I recently finished a class on Coursera, An Introduction to Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing, that gave some great insights applicable to gaming and the greater tech sector.
Neuromarketing is a very exciting new field that is driving business growth, think Big Data ten years ago. The course, taught by Neuromarketing pioneer Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy of the Copenhagen Business School, delves into neuroscience and how both small and large companies can use it. It leverages increasing understanding in how the brain works with the emergence of behavioral economics and data-driven marketing.
While marketing in the past largely relied on intuition, surveys and focus groups, neuromarketing starts by understanding how the brain functions and what parts of the brain drive different behavior. By understanding what parts of the brain drive emotion, motivation, etc., you can then create products and marketing campaign most likely to get customers to purchase.
While I am not the person to summarize how the brain works, below are some of the key learnings from Professor Ramsøy’s course and implications for the game industry.
The concept of cognitive load is critical to the success of many products, from games like slots to apps like Uber. Given the the human brain consumers 20 percent of the body’s energy but only is 2 percent of the body’s mass, it is important to understand that people will subconsciously work to reduce the amount of energy the brain is using.
Cognitive load is how much info people are processing at any one time. Cognitive load is tied to working memory, the more information in that short-term memory the higher the cognitive load. As cognitive load increases, consumers are less likely to make a purchasing decision.
The concept of cognitive load also confirms why UIUX is often better when simpler. A simple user experience minimizes cognitive load, thus not creating too much strain.
It is important to manage proactively consumers’ cognitive load. Giving consumers many choices increases their cognitive load, thus making them less likely to purchase. Thus, it is critical that rather than giving your customer 25 different packages they can buy, keep the purchasing decision simple.
While simpler is better is often considered the goal of UIUX, it often is abandoned so new features can be added. The reality is that simpler is more important than features and you need to build your products not as a tradeoff between the two but as something that focuses on minimizing customers cognitive load.
Uber is a great example of the success of this strategy. From a very simple interface to only a few options to not even letting customers think about tipping to not even having to worry about paying, using Uber requires very little thought. Yet this incredibly simple app has made Uber worth over $60 billion.
Not only is cognitive load important when creating the overall product but also the underlying mechanic in the product. People often question the enduring popularity of slot machines. There are, however, virtually no game mechanics that have lower cognitive load than slots. The slot mechanic provides entertainment without using too much energy. When creating other mechanics, it is critical to understand how much mental energy they will consume.
Search and attention
One of the most powerful applications of neuromarketing is related to search and what consumers select following the search process. Critically, there are two types of search, and each is driven by different parts of the brain.
First there is bottom-up search, which is largely unconscious. This is where a person comes across something and it grabs your attention. Certain receptors in eyes more receptive to things like contrast and density. The best example is when you are in a grocery store and you notice something you were not planning on buying. This type of search is generally driven by colors, shape and density. Consumers are likely to buy some that grabs their attention. As much of consumer behavior is unconscious,
The other type of search is top-down, which is primarily conscious. This is when somebody is searching for something in particular. You may again be in a grocery store and looking for eggs. You will focus your mental energy on thinking hard and finding what you need.
You need to design your UIUX based on what type of search your customers will be conducting. If they are conducting a top-down search, then you do not have to prioritize making it that visible. They will find it regardless. Conversely, if you want to engage your easier (get them to try a new feature or new content or have them think about monetizing), then you want to stand out during a bottom-up search.
In this case, there are some great new tools for UIUX to optimize visual search results. Professor Ramsøy, who taught the course, has a commercial product called Neurovision. Neurovision allows you to put in an image of your game (in our case) and see what players will notice without the need of a fancy heat test, thus what will jump out in a bottom-up search (see example below):
It is also often used by retailers (including Walmart and Home Depot) to understand what consumers will see while walking through their store, it can even analyze what people will notice during videos. Neurovision is one of a host of new products based on Neuroscience that help you scientifically improve your products rather than relying on anecdotal experience with a limited number of users.
The value of brands is often debated but neuromarketing shows the value of a brand. Brands impact how we perceive and enjoy a product and stimulate additional parts of the brain that the product would not normally impact.
As discussed with cognitive load, the brain uses a lot of energy and consumers are constantly looking at ways to minimize this energy usage. Brands help consumers save energy because when they see a brand they are familiar with, the branding fills in a lot of information that they do not have to then ascertain (quality, style, etc.). Thus, when deciding between a branded product and a brand they are not familiar with (or no brand) the branded product has an advantage as choosing it requires less energy.
While this analysis may not seem like neuromarketing, neuromarketing confirms it. When people who have been exposed to branding for a certain paint are then in the paint section of a hardware store, eye-tracking confirms that they spend more attention on products from brands they are aware of. This phenomenon then leads to a higher likelihood of purchase.
Branding also helps with search, particularly bottom up search. While a consumer focused on finding a specific product or specific feature set may not respond to branding, as they are doing a top-down search, someone who is browsing for a new product (say a new casino app), a familiar brand would make it more likely to gain a customer’s attention.
Finally, branding stimulates parts of the brain that then impact how consumers feel about a product. A strong brand will create positive emotions around a product even before the consumer evaluates the product.
Branding is not dead or useless in a performance marketing world. Strong brand can translate into a higher impact from your performance marketing, customers are more likely to click on your ads. They are also more likely to pick your product when searching organically for one.
Neuroscience is a strong tool to help improve your product and marketing. By understanding how the brain processes information, you can tailor your product and marketing to optimize your chances for success.
- Neuromarketing, based on neuroscience, uses understanding of the brain to drive product and marketing decisions, just as big data creates much higher returns.
- You can increase sales and satisfaction by minimizing cognitive load, how much your customer’s brain has to process navigating your app or store
- Your UIUX should account for whether your customer is conducint a top-down search (looking for something in particular) or bottom-up search where you want them to find something.