Sawyer Business School opens the first marketing lab of its kind

“What do you think?”

Marketing students at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School have a powerful new way to understand how customers make decisions: the recently opened X-Lab.

It is the first human behavior facility in Massachusetts to be integrated into a business school curriculum while advancing academic research.

The on-campus area, home to Boston-based iMotions’ premier biosensor research platform, will provide graduate students with unique opportunities to explore and analyze consumer experiences using tools and technologies that are increasingly critical to business success.

iMotions multimodal technology measures eye dimensions, facial expressions and electrodermal activity (also known as finger sweat). When a participant looks at an image or watches a video, a computer integrates their biomeasurements to provide more objective insights into a person’s reactions to, say, a Superbowl ad or packaging design.

“The X-Lab will not only provide Suffolk students with world-class user experience analysis technology, but also provide additional research opportunities for Suffolk faculty in the ever-expanding field of behavioral science,” said Amy Zeng, Dean of Sawyer Business School at the opening of the laboratory. It will also provide students with additional opportunities to prepare for the workforce: UX design ranks #14 on the CNNMoney/PayScale list of the 100 Best Jobs in America.

Or as Peter Hartzbech, Founder and CEO of iMotions put it in his remarks: “Companies are crying out for this kind of knowledge.”

Plumbing in the unconscious

X-Lab is used in a STEM-designated Master of Science in Marketing (MSM) program led by Professor Müjde Yuksel, a consumer behaviorist studying digital consumption. The course focuses on understanding the influences, emotions and considerations that occur in consumers’ unconscious brains and how these can be used to improve the customer experience.

“Great marketing requires a deeper understanding of the human condition, beyond what people can tell you or show you,” Yuksel said. “With X-Lab, we are preparing the next generation of marketers and market researchers to study the drivers and emotions behind consumer decisions and actions.”

Hartzbech commended the business school for developing a curriculum that gives students access to tools, technology and information central to business success. “It’s no longer enough for marketers to know what choices consumers have made; You need to understand why those decisions were made — the reasons, influences, and motivations behind the behaviors that can ultimately lead to greater success,” he said.

Also present at the opening were Suffolk President Marisa Kelly, Suffolk Provost Julie Sandell, members of the Suffolk Information Technology Services team who have been instrumental in supporting the X-Lab from its inception, and members of Suffolk in the Hub, the student body a marketing agency that designed many of the X-Lab’s marketing materials.

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