Facebook uses neuromarketing research to back its online ad clout--tracking brain/subconscious behaviors
By: Jeff Chester | Dec 9 2011
Facebook's expansion of its data collection and ad targeting system includes a recent alliance with the Nielsen company, to help it validate its worth to the largest global advertisers. Now Facebook is working with Nielsen's new neuromarketing service Neurofocus. Like other major online marketers, Facebook is researching how its ad system influences the unconscious perceptions and emotions of individuals. It has just released a new study done with Neurofocus documenting the "neurological engagement on premium websites." Such sites of course include Facebook. Here are some of the findings:
Compared to NeuroFocus norms, “premium websites” such as Facebook, Yahoo, and the New York Times
deliver substantially more engaging experiences than the average website.
• Consumers do respond differently to premium websites oriented toward three different purposes: social
networking, light news and entertainment, and hard news and commentary.
• These differences are represented neurologically by different levels of attention, emotional engagement,
and memory activation.
• All of these differences appear to be related to the expectations people bring to these sites when they visit
them, and these expectations, in turn, appear to impact how people respond to advertising on these sites.
• A related study of advertising on three media contexts supports these results, showing superior attention
emotional engagement for an ad presented in a social media online context vs. on TV or on a corporate web
In conducting the research, they explained that:
NeuroFocus measures focus on key conscious and subconscious elements of how consumers respond
explicitly and implicitly to sensory experiences (like watching an ad or reading a webpage) along
three core dimensions: Attention, Emotion, and Memory. These metrics capture direct subconscious
brain activity while the experience is underway, rather than relying on respondents’ own after-the-fact
estimates of how attentive they were, how emotionally engaged they were, or how likely they would be
to remember the experience. Advertising cannot elicit attitude change without at least some change in
these three critical neurological responses to the ad.
All these measures are based on well-established and recognized brainwave patterns that have been
identified in academic scientific literature and adapted for use within advertising, marketing, and media
stimuli by NeuroFocus scientists...In addition to measuring direct brain responses during an experience, NeuroFocus also measures
the degree to which messages and conceptual associations are strengthened by an experience. This
“Messaging Resonance” metric measures the extent to which the experience provided a subconscious
“lift” to those associations.
As we have said before, the use of neurological analysis to influence the brain behaviors and unconscious attitudes of users require regulation. Facebook must be held accountable for how it uses this research and what it might do in the future involving neuromarketing. The FTC and the EU have lagged regulating such practices. But the time to do so is now.