The benefits of becoming a Brainer

From Osheaga passes to Arsenal tickets, being a Brainer is a no-brainer.

In August, one lucky Brainer from our London community received a pair of tickets to attend the sold out Premier League match between Arsenal and Leicester at Emirates Stadium in London. The first match of the 2017-2018 season turned out to be a classic, with the home team scoring two goals in the final 10 minutes to come from behind to win 4-3.

The week previous, five Brainers from our Montreal community received weekend festival passes to Osheaga, one of Canada’s largest and most exciting musical and cultural festivals. These lucky festival-goers were treated to performances by The Weeknd, Lorde, MGMT, Muse and others over the three days in Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Two weeks. Two incredible experiences. But how did it happen, and what did these people need to do?

They became Brainers.

Brainers are what we at Brainsights endearingly call our community members. Many follow us on our social channels to learn more about the brain and the latest insights and research into our subconscious minds. They join our mailing list to keep apprised of developments at Brainsights. But the Brainers who enjoyed Osheaga and a Premier League football match, they’ve done something more – they’ve participated in our brain scan events.

At our events, hundreds of people over several days get brain scanned and paid, for the data they exchange - and the time they spend - with us.

These events happen in many different places: a loft space in London or Montreal, or a pub we’ll reserve to watch sports matches. We even did Osheaga itself, which is how the five lucky Brainers were able to attend the festival: They joined us for an hour at the festival grounds where, working with our partners at SDI Marketing and Jack Links, we sought to understand their emotional response to the experience. They then enjoyed the rest of the festival weekend as reward.

At these events, Brainers don portable EEGs (and sometimes other wearable devices), which record their brain waves as they watch – or experience – content. They typically spend an hour with us, and in exchange, they’re paid for their time and data. Brainers like that they can get paid to exchange their data, especially at a time when so much of their personal data goes uncompensated. Generally, this payment is in cash, but sometimes, as in the case of Osheaga, it’s in other items of value, like tickets.

Value exchange in a data society

We respect the time and data of our Brainers – indeed, we have a philosophy of data respect - and work hard to facilitate a meaningful value exchange for them.

But we’re also realizing that value comes in many forms: monetary is but one. While it’s an important one for our members, as we’ve grown, we’ve come to understand that there are other things that Brainers value.

Below are three more that we’ve discovered:

1) Emotional value
Brainers value doing good, and we see this as a form of emotional value. We first realized this when we hosted our inaugural holiday charity brain scan back in December 2015, which was in support of pro bono work we were doing with Covenant House. We reduced our participant incentive significantly, but still found that, due to our charity appeal, Brainers packed the house in support.

Appealing to a common cause was a way for everyone to win – Covenant House to get the insights they need to best appeal for donations, Brainsights to get the data they need to build these insights, and Brainers to have a mix of monetary, social and emotional value in exchange for this data. Covenant House generated huge double-digit percentage increases in donations resulting from these insights, which contribute to their mission of ending youth homelessness in Toronto. It’s an achievement in which Brainers share.

2) Social Value/ Intellectual Value
Sometimes the value is social, and sometimes it’s about improving our understanding of ourselves – what we might call intellectual value. We learned both of these lessons hosting a brain scan for the final US Presidential Debate. The event was over-subscribed - the live, social and topical event was something Brainers were eager to be a part of. They could connect with others from across the political spectrum that shared an interest in US politics, enjoying, discussing and debating the event beyond the 90-minute brain scan.

Furthermore, Brainers were curious to understand how their unconscious minds responded to political messaging. So we input the resulting data into an interactive tool for users to explore their unconscious biases. This intellectual value exchange was a way for Brainsights to help our Brainers – and the broader general public – better understand the influence of political messaging on their decision-making.

3) Experiential Value
A form of social value, but also a driver of it, unique experiences like Osheaga provide value to Brainers in terms of both social currency and social status. Festival passes are worth hundreds of dollars, so are not necessarily within practical reach of every Canadian. This – alongside the festival’s ‘cool’ factor – make Osheaga attendees the objects of envy. And in our nerdy corner of the world, the idea of “Your Brain on Music” put into action is pretty neat.