Anyone who goes to major industry trade shows is bombarded by what readers old enough to remember Jay McInerney would call the “bright lights, bright booths” approach. Everyone there tries to capture your attention and steal a minute (better yet, a few minutes) of your time to show you their new product or service.
I recently attended the Detroit Auto Show where, according to the organizers, “future mobility innovations meet the pavement.” It was, obviously, about cars. But it also had some of the elements you’d see at any trade show—lots of information about what you can get now, and a few teasers about what’s to come.
But how well do these enormous investments in attempts to capture your attention actually work? This would be, I thought, a good place to run a test using some of the consumer neuroscience technology that Nielsen routinely uses to evaluate media content, advertising and packaging.
So I walked the show floor with an Automotive News reporter wired with eye tracking and biometric equipment, curious about which elements truly engaged and which did not. After all, these nonconscious measures—by which I mean any passive measure of processing below conscious awareness—provide unfiltered data and insights that are far more complete than simply asking for a spoken response.
After all, how many things can you say for certain that you’re paying attention to, or even seeing, at any given moment? Whether five minutes or five hours ago, our brains just aren’t good at recalling the kinds of details marketers need to evaluate their efforts in a complex world. Applying the right neuroscience tools can capture a more complete view of the experience, second-by-second. They can report, with incredible accuracy, what you see, and how deeply you engage with it.
What I and my reporter friend saw is consistent with what we at Nielsen see in everything we test: some elements engage, others don’t. Some go completely unnoticed.
What did we learn from this little experiment?
The bar has never been higher to reach consumers. We are all perpetually distracted with more choices on more screens with more advertising than ever before. Our mobile, always-on lifestyles have made engaging today’s consumer harder than ever. Whether you’re creating an ad, understanding a driving experience, or designing a trade show experience, you need to go beyond what you think your audience will engage with—and even beyond what traditional tests suggest they will engage with. Understanding nonconscious responses gives brands the confidence to succeed in any situation.
Read the reporter's published experience in Automotive News.