Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

NextStage: Predictive Intelligence, Persuasion Engineering, Interactive Analytics and Behavioral Metrics It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!

Posted in Analytics, Consumer Psychology, Marketing, NextStageology, Predictive, Research, Social, Tools, {C,B/e,M}sTagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here Are Your NeuroMarketing Options

I was at a conference recently and took many turns through the exhibitors’ booths.

I took many turns through the exhibitors’ booths because I had no idea what I was doing at the conference. I’d been invited and someone else was paying my way, and I hoped seeing the wares presented would offer some insight into why some group would contact me to attend on their behalf and essentially pay me to do so.

Before going further, let me state that I don’t remember any NextStageologist saying or writing “We do neuromarketing.” It’s been said about us often enough and I’ve publicly written that I think people say we do neuromarketing (skim down to “3. What the heck is a NeuroMarketer?” in the link) because 1) it’s a term du jour, 2) they don’t know what else to call us, 3) they’ve called us many pleasant and few unpleasant things in the past and seem to think we change as do the buckets they want to put us in, …

People say “But you guys do so many things” and that’s true. Our response is “That’s because the brain does so many things. The brain doesn’t only make decisions or only control breathing or only look at pretty people or only guess about the future and if the brain could only do one thing we wouldn’t have evolved much beyond amoeba. We do lots of things because, like the brain, we have no limits.”

Okay, we have some limits.

But, as I was typing, some of the vendors did…something…at the conference. I watched. It looked a lot like what I’ve been told is traditional, historical neuromarketing. You know, traditional and historical, like the stuff going back a year or more ago?

It was fascinating.

Now before going any further, none of the people shown here claim to be neuromarketers and that includes NextStage. I merely offer these as examples of what others who call themselves “neuromarketers” do.

Here are some of your NeuroMarketing options…

Option 1 – See the Brain in Real Time

Cap Showing the Brain in 3D

The fellow in the picture above is brilliant. He and his team (if I understood correctly) have developed a cap that generates a image of an individual’s neurophysiology in real time. The medical implications of this are incredible.

But it’s not neuromarketing as I understand it. Seeing the brain work is not the same as knowing what the brain is working on. Seeing specific brain areas associated with likes and dislikes is not the same as knowing what the brain is liking or disliking. Tomograph, fMRIs, neurographs, etc., of heat and blood flow in the brain while showing a picture of a brand product is not the same as that individual wanting, desiring or avoiding that brand product. They are, at best, proxies. There may be a direct connection or they may not be. A dislike of a particular brand might have more to do with a bad memory of someone who used that brand than the brand itself, and building a campaign on such evidence is…is…a really interesting way to spend your budget.

But credit where credit is due, if I ever get a brain lesion, I want the guy in the picture above in my corner.

Option 2 – If the Device Fits, Wear It

The video below is of a young woman being fitted with a device that allows the wearer’s brain to interact directly with an image on a screen. Doing that is impressive. The device itself is nicely designed and packaged. The gentleman in the video is someone trained by the company that markets the device. He’s a trained professional. After two minutes and twenty seconds he still hadn’t gotten the device to work correctly, and he’d applied enough saline solution to make Brylcream proud because this time, a little dab wasn’t doing ya.

Fairness time; lots of people at this conference sat down to have this device placed on their heads. I talked with several of them who wanted to take part but couldn’t because the device couldn’t read their signals reliably if at all.

Option 3 – You Can Find A Company that Claims to do NeuroMarketing

A long standing NextStage client was told by his GM to go talk to the GM’s friend who had started a neuromarketing company. You could tell they were a neuromarketing company because they used “neuromarketing” on their site a lot.

I asked the client how it went. Here’s the conversation:

“Hi! I’m speaking with these guys today, …, it looks like they are taking a similar theoretical approach as you, although their execution is paleolithic compared to yours.”

Be sure to tell them that.

“The guy is a friend of the GM. The GM hears me say the word neuromarketing, this guy says the word neuromarketing, GM says lets all meet. I say, ‘Why would I let them put headbands on 5 people when I can learn way more about EVERY one visiting a site without looking like Olivia Newton-John?’ I can assure you that basically I’m going to tell them they’re in the stone ages. No reason to drive the ford Edsel when you have the rocket car sitting in the garage!”

