I don’t really like the term ‘neuromarketing’.  It implies that you are trying to sell something to the brain, or that you are trying to brain wash a person, though in many ways it could be argued that this is actually what you are doing.

Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers’ sensorimotorcognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. Researchers use technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain, electroencephalography (EEG) and Steady state topography (SST) to measure activity in specific regional spectra of the brain response, and/or sensors to measure changes in one’s physiological state, also known as biometrics, including (heart rate and respiratory rate, galvanic skin response) to learn why consumers make the decisions they do, and what part of the brain is telling them to do it.

Companies such as Google, CBS, and Frito-Lay amongst others have used neuromarketing research services to measure consumer thoughts on their advertisements or products.[1]

The word “neuromarketing” was coined by Ale Smidts in 2002.[2]

My PhD plan is based on the concept of neuromarketing, and my grand plan is to use it for the very first term with environmental education, to see whether it can be used to change the way people behave in relation to plastic pollution.  But I’m not interested in using fMRI as its not as portable and is expensive, and plain EEG is also not so exciting.

Instead this is my plan……..

Actuality Media are going to be filming my NGO work with Oceans Project Georgia from summer onwards, and during this time, I’m going to learn some film making techniques from them.  Actuality Media are an organisation in the USA, started by husband and wife Aubrie and Robin Canfield.  Aubrie a film maker in Hollywood, and Robin a professional Photographer.  They now run an amazing project for young film makers looking for an opportunity to make a film and to put their skills to good use, by documenting the work of NGOs worldwide.  Think Peace Corps for film makers!  So in summer, one such young film maker (a Canadian who is originally from Georgia) will begin filming us, and hopefully Aubrie will be over on her return from filming in  South America too, to teach me and the kids on OPG some film making techniques.  We will be both living and working together for a long time, so it should be great for OPG and the row, and for learning techniques that will really help our NGO work, and for our film maker to learn more of his Georgian roots.  And we have already included the cost of a video camera into our funding budgets for OPG, though I’d be keen to hear from anyone about best cameras for ocean rows and such things.

Prior to the ocean row, I hope to spend two weeks at sea, sailing with 5 Gyres on one of their plastic research expeditions in one of the world’s 5 gyres.  This will give me the chance to learn plastic collection techniques (from fish stomachs, from beaches, using a trawl net, and during scuba dives) as well as a chance to put my new film making skills to the test in an ‘at sea’ environment, and if funds allow, we would really like to use the opportunity for our ocean row team to use it as a team bonding exercise, maybe even getting the chance to do some exploration work with the Swedish maritime archaeologists as I look for evidence of plastic pollution on maritime archaeology sites and ship wrecks, and collecting samples from the seabed (I’d love to extend this to Antarctica one day, both through collecting seabed samples and examining penguin stomach contents).  These nurdles/mermaid’s tears/plastic samples will then be sent to Japan where they will be analysed to see what chemicals are attached to their surface, which will assist the researchers in Tokyo, Japan.

Then, during my 6 months at sea for the ocean row, I will film plastic pollution from as many different angles as I can, including some dives with the Swedish archaeologists if we can get funds together, during my brief stops in California, Hawaii, Samoa, and Australia. At each ‘stop’ on the row, I will send this raw film footage back to Actuality Media so they can begin processing it.

Actuality Media will then set about making for example, three different films, each about plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean, using just the film footage I gave them.  This will be a great opportunity for their film makers to try their hand at editing and creating the best film they can, which they can then add to their own portfolio for employers to see.  Ideally these will be made in different styles or genres.  At the end we should have three very different style films, of equal length, about plastic pollution in the ocean.

My plan is to then show each video to an audience at the Royal Geographical Society in London, and to invite the scientists from Neuro-Insight (Neuro-Insight is a market research company that uses unique brain-imaging technology to measure how the brain responds to communications) to join us at the RGS and to use SST to monitor the engagement and long term memory involvement of each viewer.  Each person will have a special net on their head to monitor the speed of their brain waves whilst watching the film through special goggles.  This will be the expensive bit!!  And I want Neuro-Insight to treat me as if I am one of their routine advertisers, wanting to know how effective my new advert is and how to tweek it for maximum response.  That means that they will be the ones doing all the tedious analysis work of raw data and will just be supplying me with a report of which bits of the video had the most brain activity involvement and were most likely to have a long term impact on behaviour.  We will do these for three of the videos.

Loads of adverts use this kind of technology, including this Cadbury’s advert:

Once we know which bits of each of the three videos is most ‘engaging’, we will take the best bits and create a fourth or ‘neurological perfect’ video.  Test it again to look for brain engagement in an audience, and then my PhD research begins.

So, my own research will involve showing each of the four videos to viewers, and then giving them a questionnaire or survey which relates to their environmental behaviour and which video people thought would change their behaviour the most.  This is the focus of my research, and the bit that needs most work, and which needs to be simple, but my basic question relates to whether this neuromarketing technique can be applied to environmental education campaigns and have the potential to create improved environmental behaviour change in the future.  Thereby making the most of the limited funds available to NGOs, and maximising a government’s anti-plastic bag campaign for example.  After all, we already know that there is pollution in the ocean, that it comes from plastic bags, and yet we still go about using plastic in our daily lives and not making changes, so what if film could be used to help us to change our behaviour or attitudes in relation to plastic?  If it was successful, then it could be used in all sorts of public health campaigns, not just to sell products. It could be used to help editors in the cutting process of movie making, and perhaps make the difference between success and failure when film making for any cause.

Well, that is what I’m interested in anyway, the application of neuroscience to film making, for environmental causes like plastic pollution. Now to get my Supervisor on board and to get funds sorted.  But I don’t want to compromise on this as I really feel strongly that this is the right course of action.  Plus it involves all of my interests and activities, as a medic, scuba diver, NGO, Neuropsychologist, film, environment, plastic pollution, etc.  Plus it has massive implications for the future, and in how we potentially teach on OPG or how we work as an environmental education NGO.

Let the plotting begin!!!!


About Sarah Rows Solo

British YouTuber and Founder of Environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project, preparing for a solo row around the coast of Great Britain.
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