Currently the most impressive visions of the future involve AI that mimics human interactions. These AI companions use data from a variety of sources to make these experiences life-like. They remember our names, habits and preferences – they have a memory of our relationship with them and use these to make our experiences with them pleasurable and human-like. Thinking about the latest Blade Runner film, a number of examples easily spring to mind, most notably the holographic companion Joi.

At Sparkler we aren’t developing a holographic companion but we are thinking about the future. Most notably how we can generate more useful research findings from combining and overlaying different data sources – much like an AI companion would.

Our most recent neuro-study “The Brainbank Experiment” that we conducted with our partner Vision Critical, looked into how brands can build stronger connections with consumers. But the study didn’t just deliver illuminated findings from some of the biggest digital, supermarket and retail brands, it also got us thinking about how neuro-data could be put to better use.

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Neuro-studies are most commonly used for the optimisation of media, advertising and retail experiences. The technology allows you to look at brain activity to pin-point the parts of an advert or experience that makes it engaging. This is useful for a number of reasons – often consumers don’t know what they think, forget or don’t wish to confess their true feelings to a researcher.

Whilst neuro-technology isn’t telepathy (at least not yet!), it can gives us indicators of what parts of the advert or experience catch attention, create emotional connection or are memorable. This extra layer of insight is a great leap forward, but at Sparkler we think that we can drive more value from this methodology by overlaying it with other sources of data.

The future as we see it is what a scientist would call a lab-field test. This involves testing an advert with neuro-techniques in a laboratory as a first step, then optimising the advert on the basis of this data and testing it within a longitudinal panel or community to measure its effect on real-world behaviour.

Measuring whether consumers buy more of the brand’s products and or think better of the brand over the next few months as a result of seeing the optimised ad, doesn’t just improve understanding of the advert and its ability to drive behaviour, it also allows us to further refine the neuro-approach by more accurately identifying key aspects of the neuro data that flags ad engagement and ultimately behaviour change.

Crucially, these sorts of research communities are becoming increasingly commonplace and our partner Vision Critical is delivering a technology platform able to assimilate data from a growing number of sources. We see this sort of integrated approach being an increasingly bigger part of what Sparkler offers. We aren’t just looking to overlay neurological data we want to include data from a range of sources such as NPS scores, customer feedback, and social media sentiment analysis, taking multiple perspectives to get a fuller picture of what drives behaviour.