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Recording Brain Waves at the Supermarket: What Can We Learn from a Shopper's Brain?

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2 Author(s)

Communication and marketing campaigns have traditionally been divided into two lines: above the line (ATL) and below the line (BTL). ATL campaigns refer to communications such as TV, print, and outdoor displays that are intended to reach large audiences. The effects of ATL are inherently difficult to measure; we do not see the direct consequences of viewing an advertisement (i.e., a talking baby giving financial advice) and actual purchase of the product. ATL is intended to indirectly improve the impression of a brand. BTL campaigns refer to promotions and in-store displays and are designed to affect the point-of-purchase behavior. The effects of BTL are easier to measure; we see direct consequences of viewing a display (i.e., “Today Only, Two for the Price of One”) and eventual purchase of the product. BTL is intended to directly improve the impression of a brand. Neuroscience plays an important role in measuring the effects of marketing campaigns. Traditional methods of measurement (such as surveys and interviews) depend on the verbal ability of the consumer to articulate their motivations for purchasing a product. It is well known that participants are poor at introspective reasoning, leading to an eventual purchase that omits emotional elements. Recently, methods normally employed in cognitive neuroscience have been adapted for use in the evaluation of campaign effectiveness. These methods have increased our understanding of factors leading to economic decisions. The application of neuroscience in ATL campaigns is relatively straightforward. Participants view TV commercials, for example, seated in a comfortable setting with minimal movement while electroencephalogram (EEG) measures are monitored. These brain waves reveal cognitive events related to the media. Participants are exposed to a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner to monitor changes in blood flow in various regions of the brain. Both of these methods are sensitive to u- derlying cognitive and emotional activity and are complimentary. EEG is more sensitive to time-locked events (i.e., story lines), whereas fMRI is more sensitive to the brain regions involved. The application of neuroscience in BTL campaigns is significantly more difficult to achieve. Participants move unconstrained in a shopping environment while EEG and eye movements are monitored. In this scenario, fMRI is not possible. fMRI can be used with virtual store mock-ups, but it is expensive and seldom used. We have developed a technology that allows for the measurement of EEG in an unobtrusive manner. The intent is to record the brain waves of participants during their day-to-day shop- ping experience. A miniaturized video recorder, EEG amplifiers, and eye-tracking systems are used. Digital signal processing is employed to remove the substantial artifact generated by eye movements and motion. Eye fixations identify specific viewings of products and displays, and they are used for synchronizing the behavior with EEG response. The location of EEG sources is determined by the use of a source reconstruction software.

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Pulse, IEEE  (Volume:3 ,  Issue: 3 )