News Article

Amorepacific Uses Imec EEG Headsets For Neuromarketing Research


Traditional electroencephalogram (EEG) techniques are being supplanted by new gnerations of headsets that can measure and assess human brainwaves outside of traditional clinical settings. This ease of use has led to a growing number of investigational programmes designed to assess whether emotional reactions to specific stimuli can be linked to neural activity. This emerging science is giving rise to nueromarketing initiatives like those pursued by Korean cosmetic and health care giant Amorepacific that uses imec’s investigational EEG headsets to research emotional reactions to fragrances. If successful, the approach may redefine how companies assess new products and refine marketing efforts in a way never before possible.

AN ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAM is a test that detects electrical activity in the brain using small electrodes attached to the scalp. Traditionally, these tests were done in dedicated hospital labs where trained personnel attached the electrodes - one by one - and connected them to a large computer. EEGs done this way are accurate, but are also expensive, time consuming and limited to clinical facilities.
Thanks to chip and dry electrode technology, the days of traditional EEGs may soon be history. Leveraging years of technology development in the EEG field, electroencephalogram acquisition systems are now wearable and take few seconds to be installed, even by an untrained user. This makes wireless EEG headsets useful in wider therapeutic contexts, adding VR-based cognitive treatments, cognitive skill improvement and rehabilitation in addition to the more traditional applications such as epilepsy or sleep disorder research. And now, EEG tests are also being used outside of medical applications. With ‘neuromarketing', more and more companies are using unique EEG tools to better understand their customers.

Neuromarketing: understanding the customer without asking questions
The neuromarketing trend is gaining ground in many companies as technologies are emerging to link brain activity to human emotions and reactions. According to industry surveys, about 53% of the marketing industry already uses some form of neuromarketing in their everyday work to develop advertising campaigns and optimize websites; neuromarketing can also be used to develop concepts, innovate new products and package design as well as assess the ‘shelf impact' of products in-store.

Two of imec's EEG headsets: the one from the press release in 2018 and
the one developed for Amorepacific to be used as an investigational
device for fragrance studies.

The term neuromarketing was coined some 20 years ago by Dutch professor Ale Smidts. The professor defined Marketing 1.0 as product-centered; Marketing 2.0 is consumer-centered, while Marketing 3.0 focuses on human values. Smidts said the best way to unlock these human values and emotions is by using neuroscience and studying brain and biometric responses to better understand how consumers feel, think and act.

The reason why neuromarketing is so valuable is because people cannot in most instances accurately articulate their preferences and emotional reactions; humans seldom make choices rationally 100 poercent of the time. As the famous marketeer David Ogilvy said: “Consumers don't think how they feel. They don't say what they think, and they don't do what they say.”

Do you remember how you felt when watching a commercial yesterday? How would your response to a questionnaire about this commercial differ from the actual reaction you had while watching it live? Neuromarketing and neurotechnology tools (like fMRi and EEG) do not rely on post-rationalization and memory. In this way, they tackle some of the greatest shortcomings of traditional research methods like surveys and interviews.

Amorepacific's innovative journey towards a more beautiful world
The South Korean cosmetics firm Amorepacific is very interested in neuromarketing and EEG recordings. The company was founded in 1945 with a clear mission to present its unique perception of beauty - what it calls ‘Asian Beauty' - to the world. With its world-class products represented in more than 20 cosmetics, personal care, and health care brand names, Amorepacific is acclaimed for the innovative ways in which it is transforming global beauty trends.

The company's success and marketplace appeal relies greatly on the high-quality products based on innovative technology and natural ingredients. About ten years after its foundation, Amorepacific set up its very own R&D center, among the largest of any cosmetics company in the world. With a strong focus on research, innovation, and technological advancement, Amorepacific today employs about 550 researchers to develop new materials for cosmetics and health to study the biology of skin health and aging and to find the optimal formulations for their products.

Imec's non-contact sensor solutions were demonstrated in this car seat prototype

Measuring brain waves and emotions
Gusang Kwon is a researcher from the Amorepacific Consumer Insight & Innovation Lab. With a background in biology, psychology, neuroscience and neuromarketing, he started working at the company in 2016. His goal is to develop new tools for researching consumer behavior. During work on his PhD, Gusang gained a lot of expertise in using and interpreting EEG. Now he wants to deploy this brain research tool to gain more insights in the unconscious feelings and sensations of Amorepacific's customers. According to Kwon, the company chose imec headset prototypes because of their user-friendliness, light weight, high number of EEG channels and imec's assistance in developing dedicated algorithms for real-time emotion monitoring. He explained that the company's ultimate goal is to develop a unique customer experience for people shopping for their perfect perfume.

