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Mélanie Berger on the power of cognitive science and cross-cultural audits

14th Apr 2021

Mélanie Berger, Account Director at Impact Mémoire, shares her thoughts on how to ensure concepts truly resonate with local audiences

In this episode, Mélanie Berger discusses how a combination of cognitive science and cross-cultural audits can be used to perfect your creative concepts on a global scale. Their bespoke methodology for Cognitive Analyses can be used to assess the power of the message conveyed by your brand or your creative concepts to build a positive memory trace, across all types of media, materials and formats. Paired with Creative Culture’s Cross-Cultural Audits, this approach can be used globally to ensure concepts and materials resonate with your audience, wherever they are in the world.

Creative Culture: Hello and welcome to the Creative Culture Podcast interview series. Today we’re joined by Melanie Berger from Impact Memoire to discuss how a combination of cognitive science and cross-cultural audits can be used to maximize your creative concepts on a truly global scale. Impact Memoires Bespoke methodology for cognitive analysis can be used to assess the power of messages conveyed by your brand or your creative concepts to build a positive memory trace across all types of media, materials and formats. Compared with our own cross cultural audits at creative culture. This approach can be used globally to ensure concepts and materials resonate with your audience wherever they are in the world. So without further ado, welcome Melanie. And perhaps to start with, you can tell us a little bit about yourself and how Impact Memoire started and the kind of work you do.

Melanie Berger: Sure. Thank you so much for having me today. I’m very excited to be here. I have a marketing background. I did a French American business school that had me finished my year in the States that I did enjoy very much. In the following ten years, I stayed in New York, which is a very fun place to be, and I moved back to Paris a couple of years ago where I joined Impact Memoire in 2014. So Impact Memoire is 20 years old. It was founded, created in 2001 by three very complimentary profiles. They have associated their expertise and created this scientific program that we still use today. So it was Bruno Poyet. He’s an expert in media, Bernard Croisile. He is a neurologist specialised in Alzheimer’s disease. And Olivier Koenig who is a professor in cognitive Sciences at the University of Leonardo. Bruno Poyet, who had founded a media agency, Climatsmédias, wanted to find a way to help his clients ensure the memorisation of their advertising messages or at least find a way to tell them how to improve their efficiency without necessarily questioning consumers. He has always been a very strong advocate of creativity and believed it was really key to find a way to pre-test without this consumer bias that could be linked to non finalized material just so that strong ideas were not killed too soon and for the wrong reasons.

So thanks to Bernard and Olivier’s expertise and Bruno’s knowledge, on the other hand of the advertising industry as a whole, its specificity It’s constraints. They have created this scientific program based on the cognitive processes the brain follows to ensure memorization which could then possibly generate an effect on behaviour which is really what advertisers are looking for. So that’s the story behind Impact Memoire. I’m an account director at Impact Memoire. So my job is basically to try to help clients reinforce their advertising efficiency. But what I really do is being this bridge between the scientific team and our clients.

Creative Culture: That’s great. And what type of projects and the type of companies do you work for.

Melanie Berger: We work with many different types of company profiles, whether they are large or small, whether they are in France or in foreign markets. And we work with a quite wide array of industries and we work on BTB or BTC. So it’s really an approach that we’re able to apply to many different problems and to different media. But we do work with a lot of larger size corporations because of the flexibility of the approach and also because most of the approach is universal, which helps attract many of the large international corporations. It fits quite well into their constraints. But then we’re also able to test locally with this partnership with Creative Culture and implement local perspectives within our analysis. So clients will come to us mostly during their pre testing phase. So because we do not use any consumer interview, we can work very early in the creative process. We don’t have any bias due to non finalized material that consumer traditional approaches can have, but it can be a different problem. It could be for a TV ad that is in a storyboard phase, for example, and needs to be fully optimized before going into production.

