Engagement Insights®: Neuroscience Emerges in Creative Design

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In the modern world, we’re bombarded by images: the average person is exposed to as many as 5,000 adverts every day. That’s one advert every 11.52 seconds. How do you make imagery stand out from an endless flood of data?

This is the question Saddington Baynes has grappled with for the last 25 years. The answer? Delving into the non-conscious side of the brain.

With Engagement Insights®, Saddington Baynes combines science with creativity, producing attention-grabbing visuals for iconic brands around the world, including Honda. Executive Creative Director James Digby-Jones takes us through the many applications of neuromarketing in a digital era.


Ten years ago, Saddington Baynes set out a mission statement – to be globally recognised as world leading creatives with emotionally engaging imagery for brand advertising.

Over the years we’ve achieved that goal and more, due to a diverse approach to creativity that considers all options and alternatives. Neuroscience, and its offspring, the emerging world of neuromarketing, are perfects examples of that.

When neuro first came into our sphere of awareness, it seemed like a natural fit; the obvious next step in our ongoing mission to understand consumer emotion, and build better imagery.

We chose to approach neuromarketing from a production standpoint, taking a fresh approach to design that combines creativity and science. Of course, Saddington Baynes didn’t invent neuroscience methodology. Eye-tracking, facial decoding, EEG, implicit testing and so on are the product of wider industry research. Many years of science-based testing has led to the behavioural insights we enjoy today, from how consumers interact with brand packaging, to how products sit together on a supermarket shelf.

However, we did feel that there were unique ways in which an image production company like Saddington Baynes could harness the latest findings in the area.

Neuroscience tells us that the smallest, seemingly innocuous details can have a far-reaching effect on emotional response. Our CG artists have a lot of scope to manipulate these variables. Colour is an obvious factor, but even changing camera lenses, angles and tweaking lighting style all have an impact. These compositional elements are all part of a recipe. They’re ingredients, working together like in a beautifully cooked meal, and each can completely throw off or make the final flavour.

We created Engagement Insights® in partnership with neuromarketing consultancy NeuroStrata to get that recipe just right, using the latest in neuroscience testing techniques to ensure our imagery is nailing the right emotions needed from a campaign. And we can do all of this during production, before that campaign has even launched.

We’ve been working with the specialists at Neurostrata on Engagement Insights® for over two years now. This gamified test enables us to gather implicit data, detecting what automatic associations are made between an image and emotion. Essentially, Engagement Insights® can look into non-conscious responses – getting the answers people don’t even know they’re giving. Over those years, we’ve been compiling a comprehensive database of imagery that we can use to benchmark emotions.

It’s a technology and approach very of its time. Thanks to digitization, there‘s a whole new level of accessibility to neuroscience techniques. We’ve reached a point where even a webcam can record facial reactions during testing, generating even more marketing data.

Clients used to invest up to a year of time and over £10,000 on a single neuromarketing study. Engagement Insights® can get overnight results on a minimal price tag. Accessibility, cost and speed of turnaround for neuromarketing have been completely revolutionized.

What’s more, neuromarketing can also scale to almost any sample size or demographic. For example, Engagement Insights® can be accessed from anywhere in the world; all that’s needed is 15 minutes in front of a computer screen. We recently had 400 respondents across the United States in about an hour. The capability for this is only going to become more and more readily accessible.

Currently, Saddington Baynes is trailblazing these neuromarketing techniques, but I suspect other studios are likely to follow suit in the coming years. As neuromarketing moves past the early adopter stage and into mainstream marketing, I think many studios will need to submit their projects with its new seal of approval. After all, more and more clients are looking to safeguard and derisk their campaign work before it goes live.

Between a quick, cheap neuromarketing test, or spending millions of pounds on aimless media, the smart solution is as clear as day. Solutions like Engagement Insights® are a no brainer.


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