Brain-wave lab to open in Israel

Neurofocus can help in product development, political campaigns and even peace processes.

brain waves 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
brain waves 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
American-based Neurofocus, which claims to offer companies the ability to glimpse into the mind of consumers, announced on Sunday that it is opening a laboratory in Israel.
The new field of “neuro-marketing” is said to allow developers to gauge the reactions of small groups of test subjects to new products with the aid of brain-scanning technology.
“Whatever it is that you watch or experience, we figure out how your brain is truly reacting to it,” said Dr. A.K. Pradeep, Neurofocus’ founder and CEO. “We use a dense array electroencephalogram (EEG) with 64 to 128 sensors in a baseball cap. You wear it on your head and the sensors measure your brain activity 2,000 times a second. In the time it takes you to snap your fingers, 128,000 measurements are done all across your brain.”
One product for which such testing is useful, according to Pradeep, is a device most people own and use – the cellphone.
In the past, mobile phone producers could either create the product and then wait for sales to determine if it was desirable or not, or gather a large amount of people in a focus group and ask them what they thought.
Regarding a cell phone’s appearance, he explained, the common conception has been that slimmer is sleeker, yet there is a point where slimness starts conveying flimsiness.
Today, with the aid of neuromarketing, producers can hook a small number of people to a helmet containing dozens of brain activity sensors and determine, scientifically, the precise point at which the product becomes too thin and thus undesirable.
Pradeep said that because the brain is partitioned, scientists can accurately determine which parts react to different stimuli and thus receive precise indications of what a person is feeling and the precise timing of the emotion. This, he said, is far more efficient than regular focus groups, where people are asked to explain their response to stimulations. Such explanations can be filtered through the person’s consciousness and swayed by inhibitions or a desire to please.
“The science behind the company comes from the neuroscience departments at Berkeley, Harvard, MIT and Hebrew University,” said Pradeep. “With it, we can figure out why you like something or not, and why you buy it or not.
He explained that three variables are measured: attention, emotional engagement and memory retention, which are then compiled to give parameters to test purchase intent, novelty and comprehension.
For manufacturers, this information can assist in product design by analyzing which features are pleasing to the senses.
He added, however, that the field had limitless potential for advertising and marketing, and that Neurofocus’ services could be used to help boost branding, packaging design, advertising efficiency and even shelf placement.
Pradeep said that Neurofocus was able to increase the sales of one of its US clients’ salsa and chips products by 11 percent by figuring out what part of the chip-eating experience showed the highest amount of brain activity. Contrary to what one might think, it was neither the flavor nor the texture that made people’s minds buzz, but rather the precise moment between scooping up the salsa sauce and lifting it to the mouth. By placing a photo of a salsa-dripping chip in a supermarket aisle, the company increased all chip sales by 7% and the particular brand’s sales by 11%.
Zvika Pakula, a former deputy director of marketing at Cellcom and Neurofocus’s local director, said he anticipated that the company’s Israeli clients will be made up of large manufacturers and service providers. He refused to quote prices, but said the service would be suitable for large and mid-sized companies and 30-40% over the average price for traditional market research services.
Pakula said the firm had already done a pilot project with local dairy manufacturer Tnuva, and that the first client had already begun testing its products on consumers. He added that companies that hire Neurofocus’s services could expect to wait a week to receive results.
“The information gathering is done at our facility in Bnei Brak, where a staff of technicians runs the test on participants and records the results on our computers,” he said. “A test subject is seated in a chair facing a screen, and the brainscanning helmet is placed on his or her head. In order to maintain concentration, the testing is done for no longer than 30 minutes and never after 5 p.m.”
He added that the information is sent to the company’s headquarters in California, where it is analyzed before being returned to Israel.
“In the United States,” he said, “several companies have decided to include Neurofocus in their production process and have signed agreements to have the service available in their plants. That may also be the future in Israel.”
Pradeep said that Neurofocus’s international clients included household names like LG and Samsung, two leading beverage companies and five top brands across the sectors of fashion, health and beauty, financial services and the automotive industry.
The firm’s executives are also highly aware of the benefit their services can provide for politicians. Pradeep said that neuro-marketing techniques had been used to help finetune the messages of certain candidates in the last US general election, and Pakula said he anticipated that it would be used to assist political campaigns in the next Israeli elections, too.
In addition, Pradeep said Neurofocus would provide Israel with no-cost services to test and analyze particular negotiating positions in order to aid the peace process with the Palestinians.