UVU takes market research to the SMART level

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UVU SMARTLab assistants Nathan Pearson and Josh Groves work with some of the new equipment UVU received for market research. (Photo by Rebecca Lane)

UVU SMARTLab assistants Nathan Pearson and Josh Groves work with new equipment UVU received for market research. (Photo by Rebecca Lane)

Watch out market research labs — a new lab is in town and it is smarter than all of you.

Utah Valley University opened the Sales and Marketing Applied Research Test (SMARTLab), a new, cutting-edge market research lab with technology to improve advertising productivity, in November.

“Nobody else in Utah is doing this. And we wanted it here at Utah Valley University,”said Paul Dishman, UVU marketing department executive.  “…A lot of people have these various components, but we are the only ones bringing it together.”

These components have gone beyond focus groups to bring advanced technological research methods to Utah County: eye-tracking technology, focus groups, galvanic skin response technology, electroencephalography (EEG) technology and facial coding.

Executive Director Paul Dishman and SMARTLab Director Dale Jolley run the new UVU research marketing lab. (Photo by Rebecca Lane)

Executive Director Paul Dishman (left) and SMARTLab Director Dale Jolley run the new UVU research marketing lab. (Photo by Rebecca Lane)

Eye-tracking evaluates where exactly the consumer is looking on an advertisement or product. The focus group room is set up for business representatives to observe from a one-sided window while focus groups discuss products. With the galvanic skin response and EEG technologies, researchers can discover how people react and are stimulated by the advertisement.

The final key is figuring out what the consumer will do once they receive the messages of the advertisement, which is where the facial coding analysis comes in. Through the facial coding analysis, researchers are able to determine a probable interpretation through verbal and non-verbal clues.

“We spent two years investigating the various technologies that are being used, that are kind of cutting edge in market research, before we brought all of these things together into one facility,” Dishman said.

The SMARTLab functions as a business where experienced students can learn the programs and work with real companies in finding more effective ways to advertise.

“We want to give all our students experience on how to do these things so that they know what the technology is when they get out of here,” Dishman said. “We teach them theories so they can apply the skills that we are teaching them and understand exactly what to do. So every one of our students in market research gets exposed to doing (this). … Most schools just teach the theory.”

Dishman along with SMARTLab Director Dale Jolley run the lab with the assistance of a few select upperclassmen and graduate students. Josh Groves, a UVU senior and one of the lab assistants, can already see how the SMARTLab has helped him in his career path and how it will benefit fellow students.

“Without even realizing it, this is what I’ve always wanted to do,” Groves said. “If I hadn’t gone into business, I probably would have gone into something psychology related. I like knowing how people think and how they work, and so this is combining both of those things and it’s perfect for me.”

The lab is the result of a partnership between UVU and Vivint, which donated $1 million dollars as did founder and CEO Todd Pedersen. Vivint CMO Jeff Lyman thinks the SMARTLab is exactly what Vivint needs to communicate with the consumer about its product.

“Our ability to be really sharp and effective in our marketing is going to make a significant difference in what kind of a dent we’re able to make in redefining the future of the smart home,” Lyman said. “It’s super important to us, which is why we put our money where our mouth is and made the contribution.”

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Rebecca Lane

While her first language is sarcasm, Rebecca dabbles in English and Russian to achieve her lifelong dream of being a journalist. A BYU sports fan, reading enthusiast and wannabe world traveler, Rebecca is a Colorado transplant that is convinced Colorado's mountains are much larger than the many Utah County peaks. Rebecca manages UtahValley360.com for Bennett Communications. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccalane.

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