(a few days later…)

How did it go with your GM’s friend?

“The neuro guy was a joke, an entrepreneur who saw a cool graph on a screen, no plan, no insight, no training, no business plan, not even an elevator pitch nor the brains to run it.”

Hmm…but he has money? Maybe he’d like to buy us out…?

“He doesn’t have that kind of money….”

Sorry it was so ungood. And may I quote you?

“Quote me?”

Yes, I’ve been working on a response to all the neuro blather and would like to include an anonymous note about someone who went looking for neuro solutions and came up short.

“No problem ;)”

(and here’s to hoping you, dear reader, have similar luck)

Recapping thus far

Thus far we’ve seen the need for devices that may or may not work for everyone, require a skilled professional to place on the test subject’s head correctly, are limited to subjects who basically raise their hand and say “Yes, I’ll wear one of those”, and people with pretty websites, high level friends and are a joke (so said the client, not us).

First, what happens to those people who raise their hands but can’t make the device work? How many will be satisfied with “Here’s your $20 and sorry your head’s not the right shape” or “Here’s your $30 and your brain’s not giving off any signals we can detect” or “Here’s your $50 and our equipment doesn’t seem to be working right now, no need to come back later because it won’t work for you, then, either”?

You’d probably go with a variant of that last one but then you have people walking around telling others how their incredible noggins broke your fancy-dancy mind-reading headgear.

And if people can train their brains to do what’s required, how long do you think it’ll be ’till companies start selling “Brain-Trained” individuals for testing purposes, or offer “Brain-Training” courses and all so that, when the neuromarketing goblins come a’knockin’, your results will be through-the-roof kind-of good?

And you thought buying Fans, Friends and Likes was scummy?

And do remember, none of the folks in the above images claims to do “neuromarketing”. At least they didn’t claim to when I asked (and I did ask and I did ask permission to video and photograph so I could use the video and photographs on one of my company’s blogs). I took the pictures and video because the folks shown above do things that other companies have called “neuromarketing”.

Second, the GM’s friend. Let me repeat myself. “The GM’s friend.”

Option 4 – In the Time You’ve Been Reading…

In the 1-5 minutes you’ve been reading this post, NextStage’s Evolution Technology has analyzed the behaviors of anywhere from 3-25,000 individuals. It has determined how they think, how they make decisions, what types of things convince them, whether or not they believe whatever they’re viewing, whether or not they accept whatever they’re viewing (belief and acceptance are two very different things), when they’re likely to spend money and what needs to be changed on a client’s digital property so that they, the visitor, will spend money on the client’s digital property or in their brick&mortar store. You can get an idea of what NextStage’s Evolution Technology can determine in our example NextStage OnSite reports, you can get an idea of where we’re currently being used on our NextStage SampleMatch Countries listing and you can get an idea what people are saying about everything we do in our Comments section.

And remember, we don’t do “neuromarketing”. We just give you results. From your entire online audience. There’s a lot of neuroscience in what we do, true, and there’s also a lot of anthropology, linguistics, sociology, psychology, mathematics, and other sciences in what we do.

That’s why I prefer to offer that NextStage does NeuroAnalytics rather than NeuroMarketing because we’re more interested in how to use what the brain does naturally to make your marketing work.

As one happy client wrote in my LinkedIn Profile,

I’ve been working with Joseph and his tools now for several years. As a “digital analytics professional”, there are several phrases I can use to describe the man and the technology he creates related to my field of work: game-changing, mind-blowing, visionary.

I don’t use those words lightly. I’ve seen the future of advanced analytics, and it’s the next generation technology Joseph has invented and continues to develop.

How do you measure website engagement? Page depth? Time on site? Top viewed content? Satisfaction surveys? These are proxies for what we in digital analytics think reflects visitor engagement. Now imagine a tool that you could put on your website that silently measures engagement by actually determining how visitors feel about content, without having to ask them.

Then imagine that the same tool can then alter visitor website experience on-the-fly and present more engaging content. Then imagine watching your conversion rates go through the roof.

