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Nielsen Touts Neuroscience at National Restaurant Association Marketing Executives Group Conference

With every shift in consumer eating habits and every new eating establishment that raises the bar for consumer delight, the challenges become more significant for the broader retail and food service industry. Each year, the National Restaurant Association tackles these and other challenges by convening the Marketing Executives Group (MEG), a community of restaurant marketing professionals. Directly preceding the annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show, the NRA MEG met in Chicago to raise the level of industry excellence through the exchange of ideas, thought leadership and best practices.

Every player in the retail and food service industry is looking for an edge, and Nielsen executives provided a path forward in the form of neuroscience. Leading three, five-minute sessions, followed by two longer-form roundtable sessions, Dr. Elise Temple, Vice President of Neuroscience at Nielsen, and Elizabeth Douglass, Senior Vice President of Client Consulting at Nielsen, had the opportunity to educate attendees on the subconscious factors driving consumer behavior—factors that consumers can’t easily articulate.

Elise Temple at the NRA MEG Event

Each topic brought nuanced insight to old questions on what people might not be able to tell you about how they really feel—and what this means for the advertisers trying to engage with them. Here are the highlights from these bite-sized presentations:

  1. Doing Well by Doing Good: Socially Charged Advertising: Our brains make it hard for advertisers, said Elise. For example, “it can be difficult for advertisers to be successful with socially charged content, because the human brain automatically avoids negative.” But the good news is that “we can do it powerfully when we emphasize the solution and not the problem—and thereby achieve emotional resonance.”
  2. When Shorter Ads Work Better…Compression: Elizabeth addressed the misconception that shorter ad lengths mean the content is less effective. “With compression technology, we can pull out the most engaging, salient moments of advertising to the point where you can make less more.”
  3. The Science of Sound: Auditory signals can trigger emotion and higher-order cognition, and Elise said she’s starting to see that play out with radio advertisements. “With radio, the theater of the mind can actually create imagery supported by sound, and as a result, radio advertisements have the opportunity to be the ultimate in personalized advertisement.” Essentially, radio enables consumers to envision their own environment as opposed to the vision of an environment an advertiser puts in front of them.

After the short presentations, Elise and Elizabeth went on to facilitate roundtable discussions. Elise shared insights into what neuroscience can tell us about what makes something appetizing in the brain, and what we know about how that connects to the reward pathway. Elizabeth engaged in conversation around challenges that come with building a brand with increasingly brief content, and the ongoing learning that will be needed to drive more effective short-form content.

As attendees of the NRA MEG conference can attest, there’s more to consumers than meets the eye—and neuroscience provides a path for driving deeper insights to help retailers and restaurateurs gain any edge in an ultra-competitive landscape.

Pictured at the top of the article: Elizabeth Douglass