Our 5 Top Takeaways from Shopper Brain NYC 2018



“Rich neurological insight delivered in consumer-friendly language.”


Shopper Brain’s 2018 conference earned effusive praise from our Creative Director Andrew Piper, who closed the New York leg of the show with his talk on winning consumer emotion without spending big.


What did he learn from the other speakers?


Big idea #1:  Intelligent imagery and copy generate outsized effects


“David Friedlander of National Geographic delivered standout insight into how his team transformed the impact of their magazine using new types of copy and imagery.


As well as selling subscriptions, magazines have to sell off the newsstand. David’s insights therefore nicely mirrored the things we consider in our work on FMCG packaging. The difference is that magazines have to be created every month. National Geographic’s success in this department is even more striking given that print sales are dropping across the board.


In his speech, David showed how cover imagery drives increased magazine sales when partnered with meaningful copy.


Certain cover images – those around Vikings, for example – performed better than others. The question was then around repeating their success on a monthly basis. Vikings are like dinosaurs: they draw people in, however they’re used. The trick is learning the lessons from these covers and replicating them with slightly less exciting subject matter, like DNA, which was the theme of a later edition.


Throughout, the team used eyetracking to measure where consumer interest was focused in the magazine. It wasn't always where they thought it would be. With less compelling subject areas readers would often start looking elsewhere on the cover to find things that interest them - putting the designers’ focus back onto cover copy.


Insights like these led to paradoxical changes. Another interesting detail was that the size of the National Geographic brand logo had been reduced significantly to allow the cover imagery and the headline copy to work harder.


As creatives we can learn a lot from choices like these, when it comes to identifying our priorities and getting people to look at the bit we want them to look at. The insight is about hierarchy: getting your priorities right, and then making sure those elements – copy and imagery – are working as hard as they can.”


Big idea #2:  Shoppers are tired of ‘utility’ shopping. Experience is everything.

“Andrew Blachman from online auctioneers Tophatter focused on retail gamification. While this isn’t something we usually consider in our work on packaging, where gamification gets interesting is when you consider the difference between 'experiential' shopping experiences versus 'utility' ones.


The first requires businesses to bake brand experience into the shopping process. Shoppers do the second type with their eyes closed, on Amazon.


In our design-led branding world, this difference is as important as ever. Whether we’re talking about packaging or the more experience-driven creative we've been doing for Pizza Express, there's an experiential quality to the work we do that is essential, given that shoppers are increasingly tired of utility shopping.



Today, FMCG brands must ask how brand experience translates into the products they make and services they offer. What happens in store, or when items are delivered? How do we consider shopper fatigue when we design brand touchpoints?”


Big idea #3:  Sensory impact can reshape retail environments…


“Steve Keller from iV delivered a thought-provoking and surprising introduction to what he called 'retail atmospherics' and 'acoustic design' – that is, how brands use sound to build retail experiences.


Where this gets interesting is in restaurants. In our work with Pizza Express, we talked at length about the way sound influences the quality of the branded environment, and how people can get quite dramatically turned off when it's wrong. Conversely, if the ambience of a space is right, customers might not notice but are likely to have a better dining experience.


Sensory stimulation of this type should never be underestimated. When visitors aren’t talking about an environment, this may suggest they’re enjoying it a lot and are likely to come back for more.


Sound design enables brands to create an environment that isn't there. Steve referred to a Swedish studythat showed that patrons in restaurants typically find it stressful to listen to familiar pop songs, whereas a more curated, unfamiliar soundtrack is more conducive to what they're doing. People don't necessarily want to hear things they know.”


Big idea #4: … But subtlety is key.


“Diana Lucaci’s work with True Impact dovetailed well with Steve Keller’s.


True Impact applies neuroscience to brand problems. This includes working with haptics – touch or vibration technology – to offer richer brand experiences, particularly on mobile.


At one level, haptic feedback is a neat trick. To use it effectively, however, requires brands to understand the importance of applying the technology with subtlety and intelligence.


Consumers can quickly tire of these technological interventions – but, equally, are surprised and inspired by them when they’re done well.



Diana drew on the fact that automotive brands have used haptic technology in mobile-enabled ads – the idea being that customers’ phones can be made to vibrate like a car engine. The difficulty, however, is the same brands want to use the most powerful vibration possible. The effect quickly becomes tiring. More subtle applications, where the phone buzzes or presents you with a surprise or unexpected moment of engagement are, as a result, more effective.

Both audio and haptic technology offer rich execution opportunities, particularly with mobile becoming more central to the shopping experience. To use them effectively, however, brands must think hard about their relevance and correct application.”


Big idea #5:  Behavioural insights can empower creative projects, from brief to review


“The talk that preceded my own was on 'intuition and creative problem-solving’, by Neil Adler from NeuroFire Consulting.


Neil focused on the roles of behavioural science within marketing strategy. Our clients should be inspired to use behavioural insights as tools to inform the briefs they provide to suppliers.


So often, the brief is the weak point in the execution of a brand strategy. One of the things that can inform briefs and make them more useful is an understanding of behavioural science, which can be used to connect creative elements like copy, tone of voice and design to KPIs like brand engagement.


As designers, we also have a responsibility to understand the neurological factors that affect buyer behaviour and how shoppers react to the work we create. We design with a degree of intuition, but it's beneficial to think about the way people's minds work and the way they see things with a scientific bias, to make our creative as effective as possible.


What is the role of colour? Which images work best? What’s the effect of changing the shape and dimension of packaging formats? Behavioural science can influence each factor.


Designers and brands can also use their understanding of behavioural science to better evaluate creative work. The review process for brands is typically very subjective. A stakeholder might know that something didn’t work in the past, for example, but that's very anecdotal. Behavioural insights can add a level of objectivity to assessments of creative work.”


Andrew delivered the final session of the 2-day conference, with his talk on ‘Winning a share of the emotion without spending big’.

Find out what he covered with our Shopper Brain preview, here.


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