It’s not fiction or magic. It is a real tool, it is real science, and you can use it on your website to drive real extraordinary business results.

And that’s just the tip of Joseph’s iceberg. He’s continually creating new tools, new technology, and new thinking to enable marketers to measure and enhance the effectiveness of their work in ways that haven’t even been thought possible before.

I consider myself lucky to have met Joseph, and I am continually awed and humbled by the man. If you’re in business and want to do better, I’d suggest you get to know him and his marketing toolbox as well.

If nothing else, you’ll at least get a few good jokes out him!


Posted in Advice and Content, Analytics, Marketing, NextStageology, OnSite, Predictive, ToolsTagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

NextStage Is Awarded Patent #3 – “System and method for obtaining subtextual information regarding an interaction between an individual and a programmable device”

NextStage Evolution received its third issued patent in four years on June 5, 2012. In a patent atmosphere that is making it increasing difficult to patent software-based technology, NextStage Evolutions technology continues to set itself apart from the pack while establishing a perimeter around its novel system. The third patent, US Patent No. 8,195,597, is specifically directed to the psychometric link a computer user develops with the machine interface focal point on the screen (e.g., the arrow or cursor) and the body language that can be interpreted from how the machine interface focal point is positioned relative to the information presented by the computer. Demographic information, consumer interest, opinions, and preferences is translated from machine interface body language to actionable business information with NextStage Evolutions Evolution Technology.

We got Patent #3Thank you, thank you, thank you. Yes, this is an important one. Not to downplay patents 1 and 2, this is the one that I’ve jokingly described with “Every time you have a thought, you’ll owe us a nickel.” You can read the full patent on the USPTO site. It deals with how humans non-consciously communicate with devices and describes the system behind how people create community with whatever’s in their immediate environment, something I described in Reading Virtual Minds, Volume I: Science and History.

Others may want to put a focus group in an fMRI, have them wear funny hats, pay a team to follow individuals through shopping malls or put up a survey and hope the right people are answering (they’re not). All we need is your visitors to be themselves and do what they’d normally do the way they’d normally do it — no hats, no machines, nobody following them around, no annoying popup questionnaires, no nothing except your visitors doing what they would normally be doing on your digital property each time they visit.

I gotta tell you, understanding human behavior’s a lot easier when you get everything else out of the way and just deal with the humans and what they’re doing right there at that moment. You get a lot more information about your visitors when you let humans be humans and not laboratory subjects.

And again, thank you, thank you, thank you.


Posted in About, NextStageologyTagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Q&A for the Technology Driven Research Event in Chicago, 2-3 May 2011

Hello again. Sorry not to have posted here in a bit. We’ve been a little busy.

In any case and as often happens, I was interviewed for the upcoming Technology Driven Research Event in Chicago, 2-3 May 2011. Here’s a transcript for your reading pleasure. The questions are in italics, my responses in plain text.

Q: NextStage Evolution offers technology that understands human thought through any machine interface; that seems to be almost a Rosetta Stone for market research! Can you tell me a bit more about your approach and how it works?

A: The answer depends on what you mean by “works”. One version of it “works” by putting a little javascript tag on a client’s site (in the case of our visitor analytics tools). A completely different and equally truthful answer is that it “works” by having a very sophisticated understanding how people behave when they’re being themselves, quite similar to how human beings non-consciously understand each other through years of interacting with each other.

For example, you walk through a mall, glance at someone and “intuitively” know their gender, age, and can make some amazingly accurate guesses about their background, lifestyle, education, income, likes and dislikes, so on and so forth. You do this and your “guesses” have an accuracy that would make IBM’s Watson look like a low grade moron because Watson knows facts and can connect them but it doesn’t have experience, specifically human to human experience.

