Neuro-Insight Shows How The Brain Reacts To Sound In Advertising

Audio can change the way consumers feel about a brand, and several recent studies conducted by Neuro-Insight, a neuromarketing analytics company, set out to prove it. 

Neuro-Insight provides brands and agencies with insights into how consumers interact with ads and marketing. Pranav Yadav, Neuro-Insight CEO, said the company bases its model on the thought that 90% of decision making takes place in the subconscious.

“Think about the billions of dollars spend on product innovation, strategy, packaging, marketing and advertising -- all are based on consciously reported data,” he said.

Its neurological measurement technology analyzes how people receive content. It turns out that sound has about an 86% correlation to in-market behavior.

Neuro-Insight recently conducted a study with Spotify to measure the impact of sound on the brain. The study, Sonic Science: Understanding your braid on sound, found that audio has a powerful impact on the brain for emotion, engagement and memory.

Spotify ran the study to compare its listening experience to radio. While radio is a passive experience where the listener listens to someone else’s choices, Spotify gives listeners complete control of the music and sound people hear.

The data showed that digital audio is more impactful than radio. This means more people pay attention to content on channels in which they can choose the audio. The more they pay attention, the greater the likelihood that they also will pay attention and listen to the ads, remember the ads, and remember the brand in the ads.

The increase, according to the company, is directly tied to digital audio’s qualities such as personalization and interactivity. The research found the interactive ability to self-select content increases engagement. As a result, people turn to music and podcasts throughout key moments of daily life, using audio to enhance experiences. And in today’s media landscape, that is important: 66% of participants said there’s too much visual stimulation, and that audio provides a good escape from it.

In another study on a consumer's reaction to ads and commercials, The brand room and how sound contributes to it, Neuro-Insight found ads that closely link their sounds and visuals delivered, on average, 14% higher memory at end of the branding campaign, compared with more passive soundtracks. Thousands of ads were tested. The company looked at them in bulk, analyzing ads that match the music compared to those that did not.

Not all sound in advertising is good sound. When driving long-term memory encoding, the study found, it was better to have no music at all than to have recessive music that was not significant to the advertising.

“Unless the ad goes into your long-term memory, you don’t have the information to react,” Yadav said. “When sound in advertisements closely linked to the visual it gets 25% more memory, and creates a direct correlation to sales.”

The human brain reacts negatively when what eyes see and ears hear do not align -- for example, in movies or videos where images or lip movement do not match the sound. Another example is a person in a moving car with the window down looking at trees. She is looking out the window, but there is no audio of the wind whipping through tree branches and leaves. The audio of the story arc does not match the visual image.

When sound and visuals are closely aligned, messages are likely to be reinforced. Poorly aligned sound interferes with what people are watching and makes the overall impact less effective.

Working with Headphone:X, an immersive audio system designed to optimize sound resolution, Neuro-Insight carried out yet another study to research the relative impact on enjoyment of improvements to video and audio quality.

The results showed that the human brain is highly sensitive to changes in audio quality -- and this has a dramatic impact on enjoyment. The higher-quality audio in the study elicited a 66% increase in likability over standard audio, while enhanced video quality resulted in an uplift of only 2%.

This was more significant for broadcasters when bandwidth implications were taken into account -- the improvements in audio quality required only a 15% bandwidth increase over standard stereo audio, while the enhanced video content needed an increase of 77%.

Enhanced brain response to quality immersive audio makes sense, as 3-D audio and high-fidelity audio both closely replicate the human experience of sound in the real world, and result in a higher sense of relevance that can help to increase memory of the brand.

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