Email Brain Candy: Neuroscientist Measures Psych Response To Videos

The last thing an email marketer wants to do is cause stress. How can you avoid it? By using video in your emails, according to Inside the buyer’s Brain: Standing in The Inbox, a new study from Vidyard. 

This thesis was proven in a brain study of 39 business professionals conducted by a cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Carmen Simon, in April 2021, the study claims

The study participants were happier when they viewed video emails than when they opened plain text emails. And they remembered the video emails better. 

Dismiss this if you want: Vidyard is in the business of video marketing, and you can expect a certain skew in a report like this. Right? 

But the company claims the study was conducted under scientific conditions. So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.  

Test participants, who were mostly from the high tech, consulting, commercial, finance, banking and insurance industries, wore an EEG (electroencephalogram) cap and ECG (electrocardiogram) and GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) devices, to gauge their responses. 



In Phase 1, people were shown an inbox with seven unread emails (that would be stressful enough). Six of the emails were delivered in a text format, and the fourth, purportedly from a co-worker, featured a one-minute video on corporate gifting options. 

In Phase 2, the participants viewed a text email and an video email containing the same sales pitch. The product was a software application called Krisp, which helps reduce background noise during video calls. Of the viewers, 19 looked at the text email first, and 18 looked at the video email first.

Simon moved on to Phase 3. Here the participants were exposed to:

- A satirical video excerpt from a popular television show. 

- A text excerpt from a widely acclaimed piece of literature. 

- A video of someone stirring tea leaves in hot water. 

- A text excerpt of historical facts regarding the timeline for building Stonehenge. 

What happened?

In Phase 1, researchers saw statistically significant differences in valence and arousal. People read the first set of text emails in an unpleasant state. But their mood brightened when they watched the video email. They returned to a neutral state when viewing the last set of text emails. 

In Phase 2, the text email made people feel anxious. But people felt positive and happy when seeing the video email.  

In addition, EEG and ECG results from the first two phases show that participants felt more motivated and less fatigued while viewing the video emails. This was because “the information in the video was easier to process,” the report states.  

Moreover, 46% remembered details from the compellingly written text email, which compared to 59% from the video email. 

In Phase 3, viewers experienced higher valence and working memory while watching the tea video, compared to other content, including the satirical video. (Maybe they just needed a cup of strong tea). 

Of course, there is a simpler way of assessing things: Just do an A/B test. You may not know your reader’s mental state, but you will soon find out if they convert. 




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