My research into such things started back in 1987. I was listening to some educational psychologists talking about a problem in that field. It triggered something in me, basically that there was a way to model how humans learned about each other, a way for a computer to go through the different stages of social learning that humans go through from birth throughout the rest of their lives. This model eventually became a set of rules similar to the sets of rules humans use when they interact with each other. When two people meet an incredible number of factors go into deciding the level of intimacy they’ll share. The decision to work together, play together, live together, etc., can be thought of as a “sum of the parts”. Different levels of intimacy are determined by the number of parts in the sum, whether the result is positive or negative, how positive, how negative and so on. Humans recognize one individual from another by summing all the available parts and matching that sum to a sum of the person they have in memory. Are the sums relatively equal? Then you know this person. Not so equal? Then either you don’t know this person or this person has changed and if so, do you still want to know them? This storage of sums became our first breakthrough, the identity-relational model. It mimics how people know each other and was scalable.

So you could say I was teaching the computer facts but instead of facts like “Barack Obama is the 44th President of the USA” — essentially an equation, A = B — I was teaching the computer social facts, what makes up human social intuition, things like “Sometimes when a person looks down and sighs heavily it means they’re sad, sometimes it means they’re tired, sometimes it means …”, and all these “sometimes it means” can be thought of as sums of the parts.

I remember telling those edpsych people that they’d never solve the problem from within their own discipline (I love Einstein’s “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”) and true to my word, to make our technology “work” I borrowed from disciplines so far removed from the traditional paths that, when I created the first working model of our technology, a friend counted elements from 120 “unrelated” fields involved.

We created a new data architecture, the identity-relational model, and some new mathematics to work it, and so far have two patents on how our approach “works”. If any of your readers are familiar with Feynman Diagrams, we made Feynman Diagrams of human interaction, human emotion and behavior, of social systems and social dynamics.

The end result is that our technology can read a document, watch a video, listen to a podcast and determine traditional demographics (age, gender, etc) of the best audience for that material. What’s amusing is that there’s usually a lot of difference between the audience marketers are targeting and the audience their creative is actually targeting.

Further, our technology can determine author intent, as in “what did the author really hope to achieve with this material?” Most companies are amazed at how many non-conscious messages marketers and creative plop into their content, or how strongly those non-conscious messages affect audience response.

On a more technical level, our technology can report on both author and audience RichPersona, a fairly complete description of their cognitive, behavioral and motivational psychologies. This is useful for marketers because it reports how the audience will respond to some creative, when they’ll respond (intender status), why, what exactly will cause the response, how to shape the response to the client’s needs, and demographically who. We’re currently betaing a “SampleMatch” tool that uses these aspects to help companies create test communities for their products and services.

Another part of our technology can observe website visitors and determine demographic and psychologic factors without cookies, without forms, without interrogating the visitor or other internet databases in any way, with no other equipment other than a browser session active (no cameras, no harnesses, no scanners, no …) with the visitor interacting in the most normal settings (sitting in their home, on the bus, in the mall, …) doing what they want, and our technology does this in real-time. An independent test determined that our technology was 98% accurate determining visitor age and 99% accurate determining gender simply by observing how visitors navigate a web site.

And that brings us back to someone sitting in a mall and making highly accurate guesses about people they see just by watching them. What NextStage does is recognize that visitors are “walking” through a website and our technology is the person sitting in the mall, watching others walk past and making highly accurate guesses.

This technology has been in use since 2001.

Q: What do you think are the major drivers of change in the market research space right now and how is NextStage Evolution planning to take advantage of those trends?

A: Major drivers of change…One is definitely the market itself. When audiences demand change suppliers must change in order to keep and increase their audience. An interesting example of this “audience-demand/market change” cycle is what’s happening in the Middle East (as I write this). The suppliers are the various governments, the audience is each country’s population and the market is each country’s economy. The audiences are demanding change and the suppliers — the governments — must change in order to serve those changing audiences. In a more traditional marketspace, if suppliers don’t change then the audience finds another supplier. Extreme cases are when a market fails and a new market takes its place. Some countries have been fairly successful at changing their marketspace and many of the former soviet economies are examples of this.

Another driver is the increasing accountability requirement of analytics. I wrote a three part blog (it starts with The Unfulfilled Promise of Online Analytics, Part 1) based on a long study of people’s attitudes towards online analytics and one of the outstanding elements in there dealt with “accountability”, specifically that no one really wants to be held accountable (surprise!). I wrote Why Isnt Marketing a Science, Part II about how marketing is being forced into an accountable model and that it’s kicking and screaming all the way.

