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Honda: Embedding Neuro-Aesthetic Apps Into the Creative Optimization Proces

By Louise Furneaux, Chris Christodoulou and Thom Noble

Honda: Embedding Neuro-Aesthetic Apps Into the Creative Optimization Process

Over recent years, like all global car brands, Honda has been experiencing market pressures and a rapidly and profoundly changing business and marketing environment. One of the challenges is adapting to the decline of the physical garage showroom and the evolution of its “virtual”, online equivalent.

Honda’s requirement was to build a virtual showroom to showcase the Honda range and demonstrate that not only does it perfectly fit the brand’s defined new aesthetic, but also that it drives extra traffic and stickiness on the site. But how should one go about conceiving, designing and creating a virtual showroom? And how might one judge its suitability for the brand? Or its attraction and effectiveness with potential buyers? Without the physicality and ambiance of a real showroom or the face-to-face interactions with a trained salesperson, the visual design of the virtual showroom must do a great deal of the work.

With this challenge in mind, Honda chose partners Saddington Baynes and CloudArmy. Saddington Baynes is a globally renowned visual production specialist with a growing reputation for innovative techniques and fusing neuroscience with visual aesthetics. Their mantra in advertising and comms is to squeeze that very last drop of emotional juice into every single campaign image -be it for TV, Cinema, 48-sheet poster, banner ad or brochure.

CloudArmy Inc. provide their partner Saddington Baynes with a customized white-labelled version of CloudArmy Reactor, a multi-modal, online, app-ready neuro-platform; Saddington’s re-brand the capability as Engagement Insights® and configure it for self-Approach service, rapid-turnaround Implicit testing.


Saddington Baynes’ CEO, Chris Christodoulou, has an unswerving belief that there’s more to visual effectiveness than creative intuition alone. Their white-labelled platform enables his team to implicitly test campaign imagery and neuro-optimize it on an “as and when” basis during the creative process. This empowers the creative team to make work-in-progress informed adjustments in structure and content, to ensure the consumer response matches the client goals in terms of evoked feelings, values and other specific associations.

However, the complexity and scale of this particular Honda challenge called for an even more systematic approach. Knowing that the generation from scratch of a new online Honda space would take a series of important design-and-build steps over many months, Executive Creative Director, James Digby-Jones set about conceiving a specific and dedicated Honda app for testing and learning at multiple stages. This implicit IRT app was templated to measure the eight critical and constant attributes - feelings, values, benefits, associations, tonal qualities and visual language agreed upon in the client brief.

The need for even more rapid turnaround for each test required templating and automation of the sample profile and the integration of recruitment direct to the platform. Additional standardization involved tightly defining how the results for each iteration would be reported and visualized for insight generation. These changes reduced the turnaround time to between just 24 hours to 36 hours from studio image-upload to downloading of results.

The experience Saddington had already gleaned from earlier neuro- benchmarking tests had furnished them with an array of design-best practices. This gave them a head-start in knowing how certain design cues and visual treatments (e.g. lighting effects, colorways, camera angles and spatial orientation factors) would likely trigger the specific implicit response patterns which they were seeking to stir in target buyers.


Saddington Baynes developed a virtual CGI “showroom”, where prospective customers are taken on an in-depth virtual tour of the brand’s range of cars, including the all-new Civic. The implicit platform provided detailed consumer reaction metrics around the visual impact, non-conscious response, and implicit intent-to-purchase of creative communications.

The agile test-and-learn approach ensured that as the design evolved, latest feedback from prospects was always readily at hand. The response patterns - whether positive or negative - provided useful insights to help re-shape creative judgements and boost likely effectiveness.

At key milestones in the project program, it meant that the work-in -progress client-reviews were already prechecked with consumers, to give valuable “objective” market feedback to supplement designer intuition.

The visual build was very positively received by the Honda team with the implicit testing helping deliver distinctive imagery that maintained relevance to the customer, with clear statistics evidencing the success in drawing consumer attention/engagement and behavior shift.

After implementation, average engagement of Honda users increased on multiple on-line consumer platforms: • Viewers spent six times or 13 ½ minutes longer on the Honda website • Viewers were twice as likely to enter the Honda Car Configurator process • Viewers were twice as likely to book a Honda test drive

Louise Furneaux of Honda Motor Europe comments: “The work completed by Saddington Baynes' Engagement Insights® campaign was key in identifying the right look and feel for the virtual ‘showroom’. The team created an architectural space that perfectly captures our brand values”. Such was the success that the campaign was awarded the top CIM Award (Chartered Institute of Marketing Award) for Best Use of Data Insights.

Further thoughts

Chris Christodoulou feels that more systematic, Implicit app-based test-n-learn throughout the creative process has a number of important benefits:

“The ‘augmenting’ of our agency intuition through the use of neuroscience has clearly helped enhance our outputs and generate more emotive, more engaging, more powerful and effective imagery for our clients. But it has also enabled us to keep learning every day to get smarter about understanding cause-and-effect triggers and continue to evolve our best working practices”.

From a CloudArmy perspective, we often see another benefit of pre-testing work-in-progress; the impact on approval processes. Presenting creative recommendations backed by robust, pre-validated, consumer neuro-data, provides compelling endorsement and reassurance. This we have seen can then serve to significantly shorten the often protracted and tortuous approvals processes, especially at client-end; a truly useful supplementary benefit for all parties concerned!

This case study highlights how the use of agile, cloudbased neuro-platforms have potential for self-service and white-labelling for creative agencies – and not just through the more usual conduit of market researchers, brand owners and academics.

This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook. Order your copy today