Dr. Gregor-
   Konstantin Elbel

       Partner The Garage


Connect For Impact Gregor-Konstantin Elbel Picture
“With the help of neuroscience, companies can dramatically improve their customer understanding, create better customer- and user experiences, and considerably advance their overall performance and brand perception.”
Interview Gregor-Konstantin Elbel
Using neuroscience in business and especially in marketing has proven to be highly effective – what would you say is the reason behind this trend, and how did it emerge?

"The success of businesses in general and marketing in specific is highly dependent on the decisions of the people involved, be it CEOs of multinational corporations or the individual consumer. We as humans like to think that those decisions are at all times based on rational, logical and very conscious thought processes, but scientific evidence indicates otherwise. In fact, human decisions mainly rely on unconscious processes, shaped by implicit needs and emotions. Understanding their dynamics helps businesses to take decisive actions.

Neuroscience in business emerged as the attempt to arrive at a deeper, more profound and more comprehensive understanding of these unconscious processes.


Neuroscientific methodologies enable us to measure and visualize unconscious responses, which leads to a better understanding of e.g. our customers’ and users´ motivation and needs. Equipped with these insights, a deeper customer-centric business model becomes reality, addressing not only the customers’ conscious demands but also their underlying implicit needs and wishes. By integrating the Deloitte Neuroscience Institute (DNI) into the client-serving networks, Deloitte acts as a pioneer in shaping the future of neuroscience in business. We offer solutions that combine neuroscience with traditional, hands-on consulting services – providing a more profound picture of human decision-making processes in marketing and business."

How do sales & marketing departments currently benefit from neuroscientific services and how do you think using neuroscience will affect the future of marketing?

"The fundamental basis of doing business is to produce products and services that provide value to the customer, and market them accordingly. This might sound easy in theory, but reality proves otherwise. In order to be able to communicate value, it is crucial to understand a) which values are important for the target group to prevent being branded as irrelevant and b) address them effectively within marketing and communication to avoid being overlooked. Traditionally, marketing & sales have two options to generate insights about what customers deem valuable. They either rely on explicit research, such as interviews and focus groups, which however are subject to conscious manipulation and unconscious biases and thus provide only limited insights.


Alternatively, testing of different marketing approaches against another can provide insights and gradual progress to at least some extent, even though they are often time consuming and bear the risk of little to no general insight. Applying neuroscience in business provides a third and more sophisticated option for sales & marketing departments to learn about their customers’ values by identifying their underlying needs and motivations using implicit or even physiological testing. The same approach can also be applied to test whether marketing and communication materials actually address those values in a second step, validating the marketing and sales strategies with reliable data. It thus provides a next level customer-centric perspective to the general marketing approach. Deloitte’s neuroscience services, for example, already help to align branding strategy with the implicit customer needs and core values."

How can neuroscience help to optimize the customer‘s perception of a brand, campaign or service experience?

"Effective branding and positive customer experiences in the end rely on a coherent strategy and execution that align customers’ expectations with the core brand values. The difficulty, however, is to reliably measure these values and to translate them into a common language that allows direct comparison.


This is why we developed the so-called NeedSphere, a proprietary map that provides a structure for four fundamental motivational forces, i.e. bonding, stability, autonomy and dominance, each consisting of four universal implicit human needs. The NeedSphere was built and validated applying neuroscientific principles and technologies. In collaboration with the Deloitte brand team, a new and innovative approach for marketing services was created: Neurobranding. Using the NeedSphere, we are able to identify potential for optimization of the customers’ experience and at the same time to strategically position the brand in a way that separates it from the competition.


First, using implicit testing techniques, we measure the most important needs that drive the decision-making of the target group. In parallel, we determine the target groups’ current perception of the brand and its most important competitors. All of this information is combined in a single NeedSphere, which reveals where brand and customer expectations align and also where the brand separates itself from its competition.


Secondly, using the information from the first step, companies’ brand strategies can be adjusted to increase the overlap between target group and brand NeedSphere, while at the same time maximizing the difference between the NeedSphere of the brand and its competitors. Communication and marketing materials are then designed to activate those crucial needs. Finally, using neuroscience technology, the new marketing and communication materials are tested and it is validated that the targeted needs are actually addressed. If necessary, the design can be optimized at this step."

Can you tell us more about the unique Neurobranding approach that you use to combine neuroscience with consulting expertise? Are there specific use cases you can tell us about?

"Our Neurobranding approach is most effective when a company aims to redesign its brand or when it is entering a new market and wants to adjust branding to local specificities. For example, one of our clients, one of the world’s largest family-owned retail groups, recently entered the US and is planning to enter the Indonesian and Chinese market as well. The client wanted to understand who their potential target customers were in those markets and how they could be segmented, aiming at a branding strategy that delivers a unique and coherent image but is also equally relevant in all of these markets. 


Using our NeedSphere, we first identified target customers’ needs and analyzed unconscious associations with the client’s brand and its individual elements. Based on these insights, customer segments were built and target group specific brand communication was designed. As a result, our client received an improved branding strategy for global rollout and a comprehensive picture of the full brand potential, paving the way for a successful market entry in the US, China and Indonesia."

Do you know any other business areas apart from marketing that are known to benefit from the application of neuroscience? Can you give examples?

"While neuroscience in business is probably most common within marketing and branding from a global perspective, Deloitte wants to shape the future of decision-making in all of its client services and offers a broad Neuroconsulting approach. Thus, the Deloitte Neuroscience Institute (DNI) not only supports marketing consulting using neuroscience insights and methodologies, but also business areas such as finance, risk, product design, life sciences and human resources, to name just a few.


To give a concrete example, we all know that our decisions are strongly influenced by the way and the time when we are presented with information and/or judgement of whether something is relevant or not. When judging the finances of a company and deciding on whether or not it is necessary to take actions, the functionality and design of the financial dashboard plays a pivotal role. Bad information layout can lead to cost-intensive wrong decisions, which we demonstrated in a simulated experiment on actual financial dashboards. Measuring users’ attention (eye tracking) and cognitive load (EEG), we identified distractors and fixed misleading information displays that caused up to 90% of wrong decisions."

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