What hard evidence is there that using implicit measures will lead to better decisions and better commercial ROI?

In a double blind study carried out by us for a major personal care brand and aimed at assessing which of several techniques could best predict the uptake of a brand extension, the post-launch results showed that consumers' implicit, but not explicit, responses predicted market uptake.

In a recent combined biometric and implicit study we conducted for American Express on the way in which customer service impacts on consumers' nonconscious emotions, the PR story that emerged had over 15 million media take-ups - a huge ROI given their objectives.

A recent study that we conducted with trained sensory panelists showed that they are better at discriminating the specific aromas contained within a liquid compound when they perform the evaluation implicitly rather than explicitly. This is one of the few scenarios in which the individual components are known with 100% accuracy, thus providing the ideal way of validating the implicit methodology.

The weight of evidence that is being amassed from both academic and commercial sectors indicates that the integration of conscious and nonconscious reactions provide substantially higher predictive power of subsequent consumer purchasing behaviour than either alone.

Importantly, where the two measures are found to be discrepant, implicit responses are often found to be the more accurate predictor of subsequent behaviour. In circumstances whereby implicit and explicit responses are aligned, each provides a point of validation for the other (in other words, we can conclude that few social influences are acting on decisions or stated attitudes in this case).

In a recent study of voting intentions, analysis that combined both explicit and implicit reactions predicted the results with significantly greater accuracy than when explicit and implicit reactions were analysed separately.

There have been numerous academic papers published on the validity of implicit responses as predictors of subsequent behaviour. In a longitudinal study published in 2012, it was shown that implicit, but not explicit, reactions were able to predict the success of songs in the American charts, see below for a quote from the author:

"When the research subjects were asked to rate the songs on a scale of one to five, their answers did not correlate with future sales of the songs. That result may be due to the complicated cognitive process involved in rating something", the author, Berns, speculates. "You have to stop and think, and your thoughts may be coloured by whatever biases you have, and how you feel about revealing your preference. [But] you really can't fake the implicit brain responses while you're listening to the song," he adds. "That taps into a raw reaction."

Published academic articles, including from the Neurosense team, show that implicit methods predict behaviour with greater accuracy than explicitly stated attitudes on topics including but not limited to:

  • Overeating
  • Food choice
  • Brand choice
  • Alcohol consumption behaviour
  • Subsequent behaviour (e.g., speeding on a driving simulator)
  • Relationship duration
  • Job switch
  • Adoption of environmentally friendly packaging
  • Liking of an advert and brand loyalty