Portia Antonia Alexis is neuroeconomist and Mckinsey alumni who not only analyses consumer goods for her consulting clients within the luxury and beauty industry, but also gives insights into the neuroeconomic triggers behind consumer decisions. She specializes in analytics work in the beauty industry, and has helped major brands such as LVMH , Chanel Beauty, and L’Oréal USA create grow by finding effective marketing methods, analyzing consumer responses to advertisements, and discovering which products best suit the market conditions in a given geographic area.

She is currently embarking on the new journey of merging her economic research this fall with  neuroscience in order to learn how neuroeconomic technology and techniques can help give consumer goods clients a competitive edge. She is part of a new wave of analysts that hold neuroeconomic analysis in high regard, which is the study of how economics, neuroscience, and psychology impact an individual’s economic decisions, and in the realm of consulting, Portia has used it to determine how the brain responds to stimuli such as branding, price, and advertisements. She has found that her use of brain scanning tools such as fMRIs, EEGs, and facial coding systems have far outpaced traditional information gathering methods such as consumer surveys and interviews, and her hope is that by studying neuroscience in medical school, she will continue to be exposed to the methods and machinery necessary to innovate in the consulting industry.

What is your current work and what are you doing? Tell us your story and how you got started.

I currently have two roles; one as a consumer goods analyst, and another as a neuroeconomic student. And while these roles may sound quite different from each other, they both have their beginnings in one simple desire; my passion help others. You see, I’ve always been a people person, and since I am good with numbers and have an interest in beauty and luxury, from a young age I knew I wanted to pursue a career path that combined all three of these traits. When I went to university, I decided that consulting would be the best way to make use of my passions and abilities in the business world

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that marketing can have a major impact on the brains of consumers. My job as a consumer goods analyst is to create marketing strategies that work, and for a while, I did so by using traditional methods. These included techniques such as consumer surveys and interviews, but these both had a fundamental flaw; they give consumers time to reflect and rationalize their decisions. With neuroscience, the goal is to find out how the brain responds to stimuli such as branding, price, and advertisements. In order to do this, brain scanning tools have been used to study people’s initial subconscious reactions so that the data can be free from bias.

How did you make a name for yourself in your industry, especially in the early days?

One of the most important things you can do as a young consultant is to always over-deliver. Whenever you are onboarded by a client, there will always be a certain list of expectations, but in my experience, there are usually a set of hidden expectations that a client would be happy to see but that are not explicitly necessary. With this in mind, if you are trying to stand out, you need to not only meet your target goals but also go above and beyond. Of course, this is easier said than done, but if you plan well, stay organized, and make sure you use the team around you to the best of their abilities, the final product will almost always be exceptional!

What pushed you to put your consulting career on hold to become a neuroeconomic researcher?

While Mckinsey is easily one of the world’s premier consulting firms, I have always felt the need to deliver results that push the boundaries of what is expected of me. And while I studied Economics during my studies at the London School of Economics upon entering the workforce I began researching the behavior of the consumers that frequented the businesses of my clients. It was while conducting research that I realized that while the focus groups, consumer reports, and customer observations that we used in our consulting work was helpful, it didn’t provide the full picture. After all, I often found that consumers would feel pressured to answer a certain way in focus groups, would provide very well thought out responses on consumer reports, and were not always easy to analyze with 100% accuracy when observed. So as someone who has always been obsessed with precision, I began looking at neuroscience to fill the holes left by the inaccuracies of traditional methods. And thankfully, the skills I’ve learned studying neuroscience at medical school have been invaluable in my quest to become a better consultant!

What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them? What keeps you running when times get tough?

I would say that my biggest challenge has been my tendency to get bogged down in the details. As a perfectionist, I always try to make every aspect of a project perfect, and while this can be great at times, it can also make it easier to lose sight of the bigger picture. In my experience, the best anecdote to over-analysis can sometimes be to just take a break. And whether that means having a 15 minute meditation session or going for a quick walk, I’ve found that clearing my head for a few moments often helps me come back to a project refreshed and re-energized.

A second major challenge has been getting impatient when projects go past deadlines. I am someone who has always strived to get work done both well and on time, and so I do not appreciate it when others don’t share this vision. However, one of the most important aspects about working with a team is utilizing people of various skillsets and mindsets to deliver results. As such, so long as I take a step back and strategize as to how best to use every team member so that they are as efficient and effective as possible, I am able to overcome this obstacle.

In what ways can neuromarketing help improve a companies performance ?

Neuromarketing really boils down to making advertisements more brain friendly. In a world where we are accustomed to seeing advertisements all around us, many have begun to develop an adverse reaction to advertising. My goal is to find ways to get around this aversion by finding scientifically backed techniques that allow the brain to react positively to a company’s products. It is this type of medical research that ultimately brings both my consulting work and client results to that next level.

What’s the next best thing in the world of neuromarketing ?

I am of the opinion that non-invasive tools will be the future of the industry. After all, while more elaborate machines such as fMRIs and EEGs may be great in a lab setting, some technologies out there can physically be brought to a business in order to make measurements in real time.

An example of one of these tools is a facial coding system. While these have been around for a while, they can be set up in front of something like a storefront, billboard, or vending machine to track a person’s facial reaction to a consumer good or logo, and once the data is collected, facial expressions can be analyzed to determine a person’s subconscious reactions to a given marketing technique. I believe that we will start to see a greater reliance on these types of machines as firms continue to push for a competitive edge.

Follow Portia Antonia at twitter.com/PortiaAntonia