“As a researcher, I spend a lot of time going through papers and publications to learn about the latest technological developments in neuroscience. Back in 2019, I came across imec's press release about an EEG headset for emotion detection. I was already experimenting for some time with commercial headsets to gain insights in the unconscious reactions and emotions of test persons while they use samples of our products. None of them satisfied my needs, especially in terms of the number of electrodes,” Kwon said.

A complementary tool for customer surveys
Navid Shahriari, project manager at imec in The Netherlands, briefly outlined how the collaboration began: “It was our business development manager Jiaqi Shen who introduced me to Gusang. First, we did a short feasibility study with Amorepacific in which we studied EEG measurements with our headset investigational device.”

“In 2020, we set up a second 10-month project to adapt our EEG headset to their needs and to combine these recordings with galvanic-skin-response measurements from our Chill+ wristband prototype. We made it more adjustable to fit different head shapes and sizes. Together, we will now train and tune our algorithms to estimate the fragrance response of test persons.”

“Our current design features digital active electrodes (DAE) that use imec's latest chip design achieving a low noise level, high input impedance (that allows us to work with the dry electrodes), higher dynamic range and amplification and digitization at the electrode. Continuous electrode-tissue impedance monitoring in the DAE chip provides information about electrode contact quality that could provide more insight about motion artefacts. Additionally we use Softpulse dry electrodes from Datwyler in our headsets, which provide comfort and signal quality without the need of gel,” Shahriari explained.

Gusang Kwon: “In our research with test panels, both smell and touch are important sensations. Think of people trying out different perfumes or skin-care products for example. Smells trigger very powerful emotions and are therefore a good starting point for our EEG studies. Traditionally, we use surveys to do market research. Our hope is to complement this with EEG recordings to better understand the unconscious emotional response to scent.”

A future vision of a brain-monitoring headsets that may one day help
customers choose their favorite perfume by unlocking their unconscious

The future of the cosmetics industry: more technology and personalization
Gusang Kwon: “With imec's EEG headset, we hope to develop a valuable tool for our research, our company and our customers. It could help to offer our customers a perfectly tailored solution, fitted to their conscious and subconscious needs. One day, we could even use neuroscience technology to help them choose the perfume that suits them best and give them insight into the emotions it triggers inside them.”

Amorepacific's research highlights a trend towards more personalization that is growing in the cosmetics industry. As further example, Amorepacific introduced its innovative technology called ‘The Tailored Mask Pack 3D Printing System' at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show. With this technology, users can print a personalized hydrogel mask pack that caters to individual facial features and skin conditions.

Gusang Kwon: “For sure, the cosmetics industry will integrate more technology in future products. Another important (capability), in my opinion, is non-contact sensing. Imagine one of our customers sitting in a smart chair at a shop that can measure emotions and biometric responses to assist in choosing the right perfume.”

Navid Shahriari: “Indeed, imec also believes in the power of non-contact sensing. In a car, on a toilet seat, and why not - in a chair at a perfume shop. We are developing robust sensors and smart algorithms to make these kinds of measurements reliable. Of course, these sensors are aimed at measuring heart rate, breathing, etc. It's unclear whether we can do such a thing for brain waves.”

Gusang Kwon: “I will certainly keep an eye on all new developments of imec. And I would highly recommend a collaboration with imec to other companies too. For me, working with imec exceeded my expectations in terms of quality of the prototype, help with the algorithm development and trial setup, as well as the broad range of expertise that is present in the team. As a neuroscientist working in the cosmetics industry, it is great to be backed up by the wonderful team at imec, who can support me both on the technology and on the data interpretation. This for sure will help me to extend this neuromarketing activity in the company in the near future.”

About Gusang Kwon
Gusang Kwon joined the R&D center of AMOREPACIFIC in 2016. Gusang majored in Cognitive Neuroscience and holds a Ph.D. degree from the Samsung Advanced Institute for Health Sciences & Technology, Sungkyun Kwan University, Korea. With over 15 years of experience in consumer tests, he is expanding his expertise in the field of neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience.

About Navid Shahriari
Navid Shahriari joined imec in 2017; he is a Project Manager within the Solutions Department. Navid holds an M.Sc. degree in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics from the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, and a Ph.D. degree in Surgical Robotics from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

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