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Can creativity be reduced to a formula?

Can creativity be reduced to a formula?


I saw an article by abcNews late last week called “Brain Activity Mesaures Response to Ads, Commercials.” It is about a company called NeuroFocus that measures eye movements and brainwaves to see how people react to different ads.

Through electrosensors connected to someone’s head, face, and fingers, scientists can measure emotion, attention, and memory to see what parts of a commercial someone likes, dislikes, remembers, prefers, etc.  For example, they’ve found that men respond more to a product’s features while women are more sensitive to and aware of pricing, and that people prefer rounded edges to square edges in a product.

Check out this short video to see the process in action:

I can absolutely see the benefits of “Neuro-Marketing” if used as a step in the research process.  It can decrease some of the risk and guess-work a brand takes when launching a new ad and help “plus up” an idea to make it more likely to engage people.

There is something similar to this technology for music.  It is a software program that can predict whether or not a song will become a hit. This can be very beneficial to an artist because they can tweak their song to increase it’s chances of becoming popular.  But since we don’t always know what we like until we see (or hear) it, this song formula has the potential to work for or against the artist.  To satisfy the producer as well as the artist, they need to find that magic balance between calculated science and pure artistry.

My question is, “What does all this mean for creativity?”

If everything becomes so calculated do we end up relying too much on the left side of the brain and neglect the right?  With this technology, can scientists become creatives?

Further Reading:

Inside NeuroFocus

Neuromarketing- Top 7 Insights to Unlocking Your Customer’s Brain for Instant Sales

photo credit: brookhaven national laboratory

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3 comments

  • Ramon Valadez says:

    The thing about this software and testing is that we have always really known where the middle is. With some experience any expert can predict with some degree of certainty where the middle is. And, there are two thoughts on this. Yes, the righteous creative will tell you that innovation and forward thinking only happens when we leap out from the edges. Great examples are many: Shakespear, The American Revolution, Picasso, Howard Hughes, Elvis, Steve Jobs, and more; and of course the brands in the age of advertising and marketing: IBM, Nike, Apple, Disney, Jet Blue, and more.

    But there is another view that is simply summed up with a thought I use to hear at Toyota a lot “the Camry is vanilla, but we sell a lot of it”. It is a route that takes calculated risk as much as possible, mitigating risk with safe strokes. Success may not come in leaps and bounds, but for many it is slow, steady, and most important constant.

    I don’t think either view is more right than the other. It really does depend on the situation your business and brands find themselves in. If you are Nokia today you should be swinging for the fences – because radical innovation is probably the only thing that will likely save your business. But, what if you’re Apple? Arguably the Apple that launched the iPad is not the same as the Apple that launched the iPod. You still lead by creativity, but you also start thinking about assuring success.

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  • Ken says:

    I was speaking to a PhD professor at the UofChicago a while ago about Neuro-like products. He had an interesting reaction “oh yeah, we call that stuff bla-blology.”

    In the end, nothing beats a big idea. Nothing.


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