That’s my take-away from a recent mind-expanding experience with two leaders from Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience.

Some of Cincinnati’s leading marketing and communications professionals gathered at our office for a presentation from Joe Willke, President, and Elise Temple, PhD, Vice President, from Nielsen. They discussed their work in applying neuroscience testing methodologies to assess marketing (advertising, packaging, promotions, etc.) effectiveness.

The scary smart folks at Nielsen measure brain waves, eye-tracking, facial coding and more to assess how marketing stimuli influence positive human emotions. In short, they apply what they know the brain does to what marketers do.

Marketers traditionally have used conventional quantitative and qualitative research to assess brand recognition. While survey data has been used to “qualify” the effectiveness of various marketing activities to justify spending extraordinary amounts of money, neuroscientists know a consumer’s subconscious plays an even bigger, more predictive role in decision making.

Neuroscientists have understood for decades that humans don’t always think linearly (if a then b; if b then c; etc.) and that other impulses and stimuli influence positive brand associations. The human brain, they shared, seeks to “optimize” positive emotions toward something before behavior is influenced.

Dr. Temple suggested that positive brand equity – the Holy Grail for marketers – is really the optimization of positive emotions associated with a product or service. If brand recognition is a traditional marketing objective, and brand repetition is the marketer’s way to qualify it, then brand optimization is the neuroscience objective.

From this layman’s perspective, I’ve always understood that good marketing is a combination of art and science. After listening to the folks from Nielsen, it’s clear that applications of more science can dramatically increase the impact of the art.

The result, of course, is increased efficiency and return on investment (ROI) for the gobs of money spent branding and promoting products and services, whether via packaging, media or social media. Can anyone name a marketer who is not under constant pressure to justify their budget?

As technology advances and exploring the application of techniques from other disciplines to the work of marketers and communicators continues, it’s good to acknowledge that a mind truly is a wonderful thing to measure.