Creating whole-brain experiences

Microsoft's Alyson Gausby looks at marrying the noggin's logical left side with the creative right to create an engaging experience.

By Alyson Gausby

I’m sure you’re familiar with the left/right brain dichotomy: the left brain is logical, analytical and objective, while the right brain supports intuition, creativity and subjectivity.

Most of us think of ourselves as having strengths in one area or the other, e.g., if I’m logical and like numbers, I’m left-brained. But, we aren’t one or the other; we’re both. We’ve seen through a number of Microsoft research studies that consumers leverage both when making purchase decisions. The challenge for marketers is in capturing that interplay and combining them to create fulfilling, whole-brain experiences.

Interestingly, when we completed Microsoft’s Digital Trends research this year, we realized there is a pretty compelling left-right brain proposition. Four of our trends are distinctly left-brain trends that identify ways consumers want marketers to interact with them based on their data. The other four are distinctly right-brain trends; they light up ways the data-driven trends manifest through more emotive or inspiring experiences. Two of the more polar examples are trends we’re calling “Enhancing the Real” and “Right to Anonymity.”

With more of our time being spent in front of screens and more of our shopping moving online, consumers are now looking to technology to enhance or emulate the “real.”  We found 34% of online Canadians already expect brands to heighten everyday experiences by engaging more of their senses.

After seeing Ziggy Stardust posted all over Toronto last fall, I visited the Bowie exhibit at the AGO.  Its location-based headsets, costumes, paraphernalia and screens with music videos, movies and interviews made for a completely immersive experience. But these types of richer experiences have everyday, real-world applications too.

From our study, we learned 53% of Canadians are more likely to buy from a brand that allows them to touch, feel and experience their products wherever they are, in store or online. We know from the other customer journey decision research we’ve conducted that the ability to experience the more tactile elements of products can be very influential in purchase decisions, so this has huge implications for both brands and retailers.

There have been some exciting recent advancements in scent and touch technology, like the Scentee, which plugs into the headphone jack of a phone and can be triggered to release a scent of your choice using touch or text. Or, by regulating a flow of voltage to the surface of smooth touch-screens, Disney researchers discovered they can create the sensation of texture and three-dimensional surfaces. (Check out KBS+’s Cameron Wyke’s piece on the boom in haptic technology entering the market.)

As these types of new technologies become more mainstream, we will see how brands use them to connect with consumers in new and novel ways.

But, we can achieve richer experiences even with the technology we have at our disposal today to show product benefits, rather than just telling consumers about them. Ikea’s augmented reality app, which lets consumers virtually furnish their space, and BMW’s virtual test drive are just a couple of examples.

Marketers will increasingly need to think about the different ways their products and services can engage the senses and appeal to them whenever they can. Brands should also explore how rich digital experiences can be used to enhance shopping experiences and consumer interactions, both in store and online.

Along with this increasing integration of technology, awareness of the permanence of our online activity is on the rise and starting to drive demand for new services that allow consumers to have more control over their data.

Consumers want to manage their privacy and have the right to edit, or even delete, the digital information they share and post. Our research found 90% of Canadians want all of the information they share online to be removed after a specified period of time and 65% are more likely to buy from brands that allow them to update their privacy settings.

This trend obviously has clear and immediate implications for brands. It is important they establish themselves as privacy-conscious organizations as quickly as possible in order to gain customer trust.

What’s interesting is how this plays into one of our other trends I wrote about a few weeks ago, where we saw consumers ARE willing to share their data if it benefits them in some way (e.g., offers, deals or more convenient or personalized experiences). But, at the same time, consumers also want to remain in control of their information.

In the end, successful brands will need to create holistic or “whole-brain” experiences that align the emotive with the logical. On one end of the spectrum, delighting consumers with rich, immersive right-brain experiences, while also appealing to the logical left brain’s practical needs for control and privacy.

alyson gausbyAs Microsoft’s Canadian insights lead, Alyson Gausby is responsible for translating consumer intelligence into trends research to provide value for the Canadian marketplace. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock