A study into how the human brain responds to social marketing could offer useful insights to brand marketers.

Scientists at City, University of London used encephalography (a technique for recording the structure or electrical activity of the brain) to identify what type of video content proved most engaging to consumers.

The research team determined that there are four requirements a campaign must meet if they are to have a lasting influence on people.

Firstly, they said content must gain their audience’s attention, working memory and invoking an emotional response.

Secondly, they argued marketing content must reflect a typical story structure with a beginning, middle and end.

Thirdly, the experts said promotional videos must enable the consumer to identify with the subject. 

Finally, they believe marketing content must provoke people to care about the subject.

Dr Tom van Laer, one of the experts behind the study, said the findings show brands must use ‘narrative transportation’  in order positively influence an audience’s behaviour.

“People need to lose themselves in the story they’re seeing in order for their attitudes and intentions to change to reflect that story,” he commented. 

Dr Van Laer went on to stress that while traditional marketing data is still very important when it comes to identifying target audiences, brands must take a different approach when they are trying to engage with these people.

“The application of cognitive neuroscience in the marketing space, or ‘neuromarketing’ is a useful tool for marketers who want to increase engagement and influence,” he observed.

Dr Van Laer added that marketers often make the mistake of identifying with their peers rather than their audience, which means they are effectively “creating content in a bubble'”

This, he said, means they are “thinking about what they want to see” and not the stories their ideal customers may wish to engage with. 

“We’ve seen this happen when ads go viral for the wrong reason,” he stated.

Hacking the human brain with social marketing, City, University of London