It could be a screening of creative routes, whether it is of the same creative agency, or maybe it’s a pitch that the client is doing with several creative agencies and we help them really find out which one has the most potential in view of final execution. We can work on editing, so it’s an approach that we can really use on all types of media, on all types of messages. Basically, we work a lot on packaging, for example. We work on brand identity if there’s a change of logo. We work on digital pre-test as well, and really help our clients evaluate their ads on the different formats they’re going to find on this media. With a specific tool of course, that answers the specificities of each problematic, but we’re able to answer to a quite wide range of situations. But really the phases where it’s the most productive are the ones where the decision process needs a rational feedback without opinions given. So this is really a strong moment where Impact Memoire was able to intervene.

Creative Culture: That’s really interesting. Thank you for the background there and just give you a couple of points about the science behind the analysis that you do. What are you actually measuring here?

Melanie Berger: So we basically measure the ability of a message to be memorized, to leave useful traits in mind, because we’ll make sure that it’s being linked to your brand, of course. So with cognitive Sciences have been identified the key cognitive processes, some of them are fundamental in creating a memory trace. So it’s these key cognitive processes that we’re going to be evaluating through our scientific program to give you some examples. We know that attention is fundamental for your message to be seen, but we’ll go into a little more detail. We’re going to be looking at automatic attention, for example, which is really the type of attention that you’re going to grab automatically to the viewer, whether it’s a contrast, whether it’s a strong image, whether it’s a strong sound. So anything that is automatically going to catch viewers attention, but we’ll also be looking at voluntary attention. Is your message starting a reasoning within the viewer? Is the viewer giving you his or her attention? This is going to be a strong lever to reinforce memorization of a message. We’re going to be looking at perception. We know that elements need to be clearly perceived to be understood and then to be memorized.

So this is something that we look at mostly emotions are a catalyst to memorization. They’re going to boost the memory of a message. So levels of emotional input are also going to be booked at levels of interest, whether you’re providing tangible information in your ads. And as I said previously, we make sure that we’re talking about a useful trace in mind. And so we look at brand attribution not necessarily the number of times we’re going to see your logo or the number of times you’re going to mention your logo, but is your brand given a strong role in the story? So these are really the key elements that we’re going to be assessing through the scientific program. That is pretty much a list of questions, but that is going to nourish the different cognitive processes and provide performance scores and how these performance scores translate into generating a potential effect on behaviour. Those scores are then analysed then explained by the research team.

Creative Culture: Great. Thank you for that information around the science behind it. I guess to some extent the human brain will work the same wherever you are in the world. But how does working across markets and for global impacts impact your work?

Melanie Berger: Yes, the brain is a muscle, so it’s going to answer to the same cognitive processes in need. But we all know that each market has their own specificity. So if a wise or a large part of our analysis is universal, it was very important for us to find a solution to be able to answer to the specific needs of our clients within each of their specific markets. So we’re able with this partnership with a Creative Culture to have this really strong added value in our approach and provide or adapt the performance scores to the local markets. So we are able to do that by providing Creative Culture with the material that we’re going to test, which they are going to provide to the local correspondence that you have in the different markets and give us the feedback, the local perspective of the ad in the specific market that is needed, which enables us to adjust the performance scores in regards to the local perspective. It’s an approach that gives us the opportunity to provide feedback on not one, but maybe five different markets with the same ad for our clients.

Creative Culture: What about semiotics versus top line checks in having some flexibility on the depth of understanding.

Melanie Berger: Yeah. So on many projects we are going to be providing what we call an executional check. Any elements in the setting or the narrative that maybe could be interpreted differently by local audiences are very closely looked at. And just to come back on this because we’re without consumer, we’re not able to give any feedback in regards to the relevance of the message, for example, in the local market. So it’s really going to be more about execution. When a client has a specific question, maybe a specific zoom on the market that has higher stakes or a zoom on the subculture, maybe of a specific market, we’re able to go a little bit deeper with Creative Culture and a little deeper than the top line check that we usually do and maybe go a little bit further into semiotics, especially for our projects on brand identity, maybe on logos and packaging where semiotics are very important. Studying the sign and their meanings and how these can change from one country to another is really key for the global approaches of our clients.

