It’s All in Your Head: Why Businesses Want Access to Your Brain

Everyone exaggerates. Little or big, it happens. When online surveys are taken, income, job titles, likes and dislikes are exaggerated. On social media…anything and everything lends itself to hyperbole.

But when we embellish, it skews the data received by businesses. When that happens, the information loses value and the decisions made as a result of those answers likely take businesses in the wrong direction and negatively impact the customer experience.

But what if businesses could get a response while it was still in your brain—nothing more than a wavy electrical impulse—before the answer is rationalized, sanitized, massaged and changed?

By using an EEG test, one company is exploring how brain waves tell the truthful story of customer delight.

Check Your Head

When a business wants to get in your head today they can do it without much effort at all. (Technically, they’re not getting in your head, but, rather, on top of it and pulling out electrical impulses.) Using an electrode-studded cap that looks like an old-fashioned aviator’s helmet, researchers working for Cirque du Soleil have skipped clapping, oohs and aahs as indicators of enjoyment, and gone straight to the brain. The electrodes are used as part of an EEG study, which presents on a computer screen as a series of undulating lines. While an EEG is regularly used to diagnose different types of seizures, head injuries or stroke, Cirque du Soleil is using the technology to get access to the brain waves of audience members as they watch a show to understand why the audience thinks the performance is so amazing. “Cirque du Soleil knows it offers something different than other kinds of entertainment, and it wants to know exactly what’s different. The theory is that the shows generate awe in a unique way,” writes Fast Company.

Cirque du Soleil hopes the research will help them understand when and why the audience has an emotional reaction to its product. They will use the data to recreate these feelings as much as possible in an effort to improve future ticket sales. “(T)he company needs to develop lasting relationships with both existing and new fans that will inspire them to keep buying tickets…,” Fast Company explains. “If they could figure out how to guarantee that fans feel genuine awe during shows, maybe they could inspire them to come back again and again.”

While you may not think your organization is similar to Cirque du Soleil, I would argue that it is, minus the clowns. The goal of any business should be to delight every customer during every interaction—whether your company hauls trash, sells golf clubs or serves breakfast.

Just like Cirque du Soleil, your business should use technologies and digital transformation concepts to ensure every customer interaction is awesome.


Every brand generates unique emotions in customers, but capturing, dissecting and acting on that data is often lacking. But just as Cirque du Soleil wants to recreate awe-inspiring performances every night to increase revenue and long-term customer loyalty, other organizations can do the same using technology-powered insights. But strapping every customer with a cap to contemplate brainwaves is time-consuming and impractical for most companies. Using analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), however, gets at the same type of information quickly. Both technologies are readily available and relatively inexpensive to deploy.

And most companies already have much of this customer information through data collected on websites via cookies, online contact forms, sales and other types of in-house statistics. (Remember to explore negative emotions and interactions, as well. These are just as important as positive reactions, because once they are identified the organization can work quickly to improve the experience.)

For many organizations, a great customer encounter may manifest as a personalized experience online or in a brick-and-mortar store. The only way to make the experience personal is by scrutinizing data to understand exactly what the customer likes (and dislikes) and then creating an event—it could be an email, a video or an onsite promotion—tailored to an audience of one.

At Netflix, for example, it’s all about the AI. While we’re watching movies, it’s watching us—getting into our heads—to find out what we want to watch more of and then adding those videos to our queue as personalized suggestions. “Strong recommendations ultimately result in increased viewership, lower churn and (with the help of a larger user base), more data to strengthen its algorithm,” explains Forbes of Netflix’s strategy.

No matter which technologies a company uses to get inside a customer’s head to gain insight or how it’s accomplished, the result must be an awesome Cirque-du-Soleil-like customer experience. Because if customers aren’t awestruck before, during and after the transaction, they won’t come back for more no matter how great the product or service.

Article by Antonella Bonanni, an Official Member of Forbes Communications Council

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