But I do think marketing is going to have to become accountable because executives are demanding more and more of their marketing dollars as audiences — thanks to the ‘net itself — have become increasingly vocal and demonstrative. As I noted above, the audience is changing therefore the market will change.

In a way “marketing” suppliers are always changing. Every time somebody comes out with a “new” way of calculating something they’re offering a change in the market. I love 140Sweets co-founder Anna OBrien’s “Random metric names and symbols is not an equation” statement because it demonstrates a need for accountability in the analytics marketspace.

The latest change attempt is “neuromarketing” and as always the unspoken claim is “now we’re accountable”. Accountable? Great! But now the consumer has to ask the next set of questions; Accountable regarding what? Accountable to whom? With what kind of repeatable accuracy over time?

Shoving someone into a physically restrictive environment such as an EEG or fMRI, or sitting them in a chair with their head locked into an eye-tracking mechanism, etc., definitely provides data and does anybody honestly what to state that such methodology is demonstrative of the consumer’s real-world experience? It’s the difference between “Someday I’d like to learn how to dance” and taking dancing lessons. The latter teaches you what actually has to be done, the former demonstrates how well your brain can mimic (“imagine” or “remember” might be better terms) a concept it has called “dancing”.

The difference is that such methods provides data about (what I consider) extremely synthetic situations. Nobody engaging in commerce — e, intellectual, social, etc — does it strapped in some kind of synthetic environment unless the investigators are willing to accept synthetic results.

This brings us to how NextStage is poised to take advantage of those trends. I suppose the first is some 20 years of research into these things. By “20 years of research” I mean 20 years of studying how people interact with information presented via machine interfaces, about the last 15 or so of those years we’ve been studying how people interact with the web and about the last 6-7 we’ve been studying how people interact with mobiles. So the first thing is that we have direct experience with how people change their habits as their tools (desktop to laptop to netbook to mobile, web to 2.0 to 3.0 to x.0, Genie to AOL to email to Facebook to Twitter to …) change, we’re not talking about taking data from completely different models (Network TV or Print, for example) and saying “This is what happened here so it’s what’s going to happen there”.

So when it comes to accountability, between the patents, the scientific conference presentations, the peer reviewed publications, the kudos we’ve garnered since we started, the ongoing research, …, NextStage is pretty well covered.

NextStage also has a fairly decent lock on adapting to market and audience change because our technology is a basic (I’ve also heard the term “platform”) technology. One of our first investors said, “You’ve created plastic. It doesn’t matter if someone wants a baby bottle or a car dashboard because your technology can be shaped to whatever people require.” This belief is demonstrated by the fact that the majority of our tools came from client requests. We’d be in meetings and someone would say “It would be great if we could figure out…” and one of us would think about it and a few days later a prototype tool would be ready for testing. An example of this “if only we could figure out” attitude is demonstrated in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1). We said, “Forget about what ‘sentiment analysis’ tools do, tell us what you want done”, we created the tool along those lines and its been one of our best sellers ever since.

Another way we’re taking advantage of market changes is the price point of our tools. Right now, most senior level execs don’t use our tools because most aren’t willing to risk their jobs on a (relatively) low price point tool. It’s like going to the bank for a loan and not being able to make payments. You borrow 20k$US, can’t make the payments and it’s your problem, you borrow 20m$US can’t make the payments and it’s the bank’s problem. The same rules apply. A 100k$US solution goes wrong and it’s the vendor’s problem, a 499$US solution goes wrong and it’s the exec’s problem. This “who owns the problem” challenge is compounded by our established accuracy. What do you do if you go with a low cost solution that’s documented with a 90%+ accuracy and it doesn’t work? You look for a new job.

Where all of this works for us is that we’re the darling of mid-level management. They have discretionary spending that’s right in line with what our tools cost and they don’t have the responsibility of their management seniors. They can expense 10-499$US, get a result, report it and be done. There’s no budgetary delays, procurement meetings, tactical planning, resource allocation, etc., and it’s up to senior management to act. This is a win-win for us, especially since people who use us take us up the ladder when they move on to a new position.

So there you go and I hope it’s useful. Please let me know if you need more or other.