that can be used to truly measure how unconscious emotional processes impact decision making. We, as humans, lack access to all these processes and emotions. But using these approaches removes reporting biased, false reporting and subjectivity.

Applying neuroscience to help drive attention in IT networking services

Creative evaluation is never easy, but using these neuroscience techniques we’re better able to understand the creative impact in our subconscious and describe more accurately what a creative makes us feel, beyond whether we simply like, dislike or recall specific messaging.

We know of an IT and professional services brand which had a big vision for relaunching its IT networking capability. The team there understood the power of brand-building in a B2B context and set out some specific objectives. They wanted to gain cut-through against competitors and stand out in a saturated market while increasing awareness and understanding of their consultancy services and technology expertise, which not enough people knew about.

They used reaction time testing, a neuroscience technique, to assess the believability, clarity and relevance of three creative concepts that they had developed. This technique showed not only what people explicitly say about specific statements, but also the emotional conviction they express behind those statements.

Creative concepts scoring 40% or higher on reaction time speed will be in the top 25% of top-performing advertising.

The strength of these associations is linked to memory consolidation, so everything we have previously experienced with the brand or category will have a direct impact in the way we perceive, appraise and relate to the creative content shown.

This means that the faster the reaction times in responding to the survey questions, the more accessible the attitude is in the audience’s memory and therefore the stronger the association. It is these fast/stronger reactions that reveal our unconscious decision-making.

Not only that, we know from extensive benchmarking that creative concepts scoring 40% or higher on reaction time speed will be in the top 25% of top-performing advertising.

The ‘winning’ concept was selected because it scored over the key 40% threshold based on judging criteria, including ‘believability’ (62%), ‘relevance’ (58%) and ‘easy to understand’ (56%). Overall, 70% of respondents said the concept made them feel ‘better’ or ‘a lot better’ about the brand.

With this reassurance, you can create messaging, content, video and advertising assets. The key takeaway here, however, is that brand’s marketing teams can confidently say their campaign is not only going to stand out and create positive perceptions but also drive action. In short, neuroscience helps to confidently predict a campaign’s effectiveness, before it launches.