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Neuromarketing: the power of emotions in Food&Beverage sector

A slick, dark red label, a catchy font, an intoxicating scent, a flamboyant packaging. To most of us these things might seem mere embellishments for products we crave or brands that we’ve learned to trust throughout the years.  But details matter in the food and beverage industry, and there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to making products appealing to consumers. Luca Florentino is the founder and CEO of OTTOSUNOVE, an independent communication agency based in Turin, Italy. His company employs innovative neuromarketing approaches to launch companies and businesses in their efforts to develop their brands and to remain competitive in increasingly volatile markets. A guest speaker at ESCP for many years now, Luca is fond of teaching that nothing is left to chance in this line of business, because the power of emotions on our behavior as consumers can indeed move mountains.

Luca, you’re the Founder and CEO of OTTOSUNOVE, a communication agency that integrates insights of neuromarketing and behavioural sciences with a strategic and creative approach. Can you tell us more about your company? What inspired you to create this business?

OTTOSUNOVE is a communication agency that has a very clear mission: to motivate people to choose. Developing an effective communication strategy means understanding how people make decisions, and in this field behavioral sciences and neuromarketing are our indispensable allies.

In 2012 I read a book by Martin Lindstrom, one of the first neuromarketing communicators, and I quickly realized that this subject would be a great added value to our work. Subsequently, my company OTTOSUNOVE began to work with Italian and international clients, universities and research institutes, and, since 2016 the agency has been organizing CERTAMENTE, the most important neuromarketing conference in Italy, which combines the latest studies and research on neuroscience and the presentation of Italian and international case studies, demonstrating the positive effects of a neuromarketing approach on this line of business.

Emotions are a driving force in the decision making process of individuals as consumers. How are emotions analyzed and used to market products to potential customers? how do they impact our decisions as food and beverage consumers? Can you explain how you use and measure neuromarketing to achieve customer satisfaction?

Every decision we make stems from a comparison between non-conscious perceptions and rational instances. This process takes place in our mind in a matter of milliseconds, after we make contact with a product or an advertisement, and it happens so quickly that it is impossible for us to be fully aware of it.

The physiological processes that determine non-conscious reactions are measured with a variety of instruments, including functional magnetic resonance imaging, electroencephalography, eye tracking and facial coding.The data collected from these studies can be combined with others, processed by qualitative and quantitative research, to gain a broader understanding of the factors that influence the decision to purchase a product.

In the food and beverage sector in particular, non-conscious aspects strongly influence purchasing choices, which are driven more by impulse than other types of acquisitions, such as those of durable goods.

Pictures, colors, scents, but also, more simply, the layout of a restaurant menu can significantly guide people’s behavior: in other words, the instinctive and emotional framework that we develop in the first phase of contact with a stimulus predisposes our rationality to take a direction rather than another. Therefore, creating environments that foster “brain friendly” decisions allows customers’ brains to make more effective and thus satisfying decisions.

 What are some concrete examples of neuromarketing applied to the food or beverage industry? Can you tell us the campaign you’re most proud of in this line of business? And what about the most challenging one?

In 2017, during the second edition of CERTAMENTE we enrolled participants in a neurometric study by making them taste 2 chocolate candy, one made of milk chocolate and another made of dark chocolate, and then, following their first bite, measured their degree of interest and emotional involvement during the first 30 seconds of their experience.

Measuring the effects of these sensory stimuli on brain activity provided useful insights to be able to work on both the product and the communication efforts around it, emphasizing the feelings experienced by the consumers and therefore improving their customer experience.This type of information is impossible to gather through traditional methods: who among us would be able to describe these emotions so precisely, and how they change every second?

There are numerous advertisement campaigns, studies on packaging, exhibition projects in the food and beverage industry that have given us exciting results. One that I remember as particularly effective is the neuromarketing optimization of the commercial for a famous coffee brand. Our work allowed our customer to overcome an important competitor in the industry, increasing their market share after the commercial was aired.

The most difficult projects we’ve worked on are those related to new product launches: products unknown to consumers, on which companies invest months of development. In these campaigns we often find profound differences between a customer’s first impact with the product and the expectations of producers, who often underestimate or take for granted details that seem insignificant but are in fact essential in motivating the purchasing of the product.

In your experience, what are some of the challenges that the food and beverage industry faces today? How do professionals working in this field overcome these obstacles? 

The food and beverage industry faces many obstacles today, but in general, the biggest challenge for companies operating in this line of business is the difficulty to intercept, if not anticipate, the expectations of consumers, which are becoming less fixed in stone, more volatile.

David Ogilvy, father of advertising  argued that “consumers don’t think what they hear, they don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say”. In a world of increasingly crowded and competitive markets, it is necessary to observe customers more carefully, not only by listening to what they want during interviews, focus groups or on social networks, but also by studying their behavior on a qualitative and quantitative level, and in this field big data and artificial intelligence are fundamental. It is essential to measure all those elements that, on a unconscious level, attract or repel people in an instinctive and non-verbal way.

You’ve been a guest speaker at ESCP several times now, and spoke to numerous students of our Master in International Food & Beverage Management. What are some of the most common questions that you usually get regarding Neuromarketing in the Food and Beverage sector? 

The students of this Master’s degree always ask very thoughtful and stimulating questions. I often get asked pretty technical questions from my audience, probably because these students are already thinking about practical applications for their concrete plans or projects. Engaging in these conversations with future managers and leaders of the food and beverage industry is very useful: knowing more about how the brain functions means promoting brain friendly environments and improving the quality of decisions, in a more relevant and more sustainable way, not only for the benefit of the  industry but for the general public as well.

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