Top companies worldwide are using neuroscience research to maintain a competitive edge

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, research methods that relied on close in-person interactions were disrupted. As a result, companies such as Amazon and Unilever have turned to neuroscience research to gain access to crucial consumer data and stay ahead of the competition. To Ramon Melgarejo, the global managing director of NielsenIQ Bases and Analytics, neuro research is now the fastest-growing segment within the company. Melgarejo explained that neuro research does not require close in-person interactions, which is why it saw massive growth during the pandemic.

Neuroresearch is a technology that measures consumer preferences by directly capturing responses from the brain through headsets, without any filters, biases, or hesitancy that respondents may exhibit in traditional forms of research. In India and other countries, consumer goods, financial services, e-commerce, and alcohol companies are rapidly adopting this form of research. Melgarejo, the spokesperson, did not reveal any specific names, citing client confidentiality.

A marketing executive at a packaged foods company, who prefers to remain anonymous, has praised neuro research as a more accurate and unbiased method of evaluating consumer behavior compared to traditional market research. This is particularly important for hyper-localizing and micro-targeting consumers, especially in the face of increased competition from smaller local brands across product segments including detergents, tea, noodles, restaurants, and alcoholic beverages.

During an investor presentation following its September 2023 quarter earnings announcement, Hindustan Unilever revealed that regional players in the tea industry experienced 1.4 times more growth than large brands by market value in the same quarter. Additionally, in the detergents industry, regional brands experienced six times faster growth during the quarter compared to the same period last year. Hindustan Unilever, the makers of Surf Excel detergent and Brooke Bond Red Label tea, also shared that neuro research, which uses brain mapping, facial coding, and biometrics, can evaluate insights on a second-by-second basis and minimize the dependency on physical labs.

"We have attempted to make neuroscience research more resistant to disruptions in India and different parts of the world", Melgarejo said. "Reception to this technology has been more positive", Neuro research and brain mapping are done only after respondents agree to it. The outbreak of the pandemic resulted in mass lockdowns and the closure of schools, malls, and offices. But consumption of categories such as packaged foods had shot up significantly, as did reliance on e-commerce, as consumers stayed indoors.