Creative Culture: And building on that, what will you find are the main challenges or the points of contention in the work that you do in an international context?

Melanie Berger: The points that come up a lot within our projects are going to be, for example, the choices of brand ambassadors and how it’s going to impact the overall impact of the ad from one market to another. From a cognitive perspective, this could have an impact on automatic attention. For example, depending on the level of awareness of a brand ambassador from one country to another, if the awareness is quite low, attention is not going to be as strong. We could also have a cognitive level of emotional input that could be impacted by a brand ambassador. For example, the choice by the brand is made on a somewhat controversial brand ambassador. This controversy could be maybe deeper in some markets rather than others and could have some impact on emotional levers that are stimulated on identification. So choices of brand ambassador is a subject that comes back a lot. Setting and situations, this is also very key. This is key for identification, for the viewer to be able to project himself or herself within the situation and needs to be able to identify to the setting. If you take, for example, an advertising for some cookware products and are going to be using a similar campaign in different markets, one needs to make sure that levels of identification must remain strong with the setting of a kitchen viewer is going to be able to identify from one market to another.

So setting situation is going to be key also. And then colour codes this is maybe more for packaging. For example, symbols definitely can have different resonances from one country to another. Not so long ago we had a project where a brand needed to create different family brands in view of globalization and they needed to test the brand names in five different regions, which we did. And for one brand name in one specific region, the sound of the name when said out loud resonated with slang words in that region, for example. So this was a big warning. So these are the types of elements and interesting themes that can come up on which we would be working.

Creative Culture: That’s great. And so how would you say the benefits, the added value of these approaches rather than using traditional marketing research or wider quantitative studies?

Melanie Berger: I think we’re very complimentary. There’s also an added value working without Impact Memoire, as we will be going beyond conscious reasoning, we’ll be exploring the conscious but also the non conscious processes, which is very interesting. Of course, another strong point and as I mentioned earlier, is this ability to work early in the creative process. It is in the end going to be saving a lot of time. It will help concentrate on ideas with the strongest potential, help develop less storyboards, less animatics and really save time and budget. It’s research that we do in just a couple of days. So timing is a big part of it. And of course, I think one of the strongest points is maybe the scientific and rational feedback through this in depth analysis that really helps the teams with their decisions and facilitate discussion with creative agencies and moving forward. So I think that’s maybe one of the key points.

Creative Culture: Thank you for all of that. That’s really interesting, really sets into context the work you do and how it ties into the work. Creative culture does as well and helps brands globally. And so really finally, Melanie, it would be great if you could say what your key tips are to success in an international market? Do you illustrate that with an example or two?

Melanie Berger: Well, definitely number one that brands know that they have to do their research and arm themselves with the needed information to maintain and ensure local impact. Whether it is double checking, relevance, of course, looking for common ground, especially when wanting to use the same type of communication throughout different markets. Definitely maintain potential of identification, which is key, ensuring that there is no focus from a cultural point of view, making sure no element could generate some distancing with the viewer through whether shock effects, for example, or anything of that matter.

Creative Culture: And do you have some examples of work that you’ve done?

Melanie Berger: Some of the examples, as I mentioned, maybe previously a little bit earlier, where again, we’ve had choices in brand ambassadors. When we had quite controversial but quite mainstream as well in the US. But then we were testing in China and Russia and this notion of controversy became much stronger and the levels of emotion has been strongly impacted. So this was a strong warning for the client we were working with.

Creative Culture: Thank you very much for that.

Melanie Berger: Thank you.

Creative Culture: And thanks for your time today, Melanie it’s been really fascinating to delve a little deeper into the world of cognitive science and the work you guys do. And for everybody else thanks for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode and you can find more podcast episodes by visiting our SoundCloud or website under our insight sections. Make culture work for you.

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