Co-Founding a neuromarketing agency: DigitalFry

After rolling out tons of ads during my experience of working in the marketing departments of companies selling cars to superhero merchandise, I realised that making an advertisement was to me a sheer play of guess and good esthetics. But was there a way to make marketing more scientific?

The question plagued me for quite some time then and one day I came across the concept of Neuromarketing in an article on the “Future of Marketing”. Neuromarketing essentially is the science of studying consumer behaviour and heuristics to make better selling ads. No matter how advance and digital we get, there are things that we as marketers can’t articulate. Things like how to measure brand awareness? Or how to measure brand remembrance?

After talking to a lot of experts in the field of brand management and positioning, I realised no one had answers to my questions and I very well realise why. How can you possibly measure things that we as consumers are also not aware of? As and when marketing marketing becomes more native, the consumers are influenced into buying products that they are not aware are being marketed to them.

In the year of 2017, I had completed my extensive research into neuromarketing, studying the developments in the field and zeroing on the Neuromarketing agencies across the world. There were a few agencies who did this for big firms like the P&Gs and the HULs of the world but a majority of marketers particularly in India were still clueless of this science. I found the opportunity just right for something big. In another few months, I got a few people excited about the idea and I left my job to start a Neuromarketing Enabled Digital Marketing Agency. We were a gang of 3, including me, Abhishek Garg (ex Mobikwik Marketer) and Niedhie Khera Verma (Ex Business Director, Massco Media). The strategy was clear, onboard clients for Digital Marketing and meet their marketing objectives and gradually as we get the funds invest them into Neuromarketing technologies. After ideating on a lot of names for our agency from DigitalTadka to 360Digital, we finally settled on DigitalFry which clearly defined what we planned to do (at least to us); add a little spice to the existing digital scenario in the industry. Over the course of the next 8 months, we started with literally no money in our pockets to finally getting an office space with employees working for us. On-boarding initial rounds of clients was easy, given the expertise we had in digital but the real deal was to now finally convince brands to try Neuromarketing to enhance what we call the Brand Awareness.

An average person consumes almost 2000 ads per day. With this intense competition to grab the consumer attention and finally convince them to buy, a scientific approach towards doing it made sense.

A typical neuromarketing experiment involved, a portable EEG (Electroencephalogram) and Eye Tracker, an emotion sensor and a tool to record and analyse results. With the help of CoolTool, a platform which enables neuroscientific studies specially designed for marketers, we created sets of audiences which could be the subject of our studies. Initial rounds of research involved going to Colleges and coworking spaces in search of focus groups which could simulate our target audiences. Then came multiple rounds of studying metrics like the emotion state of the consumer during an ad to measuring the iris movements to continuously iterating the ads which could take anywhere from 1 to 2 months to get something satisfactory. With the help of Neuromarketing, our ads got tremendous responses, with an avg CTR ranging from 2%-5% on Facebook (Ceteris Paribus), we knew these results were way above the industry average.

After conducting numerous studies, we laid down rules of thumb to better test other critical variables which could influence the metrics.

Making Neuromarketing more accessible.
Since neuromarketing involved a lot of time, analysis and understanding of consumer behaviour, it was bound to be expensive for clients. While some of our big clients like Aimil Pharmaceuticals, Colormate could afford it, for startups who were interested in using it for their digital campaigns, the price turned them off. So we planned on rolling out generic neuromarketing solutions which were cheap but the problem was that they were generic. Generic to the extent of being just like any other ad template that you might find online. After hoping for almost 2 months that these templates would sell, we eventually realised that Neuromarketing was not something that we could generise since the very nature of it was to make marketing more specific.

The Demise.
While the revenue sources for DigitalFry varied from Affiliate to Paid Media Marketing to PR, to Neuromarketing, the share of the latter was negligible. Nothing logical could justify the cost of these neuromarketing experiments as the budget of these digital campaigns for which these ads were built were too less to reap the returns from an increased CTR alone. So clients were mathematically better off bereft of neuromarketing until it returned at least 300% incremental ROI from the campaigns (Something that couldn’t be promised). The clients for paid media which initially agreed to fund our Neuromarketing experiments appreciated the results it brought but soon backed out. The reason? It didn’t make sense for them financially (something we could not argue against).

Is this neuromarketing not useful?
Currently, the science of neuromarketing is far from perfect but it needs people like us to do more experiments in the field and refine the science day by day. Since consumer behaviour keeps changing and the marketing adopts to this dynamicity, it makes neuromarketing an ever evolving field.

Since neuromarketing is an expensive science to study given the magnitude of significance which is required to test the results, it makes more sense for offline advertisements where the success of a marketing campaign is determined majorly by the sales clocked.

From a microspect, neuromarketing may not make sense for small companies or for small budget campaigns but looking at the bigger picture, the proper use of neuromarketing could very well be bringing predictability of success in our marketing campaigns to come.