Hannes De Wachter: Unlocking Consumer Behavior Neuroscience with Neuro-semantic AI


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Consumer behavior has become an important aspect of customer-oriented marketing planning and management. Learning and analyzing consumer behavioral patterns helps businesses and the industry to identify their target audience and pitch their products or services according to their requirements. Due to its significance in the marketing segment, decoding consumer behavior has become one of the success elements for businesses and a dynamic factor for market researchers. 

Harnessing the significance of consumer behavior, Mindspeller helps businesses connect with their audience. It inspires and validates creative decisions that resonate on a deeper level. The company is the brainchild of Hannes De Wachter who founded Mindspeller in 2015 along with his co-founder Professor Marc Van Hulle (Ph.D.). Since its establishment, he has been immensely contributing to its growth and development and nurturing the company’s values. 

Prolific Background

Hannes upholds a prolific academic and career background. He obtained his engineering degree and master’s degree in economic sciences from KU Leuven. After starting his career as a consultant working for various financial institutions and private equity clients, he returned to his alma mater where he became an innovation & investment manager for the KU Leuven Gemma Frisius venture capital fund. At Gemma Frisius, Hannes was trained and certified as Technology Transfer Officer for helping commercialize the university’s critically-acclaimed intellectual property portfolio. He helped raise over € 15 million in seed capital for various university spin-offs.

Democratizing Consumer Neuroscience

Hannes and Professor Van Hulle launched Mindspeller to pursue their dream to democratize consumer neuroscience. The company helps marketers get into their customers’minds by revealing brand prejudice and implicit biases. Its AI helps connect hidden gem brand associations with implicit customer goals and reduces campaign noise risking to dilute that connection.  Mindspeller developed the world’s largest EEG validated,  brand association mind map, a unique model of the collective subconscious, driving 95% of decision making.

Mindspeller targets brand owners and agency partners that understand the importance of behavioral insights to optimize brand equity based on consumer neuroscience. The company has worked with clients in various industries ranging from city marketing, entertainment, and retail to telecom, banking, and HR.

Human-Centric AI Approach

Mindspeller’s AI is human centric. It is designed to augment rather than replace human intuition. Mindspeller continuously updates its databases with spontaneous brand associations sourced from real people. The company does not derive semantic associations from big data sets scraped by bots from social media on the internet.  Research demonstrates that these techniques fail to capture the full story. Father of advertising, David Oglivy, was quoted saying that “the problem with market research is that people don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say.”

Contrary to its competitors, Mindspeller goes the extra mile to capture spontaneous human associations. It does not force respondents to choose between a limited set of predefined brand attributes—since priming respondents biases the brand’s positioning. 

“A picture is worth a thousand words. Not a couple, predefined by someone else.” Based on this notion, the company’s mapping protocols are validated with medical-grade EEG paradigms correlating split second (unconscious) electrical activity in the brain with the brand association strengths mapped. 

Catering to Growth and Development

Being at the helm of the company, Hannes caters to several important roles and responsibilities. His job concerns securing the amount of funding that the team needs to realize its product development roadmap and continuing to develop next-generation consumer neuroscience ResTech products.  

Mindspeller is still in its infancy,” asserts Hannes.  According to him, decoding the collective subconscious is an ambitious and lofty goal that requires significant development funding. With concern to that, Mindspeller is converting its prototype applications into scalable products that have the potential to disrupt the market and trigger a paradigm shift. 

Cost-Effective Services

Mindspeller aims to make its services as cost-effective as possible. The company combines human data collection with NLP-based artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to automate its processes where possible. 

For instance, Hannes adds, “We have seen that processing datasets representing 200 online respondents—each providing 3 spontaneous associations to a specific brand stimulus—yields similar predictive accuracy in terms of brand recall and association strength as if we were to perform a medical-grade EEG study.”

Evaluating Crisis Impacts

Hannes asserts that the reliance on costly, analog, in-person focus groups was in decline before March 2020, but the pandemic almost entirely shut down this research channel within several months. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the reliance on digital qualitative and quantitative research and exposed a much broader segment of the market to the value of active, pre-qualified online audiences as a viable and cost-effective alternative. 

As a result, the success of these online channels in replacing focus groups has accelerated the adoption cycle for digital alternatives considerably. Hannes remarks that by design, Mindspeller caters to the needs of post-COVID-19 marketing research needs.  

Hannes believes the following trends to shape the market research industry in the near future:

  • Appetite for Agile Insights

The growing demand among businesses for real-time data-driven answers to spurr-of-the-moment questions that traditional market research agencies are challenged to fill. Hannes asserts that with a business model that focuses on the production of in-depth, static reports, the incumbents are not equipped to deliver ongoing, dynamic insights that today’s more nimble organizations need. He further adds that the trend is amplified by the impact of agile product development cycles on research needs. 

  • Regulatory Restrictions

The explosion of global privacy laws has begun to significantly hamper the collection of consumer data through traditional online sources such as website cookies and mobile tracking data. Hannes asserts that without access to these valuable data sources, the need for consensual, first-party data sources that can be accessed on-demand and at scale has become even more acute.

  • Broader Utility for Customer Data

With the ability to engage consumers on a more ad hoc basis and ingest their data in real-time, behavioral insights are now relevant to not only brand and marketing functions but strategy, sales, internal consulting, engineering, product management, and the C-Suite. Hannes believes that this is creating new opportunities for ResTech vendors to cultivate new markets and expand the footprint of the organization.


Also Read: The 10 Influencer Business Consultants of 2023

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