Thinking outside the lab
An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that detects electrical activity in the brain using small electrodes attached to the scalp. Traditionally, these tests were done in dedicated hospital labs, where trained personnel attached the electrodes – one by one – and connected them to a large computer.
Thanks to (chip and dry electrode) technology, these days are gone. Leveraging on years of technology development in the EEG field, EEG acquisition systems are now wearable and take few seconds to be installed, even by an untrained user. That makes wireless EEG headsets useful in wider therapeutic contexts, adding VR-based cognitive treatments, cognitive skill improvement and rehabilitation to the more traditional applications such as epilepsy or sleep disorder research.
And now, EEG tests are also being used outside the medical scene. With ‘neuromarketing’, more and more companies are using this unique EEG tool to better understand their customers.
Also imec build the road towards more accessible EEG testing, with its wireless EEG headsets. These can be used by companies as an investigational device, to try out an application they have in mind. In a later stage, a dedicated headset can be made through a development-on-demand project.
Neuromarketing: understanding the customer without asking questions
The neuromarketing trend is gaining ground in many companies nowadays. About 53% of the marketing industry uses neuromarketing in their everyday work, for advertisement, campaign and website optimization, concepting, innovation, package design and assessment of in-store shelf impact.
The term neuromarketing was coined some 20 years ago by the Dutch professor Ale Smidts. Where Marketing 1.0 was product-centered and Marketing 2.0 consumer-centered, Marketing 3.0 focuses on human values. And the best way to unlock these human values and emotions is by using neuroscience and studying brain and biometric responses to better understand how consumers feel, think and act.
The reason why neuromarketing is so valuable is because people cannot articulate their preferences and emotional reactions and don’t make choices rationally. Or, as the famous marketeer David Ogilvy said: “Consumers don’t think how they feel. They don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.” Do you remember how you felt when watching a commercial yesterday? How would your response to a questionnaire about this commercial differ from the actual reaction you had while watching it? Neuromarketing and neurotechnology tools (like fMRi and EEG) do not rely on post-rationalization and memory. In this way, they tackle some of the greatest shortcomings of traditional research methods like surveys and interviews.
Amorepacific's innovative journey of creating a more beautiful world
The South-Korean cosmetics firm Amorepacific is also very much interested in neuromarketing and EEG recordings. The company was founded in 1945 with a clear mission to present its unique perception of beauty– namely what it calls 'Asian Beauty' – to the world. With its world-class products from over 20 cosmetics, personal care, and health-care brands, Amorepacific is acclaimed for the innovative ways in which it is transforming global beauty trends.
Its success and attractiveness relies greatly on the high-quality products based on innovative technology and natural ingredients. About ten years after the foundation, Amorepacific set up its very own R&D center, among the largest of any cosmetics company in the world. With a strong focus on research, innovation, and technological advancement, Amorepacific today employs about 550 researchers to develop new materials for cosmetics and health, to study the biology of skin health and aging and to find the optimal formulations for their products.
Measuring brain waves and emotions
It’s in this R&D center that we (virtually) meet Gusang Kwon, a researcher from the Consumer Insight & Innovation Lab. With a background in biology, psychology, neuroscience and neuromarketing, he started working at Amorepacific in 2016. His goal is to develop new tools for researching consumer behavior. During his PhD, Gusang gained a lot of expertise in using and interpreting EEG. Now, he wants to deploy this brain research tool to gain more insights in the unconscious sensations of Amorepacific’s customers.
Gusang Kwon: “As a researcher, I spend a lot of time going through papers and publications to learn about the latest technological developments in neuroscience. Back in 2019, I came across imec’s press release of an EEG headset for emotion detection. I was already experimenting for some time with commercial headsets to gain insights in the unconscious reactions and emotions of test persons while they use samples of our products. None of them satisfied my needs, especially in terms of the number of electrodes.”
A complementary tool for customer surveys
Navid Shahriari, project manager at imec The Netherlands: “It was our business development manager Jiaqi Shen who introduced me to Gusang. First, we did a short feasibility study with Amorepacific in which we studied EEG measurements with our headset investigational device.”
“In 2020, we set up a second 10-month project to adapt our EEG headset to their needs and to combine these recordings with galvanic-skin-response measurements from our Chill+ wristband prototype. We made it more adjustable to fit different head shapes and sizes. Together, we will now train and tune our algorithms to estimate the fragrance response of test persons.”
“Our current design features digital active electrodes (DAE) that use imec’s latest chip design achieving a low noise level, high input impedance (that allows us to work with the dry electrodes), higher dynamic range and amplification and digitization at the electrode. Continuous electrode-tissue impedance monitoring in the DAE chip provides information about electrode contact quality that could provide more insight about motion artifacts. Additionally we use Softpulse dry electrodes from Datwyler in our headsets, which provide comfort and signal quality without the need of gel."
Gusang Kwon: “In our research with test panels, both smell and touch are important sensations. Think of people trying out different perfumes or skin-care products for example. Smells trigger very powerful emotions and are therefore a good starting point for our EEG studies. Traditionally, we use surveys to do market research. Our hope is to complement this with EEG recordings to better understand the unconscious emotional response to scent.”
The future of the cosmetics industry: more technology and personalization
Gusang Kwon: “With imec’s EEG headset, we hope to develop a valuable tool for our research, our company and our customers. It could help to offer our customers a perfectly tailored solution, fitted to their conscious and subconscious needs. One day, we could even use neuroscience technology to help them choose the perfume that suits them best and give them insight in the emotions it triggers inside them.”
This trend towards more personalization is hot in the cosmetics industry. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Amorepacific introduced its innovative technology called ‘The Tailored Mask Pack 3D Printing System’. With this technology, users can print a personalized hydrogel mask pack that caters to individual facial features and skin conditions.
Gusang Kwon: “For sure, the cosmetics industry will integrate more technology in future products. Another important one, in my opinion, is non-contact sensing. Imagine one of our customers sitting in a smart chair (at a shop), that can measure emotions and biometric responses to assist in choosing the right perfume.”
Navid Shahriari: “Indeed, imec also believes in the power of non-contact sensing. In a car, on a toilet seat, and why not – in a chair at a perfume shop. We are developing robust sensors and smart algorithms to make these kinds of measurements reliable. Of course, these sensors are aimed at measuring heart rate, breathing, arousal etc. It’s unclear whether we can do such a thing for brain waves.”
Gusang Kwon: “I will certainly keep an eye on all new developments of imec. And I would highly recommend a collaboration with imec to other companies too. For me, it exceeds my expectations, in terms of quality of the prototype, help with the algorithm development and trial setup, and the broad range of expertise that is present in the team. As a neuroscientist working in the cosmetics industry, it is great to be backed up by the wonderful team at imec, who can support me both on the technology and on the data interpretation. This for sure will help me to extend this neuromarketing activity in the company in the near future.”
Want to know more?
- Visit our website to learn more about imec’s wearable neurotechnology or other connected-health solutions.
- Learn more about imec and about the different ways to collaborate in the field of connected health solutions.
- Subscribe to our regular updates on the connected health research
- Discuss your ideas with our health team
Gusang Kwon joined the R&D center of AMOREPACIFIC in 2016. Gusang majored Cognitive Neuroscience and holds a Ph.D. degree from the Samsung Advanced Institute for Health Sciences & Technology, SungkyunKwan University, Korea. With over 15 years of experience in consumer tests, he now expands his expertise in the field of neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience.
Navid Shahriari joined imec in 2017, and he is a Project Manager at the Solutions Department. Navid holds an M.Sc. degree in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics from the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, and a Ph.D. degree in Surgical Robotics from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
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10 November 2020