Academic research in psychology has shown that the correlation between a self-reported attitude and actual behavior is around 0.3. Although we say we will start a diet or exercise, we often fail to actually do so. Even though we claim that we like a product, when faced with a choice, we reach for the competing brand. We say that an advertisement is interesting and that we feel encouraged to buy the product, and yet we fail to do so when shopping, and conversely – we might claim an ad is boring or irritating, yet, we buy the advertised product anyway.
Academic neuroscientific research has established that every conscious act is preceded by a neurophysiological reaction. That is why neuro tests predict behavior better than verbal reports. To make sure people really intend to do something, it is wise to check their neuro reactions. Verbal declarations of respondents must be backed-up with neuro. If not, they remain nothing else but wishful thinking.
The fact that neuro predicts purchase behavior better than verbal declarations is well illustrated by a test we have conducted together with one of the leading global FMCG companies. For that we invited 66 housewives, who were shown an ad, and subsequently asked to share their impressions about the product. The commercial, following a simple “problem-solution” pattern, showed the story of a woman who sees that her kitchen got dirty, and, without much hesitation, decides to clean it with the advertised item. Using it, she quickly tackles the problem, whereas regular products prove to be ineffective. In the participants’ opinion the film was uninteresting, boring, predictable and did not stand out from the commercial clutter. In other words, it did not ignite any positive emotions. While watching the ad, women were connected to EEG and GSR tools to record their biological reactions. Thanks to neuro, it turned out that the key scenes (showing the product and the slogan) were perceived by their brains to be most relevant and engaging (the prefrontal cortex, responsible for all the key decisions, showed unusually high activity), and the commercial’s ending evoked an outright explosion of positive emotions. After the experiment, we discovered that we had been given for testing, one of the most effective commercials sales-wise in the company’s history.
This example shows that considering only verbalized information is insufficient because the answer often lies in the subconscious. This is the reason why consumers do not always choose the advertised product, even if they initially say it is interesting, compelling and encourages them to make a purchase. Another observation is that for product categories driven by negative motivation (“I buy it because I have to”) – the tested product belonged to that category – an ad does not necessarily have to score highly on liking and recall measures, yet, can still be very effective.