The rigor of neuro-based research brings science to the art of creative storytelling.

A new generation of biometric, neurometric, and implicit association tools are bringing hard science to the traditionally mushy realm of figuring out what customers are thinking or feeling, and how that is driving their buying behaviors. In a recent CMO Club virtual roundtable, Joe Sauer, SVP & Managing Director of Sentient Decision Science, and Joe McCambley, CMO of Saatva shared insights from their 18-month journey of bringing data-driven precision to the art of building creative brand narratives. They shared strategies and tactics that helped Saatva shape their creative so that customers would lean in at the right moments in the story arc, make emotional connections and come away with enduring brand imprints.

The premiere luxury mattress and bedding brand saw a lockdown-driven boon as consumers shifted their “home sweet home” shopping online. As revenue hit historic highs, Saatva recognized the opportunity to shift their marketing focus up the funnel to differentiate with the brands that were flooding the turf Saatva had carved out as the first mover in the online luxury mattress space. To craft the creative narratives for the brand-building campaigns Saatva used next gen tools and expertise from Sentient Decision Science to unpack real consumer insights and make an end-run around the “can’t say/won’t say” conundrum of traditional quantitative research. Sentient helped Saatva get a pulse on what their customers were thinking and feeling, and provided data and insights to help tailor brand stories precisely to customers’ needs and emotions at each step of the buying journey. The end result: orders of magnitude lift in brand preference and loyalty, a 20X spike in predictability of advertising outcomes, and a stronger long term position for a company that’s aggressively competing in a $30 billion market.  

Storytelling with Data is King 

Use next gen neuromarketing to hone your story and engage emotionally with your audience.

  • Traditional quantitative research always comes with an embedded flaw: responses are filtered through reasoning and bias and tend to reflect an idealized version of self which skews the results. 
  • To get to the full truth, figure out what’s happening at a subconscious and emotional level. From eye tracking to facial recognition to pioneering social psychology, and more there are new tools to help marketers glean these insights at scale. 
  • A data-driven understanding of the implicit association between a brand and a particular trait and the ability to understand the brand’s identity via its most recognizable characteristics can inform how to shape the story arc for strategic impact at different parts of the funnel. 
  • Get very systemic about identifying brand attributes. Start with the big pool of truths. Triage to those truths that are ownable. Then land on that even smaller subset that have the highest correlation to choice, brand preference, and brand attachment. 

There will be natural groupings — clusters of attributes that lend themselves to narratives. Get those narratives woven into all the advertising you are doing.

– Joe Sauer

Build behavioral principles into how you build ads and measure their effectiveness

Insights can help you shape the narratives to get people to stop in their tracks and pay attention.

  • Shape the story to get customers from the top of the funnel with emotional engagement to rational and transactional engagement as they move through the journey. 
  • Bring a new level of scrutiny to the storyboard. Identify the specific moments where you want to get emotions high and the points where your creative gets your customers to lean into the story. 
  • Ensure you’ve instrumented to be able to measure how customers engage emotionally with your ads. 

Data-driven insights help you create stories that can lead to long term memory encoding. That drives long term lift in brand preference and longer term brand attachment.

– Joe McCambley

Re-examine the yardsticks you use to measure ad effectiveness

Neuro-based research tools can automate ad effectiveness assessments

  • Assessing Engagement: Content won’t be successful unless it makes it past our eyes and ears to begin with. 
    • Attention: It needs to be noticed. Measure interest level generated with eye tracking. 
    • Affect: It has to connect: Measure emotional response via facial action coding. 
  • Assessing Influence: Everyone wants their content to be “liked,” but persuasion pays the bills.
    • Memory: It has to embed the brand. Measure an ad’s impact on brand recall and perceptions. 
    • Desire: It has to lift preference. Measure impact of exposure on preference and attachment.

Avoid myopic focus on conversion rates as the primary metric for brand campaigns. Look at share-of-branded search to assess early efficacy as it will give you the patience to stick with it and avoid pulling the ad too quickly.

– Joe McCambley